Podcast 22: How to Write a Eulogy

A couple of months ago, my father passed away. Even though I’m the middle child, I’m the only sibling who is a professional speaker. So, my brother and sister turned to me to deliver the eulogy. Being a professional speaker, you’d think it would be very easy to design a 10 minute speech about my dad. However, I have to confess that, not only was the speech fairly difficult to create, but I was also really nervous when I stood up to speak. So, I thought it would be a great idea to let you know what I did. That way, you may be able to have fewer challenges if you are ever in a similar situation. In addition, I discovered a new TechFind where you can access a bunch of additional public speaking tips and articles as well as PowerPoint templates.

TechFind! Presentation Magazine

PresentationMagazineI found this week’s TechFind by accident. I was looking online for Presentations Magazine. This was a trade publication that was exclusively published for people who created professional presentations. It was a very well known — and well respected publication. But, alas, the magazine went out of business a few years ago. (I know had to believe that a printed magazine for professional presenters would go out of business.)

When I Googled the term, though, I got to https://www.presentationmagazine.com instead. Turns out this blog has a bunch of free PowerPoint templates and background. In all fairness, the slideshow templates were not fantastic. However, I can see the background images coming in real handy. In addition, there are hundreds of public speaking tips in their article section. A good place to explore if you are looking for presentation ideas.

How to Create and Deliver a Eulogy

How to Write a EulogyMy dad was a huge inspiration to me as I started my company. Dad was an entrepreneur who ended up selling his company when I was young. So, when I was starting out, I got a lot of advice from him. He was diagnosed with cancer almost a decade ago, and after a couple years of treatment, the cancer returned. His oncologist sent him down to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. He was there for the better part of a year before he was released with a second diagnosis of remission. Over the last year, though, even though he was still cancer free, his health deteriorated quite a bit. It turns out that the treatment ended up destroying his body’s ability to create bone marrow.

So, we spent months having every doctor under the sun examine him. All of the tests showed that he should be healthy. A new oncologist was consulted. Within a couple of days, the doctor told us that dad was dying. He was told that with weekly blood transfusions and dialysis three times a week, he could live a perfectly “normal” life for a short while. However, eventually, the transfusions would stop working. The dialysis was also very tough on him.

We Create Eulogies in Times of Incredible Stress and Emotion

So Dad chose to discontinue dialysis and let nature take it’s course. He knew that he wouldn’t live more than a week or two. He had all of his family around him, and we spent those last few weeks doing whatever he wanted to do. We had an absolute blast. Interestingly, once he made the decision, his spirit was lifted. His energy returned. For a time, we were actually wondering if the doctor had made a mistake. A week later, though, dad passed in his own home. My mom and sister were holding his hands as he passed. It was extremely emotional.

Almost immediately, during a time of great sorrow, a number of decision had to be made. One of those decisions was, “Who was going to give the eulogy?” Since I’m the only person in the family who is a professional speaker, my brother and sister turned to me.

Since I speak professionally a few times every week, I rarely get nervous. However, I had never actually delivered a eulogy before. I also had a knot in my stomach because I was thinking, “If I screw this up, it will be like I’m dishonoring Dad.”

Funerals are for Us, Not Them

One of the things that helped was that I realized that a funeral and a eulogy is for the survivors, not the deceased. Nothing I could say at Dad’s funeral would dishonor him. In fact, truth be told, he would have hated the thought that we were all sitting around being sad for him. Dad would be honored just to know that I wanted to say something that honored him.

So, Step-by-Step, What is an Easy Way to Organize a Eulogy?

Since this was something new, I relied on my training for an answer.

Big shocker, I’m going to refer back to Podcast #3, How to Design Presentations Quickly The main difference here, though, is that the content of the entire eulogy was a series of stories about dad. I followed the same format though. I asked myself, “When I think about all of the different times in my life where my dad was my rock, which ones come to mind most quickly?”

The first instance was I was six, and dad caught me stealing coins from him for candy. That incident was one of those life changing experiences where my dad taught me a great life lesson by being a good leader. The second was when I got married. Dad knew I was nervous, so he was able to say just the right thing to let me know that my wife and I were making the right decision. The third incident was when I drove him down to M. D. Anderson. Dad was tired at that point, and he was not looking forward to the treatment.

So, basically, I just spent a few minutes telling these stories about how Dad helped me become the person that I am today. I used the stories as a way to show how important he was in developing my character.

Follow these Tips to Create a Great Eulogy

  1. Step #1: Think about instances in your life where your loved one influenced you in a positive way.
  2. Step #2: Out of all of these instances, pick the top two or three.
  3. Step #3: Identify the “life lesson” that you learned from each experience.
  4. Step #4: Organize the Eulogy into a chronological series of stories that each end with the life lesson.

Just so you know, delivering the eulogy will not be easy. You will be very nervous. But in this situation, you have to “feel the fear, and do it anyway”.

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Author: Doug Staneart, Date Published: 11/29/17

Doug Staneart is the CEO of The Leader's Institute. LLC and founder of the Fearless Presentations class. He is author of Fearless Presentations, Mastering Presentations, and 28 Ways to Influence People.

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