I’ve spend a glorious though not so sunny weekend in Somerset – Glastonbury to be exact. I was on a residential at the very beautiful, warm, serene Earthspirit Centre.
One of our number had recently had a bereavement and was due to attend the funeral and give an address. As you can imagine, it’s very stressful to give a speech at a funeral of someone close. However forgiving the mourners are, you are likely to feel the pressure. This is a highly charged moment where you want to do your very best for your loved one. You want to avoid breaking down in sobs and you fear what siblings, aunts and uncles think of you if you do. Tricky.
- Keep it very simple. You are likely to be emotional. The simpler it is, the more memorable it will be for you as well as your audience. Keep it limited to an introduction, 3 points and a close.
- Review and rehearse the content of your speech. It’s very important that you know what you are going to say. It minimises fluffs, stutters and ums and aaahs. It means you feel confident and reassures your audience you know what you’re doing. Practice, practice, practice.
- Check exactly where you want to pause so your audience can fully appreciate your point. Perhaps you’ve highlighted a characteristic, a habit or funny incident. The congregation will appreciate enjoying the memory of the loved person.
- Why is it that your nearest and dearest are the most critical audience? They don’t hesitate to tell you when you’ve made a mistake. Ringing them up beforehand to ask if they can contribute a memory will give them a stake in the event. They are far less likely then to carp and complain.
- Give your audience eye contact. It shows you care about them. It engages them and helps you to speak for them as well as yourself.
- Drink water. Keep yourself well hydrated to avoid the notorious nervous dry mouth. And for goodness sake, avoid alcohol!
- The seeds of destruction are sown in the fertile soil of a fearful mind. If you keep imagining catastrophe, you are far more likely to get it. Start at the end. Visualise the smiles and nods in your audience. Think of what you did and said to create them. Enjoy the satisfaction. Stay with this thought.
- What the mind imagines vividly, it is convinced has already happened. Remember when you were deeply satisfied with what you’d done. Take yourself to the moment of deepest satisfaction. Where are you? What have you achieved? Who are you with? What’s the feeling? Let the picture and sounds fade while you stay with the feeling. Then take yourself to the end of your speech with that feeling. Smile. Imagining this in glorious technicolor and stereo will convince you you’ve already been successful.
- Most of all, relax. Your nerves then become excitement. You are more likely to stay calm and collected throughout the funeral.