Presenting the Eulogy Many of the ‘experts’ who advise you how to present a eulogy will emphasize two things: rehearse until you know it forward and backward and, if possible, memorize it so it sounds more natural and like you. Please ignore this advice. Yes, you should read it over several times aloud, but you’re going to be reading it. The practice of reading the eulogy aloud is so that you don’t stumble on the words and so that you place pauses and emphasis where they belong. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REHEARSE IT FOR HOURS. That will only serve to make you more nervous than you already are.
Don’t Memorize You don’t need to nor should you try to memorize your eulogy speech unless you are an accomplished public speaker. Doing so will amplify your nervousness and, with the first misspoken word, will destroy your confidence. From that point on, it is likely that you will lose your train of thought and which part of your narration comes next. Because of the stress and grief of the situation, nothing good can come from attempts at memorization.
Read the text of the eulogy in the best way you can. Use pauses and emphasize certain words or phrases. It is a somewhat dramatic presentation, so don’t be afraid to be a bit dramatic in your reading (but don’t over-do it).
One more don’t. Don’t read the eulogy from an electronic device. Doing so just looks bad – tacky – and looks like you haven’t prepared properly. Also, there is the possibility of the screen going dark, the device going dead, or some kind of alarm or notification interrupting the eulogy while you’re speaking. Use a paper manuscript – please.
Preparation The gurus will tell you to do some voice exercises and shake your whole body to loosen up. Again, don’t. First of all, you will be approaching the lectern from the audience. There isn’t anywhere to do those kinds of speech preparation exercises without making a spectacle of yourself. It is, however a good idea, if possible, to speak a few words into the microphone before the service begins to see how much you have to project to get the correct volume. But that is usually not possible, so just assume that the funeral directors have done this before and that the microphone is set to the appropriate volume.
As you approach the lectern, clench your teeth. That few seconds of clenching will make your enunciation clearer when you do begin to speak. Take a deep breath before your first words. This will give you a burst of oxygen and calm your nerves. Begin with the words, “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon.” This will give you an instant feel for the microphone volume before any content is shared. In fact, saying those words may (or may not) inspire some to verbally respond in kind. That suggests they are listening intently and ready to be supportive.
In almost every speech you might give, there will be one or two people who give you non-verbal positive feedback. That might be through an unconscious nod or a slight smile or simply looking intently at you. That person is the most important person in the room to you. You may not know him or her, but their encouragement is what all public speakers seek. Focus in on that person. Don’t direct your comments to him or her exclusively, but glance at them from time to time. Their encouragement will be invaluable.
Speak Slowly When we are nervous, we all have a tendency to speak faster than we normally do. Be aware of this and consciously slow your speech pattern to what you speak in normal conversation. Think of what you are saying as being conversation, albeit one way. Speak distinctly and with emphasis and pauses and slowly and your memorial speech will be one of the best your listeners have ever heard and you WILL get positive comments afterward (quite possibly because YOU have done something they would have never attempted – and did it well).
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