Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The all-in-one on giving a eulogy: 8 tips and models for speakers

"I gave my mother's eulogy yesterday without tears and used some of the tips from The Eloquent Woman," wrote one reader, who consulted our blog and our readers for advice, then reported back. This saddest of speaker tasks has come back again and again in our coverage, and this roundup has inspiration, tactics and real-life examples to help you speak under tough circumstances. Here are eight tips and good examples on giving eulogies effectively:
  1. How do you give your mother's eulogy? asked a reader. Readers and I responded with tips and examples, and we got the inquirer's tips in return, based on her successful effort. Her personal goal: Not crying during the eulogy. Find out how she pulled it off.
  2. How to approach a tough topic: 5 ways is a post that applies to many difficult speaking challenges, eulogies included. It's a good way to step back and see the eulogy in context, with practical steps toward getting it done.
  3. Should you use notes--or not? That's a question many speakers have, but there are particular considerations about notes for a eulogy. Learn about them here.
  4. Maya Angelou's eulogy for Coretta Scott King is among the most popular entries in our Famous Speech Friday series. This post includes video so you can see her thrilling delivery, and hear her vivid descriptions and funny, very personal stories--the factors that make this a eulogy to remember.
  5. Remembering the deceased's toughest moments might be part of your task as a eulogist. In this post about Lady Bird Johnson, Bill Moyers--an aide to her husband--recalled her strength as a speaker in the face of hostile audiences, part of the reason she's in our Famous Speech Friday series.
  6. Caroline Kennedy's eulogy for her uncle Edward Kennedy, another of our Famous Speech Friday entries, is a great example of how to weave laughter, personal details and emotion in your eulogy for a special person in your life.
  7. Is your eulogy a tribute? Perhaps you're delivering a tribute to a famous person, rather than a eulogy for one you knew personally and well. Jennifer Granholm, then the governor of Michigan, delivered a stirring tribute to civil rights leader Rosa Parks at a memorial service with a standing-room-only crowd.
  8. Is your eulogy for a large group? War-zone journalist Marie Colvin gave this moving account of her fallen colleagues at a special memorial service. She used the moment to make clear what their work is really like, from risks to ordinary moments. It's a eulogy all the more moving in retrospect, as Colvin herself was later killed in action.
Speechwriters (or anyone else) tasked with writing a eulogy will find some good models in A Wonderful Life: 50 Eulogies to Lift the Spirit, and useful tips in A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy.