Quick Tips


  • 3 methods: Write your tribute out word-for-word, write a few notes to jog your memory, or speak completely off the cuff. I advise against the latter.
  • A good tribute is usually three to seven minutes. Rehearse out loud so that you know.
  • Start writing as early as you can. It’s often a bigger task than you think.
  • Ask others to read or listen to your tribute. A different perspective often helps.
  • Send a copy of your tribute to whoever’s organising the funeral and/or the other speakers so that everyone’s informed, coordinated and at ease.

What to Say

  • Deliver personal stories or anecdotes.
  • Describe the person in three to eight words (e.g. generous, joyful, cheeky) and tell stories and anecdotes that illustrate each of these qualities.
  • Write a letter. Once you’ve written “Dear Dad / Nana / Glenda / Bill”, for example, the rest is likely to flow.
  • Speak about how the person who’s passed away has influenced your life, character, values or outlook.
  • What did you enjoy most? What will you miss most?
  • Speak about their legacy.
  • Retell the deceased’s favourite story.
  • Write down everything you can think of about that person in five minutes. A theme tends to reveal itself.
  • You might focus on what was special or unique about that person.

Common Mistakes

  • using formal language e.g. “George completed his education and commenced employment.” Use everyday language – “George finished school and began work.”
  • excessive detail – Does everyone need to know that Sue married on a sunny Saturday afternoon on the 25th of September 1953 in St Monica’s Church on Plenty Rd, Bundoora? How about, “Sue married Bert in her early 20s.”
  • keeping strictly to a timeline – Unless you’ve been asked to deliver a section of the eulogy, keep it hearty and personal.
  • We can only speak about positive things at funerals. Not so. Why sanitise a life story? With the family’s approval, a frank, but compassionate story can be heart-warming. None of us are perfect.

Coping with Grief and Nerves

  • Wriggle your toes. This will help you relax tense muscles and come back into the moment.
  • Remember that many people in the room are likely to admire the fact that you’re doing something that they wouldn’t dream of.
  • Make eye contact with individuals in the room. A sense of control is likely to return to you.
  • Expect a funeral audience to be conservative, but know that inwardly they’re likely to be much more engaged with you than you can see.
  • Have a backup person who can take over if you need a hand.