This short video of a eulogy is given by a granddaughter for her grandmother.
It demonstrates how a speech that really matters to a speaker and their audience can go in one or two very different ways.
The ‘before’ section covers some important ground. It is clearly given with the very best of intentions, and has been written with some thought. And yet it comes across as dry, unemotional and uninspiring.
This is because the ‘perfect storm’ of weak content and poor delivery have sapped the eulogy of energy and empathy.
The ‘after’ clip shows the speaker in a brighter top. Which is a metaphor for the complete transformation she has undergone! You can see the difference clearly, but here are nine reasons that the speaker and her message suddenly come to life. Five refer to her content and four to the way she delivers it. As with every speech or presentation, it is the combination of the two that create real impact.
EULOGY TIPS: CONTENT
1. Personal – Version one was written like a very dry history text book. This is transformed into content that demonstrates the personal relationship between speaker and subject. It’s not just the switch from the third to first person, but also the warmth that jumps out from her choice of words.
2. Thematic – The switch from a chronological approach to one led by the theme of ‘a happy life well-lived’ is crucial. It enables the eulogy to move from one based on dry facts to something more empathetic and emotive.
3. Punchy – You can’t see the speaker’s notes, but you can imagine what’s on them. ‘Before’ were long, word-heavy sentences sitting within block paragraphs. ‘After’ is written in much shorter soundbites which, lend themselves to the spoken word (see 6. below).
4. Upbeat – Every speech is different – and the same goes for eulogies. But, as a general rule, the speaker’s role is to inject some energy into proceedings. The eulogy is given at a sad and emotional time, but works best when it celebrates life, rather than spreading sadness. The very best eulogies tend to leave the congregation smiling. This is possibly the key difference between the two versions filmed here.
5. Seamless – This isn’t exclusive to eulogies. Weak speeches are often a collection of facts and stories with no bridges between them. Great speeches appear to link seamlessly, with each detail illustrating a point in the greater narrative. The theme (point 2.) facilitates this and is the diametric approach to chronology where each section can stand alone linked only by a ‘then’ or ‘also’.
EULOGY TIPS: DELIVERY
6. Slow – The optimum pace for delivering a speech is in the region of 100-120 words per minute. This eulogy is initially given at something approaching 200. Slowing down is the key to every other facet of great delivery. It leaves the speaker time to think, and the audience time to follow.
7. Expressive – So often we listen to clients deliver a draft speech in monotone. We use the analogy of a heart monitor – a flat line is bad news all round. When we speak to each other socially we emphasise key words without thinking. All too often, when the pressure is on, we stop doing so and our delivery begins to sound robotic. In the ‘after’ clip here, emphasising key words helps bring the entire eulogy to life.
8. Engaging – The speaker’s voice needs to do more than simply say certain words louder than others. It needs to create the right mood – using changes in tone to signpost jokes, nostalgia, irony and sincerity. This may sound complicated, but it’s what we do naturally when we don’t think about it. The trick is to sound like that when you’re feeling stressed and emotional. Speaking slower gives you a chance to think, but it’s only when content is written for ease of delivery that the speech can become completely engaging.
9. Open – Look at the differences in body language. Initially the speaker has her head down; she grips her notes with two hands, she is still and introspective. ‘After’ shows a complete transformation. Her entire posture is better – open, upright, relaxed and authoritative. With further practise, her arms will begin to move a little more in tune with her tone. But the basics are all in place.
Collectively, these nine changes take the eulogy to a completely new level. The content is relevant and clear. The delivery exudes the right sort of energy. We feel complete empathy with the speaker and want to hear more about her grandmother. The same speaker, the same subject, the same basic facts and the same venue. But a completely different effect.
If you are worried about letting the emotions get the better of you one the day, there’s some useful advice here.
We write speeches and help coach clients on how to deliver them with impact. Please contact us for help writing or delivering a really great speech or presentation.