Eulogies are never easy. They're not easy to listen to when they're about your most precious loved one. A eulogy is particularly difficult when you're the one giving it. This article is about what to include and how to structure your eulogy. I'm assuming here that you're making a eulogy for a family member, or very close friend or colleague. I'm not writing on the premise that you're the CEO representing a company and making the official after-death speech for your company.

In my downloadable Public Speaking Success e-Program, I give you very detailed advice about how to overcome the world's #1 fear - that of public speaking. It's such a universal fear that comedians joke that "most people would rather be in the coffin, than having to give the eulogy".

Not quite. This article is about form and content: not overcoming your fear of public speaking.

Recently, I gave the eulogy at my father-in-law Vasilis's funeral. And although I was born in Ireland, I delivered it in Greek. I'll write another post about public presentations in your non-primary language since I know that many of you speak a number of languages other than English. For now, I mention my most recent eulogy because it was particularly difficult for too many reasons you don't need to know.

A eulogy can't be postponed or re-scheduled. Usually the person asked to give the eulogy is also involved helping to arrange the funeral, so accept that you have a limited time. In my Public Speaking Success e-mail course and in my comprehensive Public Speaking Success e-Program, I outline how to approach and prepare short talks. In the short time you'll have, follow these steps to prepare your eulogy:

1. Set aside at least one quiet hour of preparation time when nothing and no one is allowed to interrupt you. Take the phone off the hook and turn off those dreadful intrusions into our peace - your mobile (cell) phone.

2. Spend at least ten minutes in meditating about the person.

3. Answer this question: What was the most splendid thing about her/him? In my late father-in-law's case, he was originally a shepherd in Greece. His son, my late husband Sotiris (Sam), and I were both tertiary educated professionals. One might think therefore that Vasilis had achieved very little in life. He achieved more than most of our most famous public figures, more than many highly schooled people I know. What was that achievement? He loved and accepted me from the beginning although I was neither Greek, nor of his religion and at that time I didn't speak Greek. In fact, one might say that I represented everything he didn't want for his only son. And how did he react? He loved me. His great achievement was his ability to love, tenderly and truly beyond the narrow confines of his background. As I said in my tribute to him, in the Greek language I learned, his acceptance and love were no small feats in a world torn by division and by ethnic and religious intolerance. So, whoever you're speaking about may or may not have written great books, music, run companies. If they had, tell your listeners how you admired those achievements. Tell them also about the human behind the famous writer, politician, sportsperson. Tell them also how truly great the humblest person can be.

4. Write your two to five minute talk out in draft format.

5. Think about one amusing and highly recognisable characteristic about the deceased person. Tell a short anecdote that captures that unique trait. A funeral is a sombre occasion, but your eulogy must celebrate the person's life. Therefore, it must be uplifting.

6. Once you have the material, the anecdotes which best capture your father, father-in-law, best friend, spend time thinking how best to convey that information in a succinct way. Eulogies are definitely best kept very short.

7. If you feel up to it, tell the congregation how you feel about losing the person. If yours is the only speech to be given, end your address by saying "I know I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say 'God speed' or ' Go well' or 'our lives were enriched by knowing you, and always will be.'

8. Never be afraid to show your genuine sadness by crying, but please refuse to give the eulogy if you know you'll be too upset to speak.

9. Once you've written your eulogy, rehearse it as I've advised with all your presentations. Now is the time to be ruthless with timing. Cut it back if it's too long.

10. Finally, once you feel you can make the speech without your written text, reduce the text to mnemonics or memory cues. Please try not to read the speech word for word. It will sound much more sincere if you look at the people attending the funeral rather than read your eulogy.

Having said that it's much better if you can use only cue cards, or memory prompts, remember that the eulogy is not only about public speaking standards. It's about speaking from your heart: about losing someone precious. So if you'll feel better reading the entire text, you do that. As I make plain throughout my coaching and my Public Speaking Success e-Program little steps are the way to public speaking success. Making a eulogy is a giant step for all of us.

Author's Bio: 

Based in Melbourne, Australia Dr Jeannette Kavanagh works as a solution-oriented counsellor helping people who have anxiety and panic attacks, particularly when speaking or performing in public. Sign up here for your FREE Public Public Speaking Success e-Program