Eulogy Writing Tips: How to Write a Eulogy

Writing a eulogy and then delivering it is an important part of any funeral. It’s a way to remember a friend or family member and celebrate their life. If  you are wondering how to write a eulogy, here are a few tips.  

Writing the eulogy

A eulogy will look back at the deceased person’s life, positive aspects of their personality and the impact they had on others.

You might not have all the information you need. For example, if you are a son or daughter of the person, writing a eulogy for mother or eulogy for father, you won’t know everything about the early years.  In this case you might have to ask family and friends about their earlier years in the life of the deceased person.

The word ‘eulogy’ comes from the Greek word for ‘praise’. In fact, in the past, the word was used more broadly to define other speeches, such as a retirement speech. So keep in mind that your speech should focus on the positive aspects of the person’s life and personality.

How to write a eulogy

Some of the aspects to think about are interesting or touching events or stories about:

  • Birth and early years
  • Parents and siblings 
  • Schools years – academic, sports and other achievements
  • Young adulthood
  • Marriage and family
  • Career
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Favourite music and sports
  • Difficult times in life and how they overcame them
  • Beliefs and causes
  • Impact on others – how they changed the world for the better.

A large part of a meaningful funeral speech will include sharing stories from the person’s life. If it’s a eulogy for your mother, you would talk about you mother’s life and important things your mother taught you. If it’s for your father, you could talk about what your father loved to do. You might include insight from a close friend who he grew up with or worked with.

Length of the eulogy

There’s no rule for how long your speech should be. You will want to share the most interesting and important aspects of the person’s life and personality. It could be as short as five minutes or as long as 10 minutes. As a general rule, you probably don’t want to go over ten minutes. 

A good rate for delivering this speech is around 125 words per minute. So, for example,  if you want to speak for six minutes, you will want around 750 words.

Writing and delivering a eulogy

When you are happy with what you have written, it’s time to work on delivery. This can seem daunting if you are not experienced in public speaking. Given the timeframe and circumstances, people won’t expect to remember your speech, so it’s okay to read the eulogy. At the same time, you will want to look up from the page and make eye contact with the audience. While you won’t need to memorise the speech, you will want to read it several times to become familiar with it. If you can, practise it at home by reading it out loud to yourself. You might also discover some spots that are not clear or are hard to deliver. In this case, you will want to do some editing.

Stage fright is another consideration. But the more prepared you are, the more confident you will be. If you feel nervous before your turn to speak, do some deep breathing to relax. While delivering the speech, speak slowly. If you are nervous, you will tend to speed up your speaking rate, so focusing on speaking slowly will help you stay in control.

Additional tips for writing a eulogy for specific people

Eulogy for father: For a son or daughter, you can share your memories of your father. This could include special memories in the form of stories about what your father meant to you and how he made a positive impact on your life. 

Eulogy for mother: This will be similar writing a eulogy about your father. Include a few stories that highlight the important impact of your mother and what she meant to you. 

Eulogy for grandmother or eulogy for grandfather: Again, share special memories of your grandmother of grandfather. You can also speaking to your older relatives to gain insights into their earlier lives. 

Eulogy for a friend: This can include how you met the person and how your friendship developed over the years. Recall some of the things you did together, such as sports, travel and recreation. If you can think of any funny stories that are in good taste, include these as well.

Remember that the idea of a eulogy is to paint a positive picture of the person and their life. If you point out any shortcomings (which we all have), this should be done in a humorous or forgiving way.

Eulogy writing services

If you feel stuck on how to write a funeral speech, we’ll be glad to help. As professional speechwriters, we have helped thousands of people over the years with their speech writing needs. 

The process of creating your eulogy includes:

  • Providing a list of questions to answer to get the background material required
  • Following up with a short phone discussion if more information is needed
  • Creating the first draft of the speech for review
  • Making changes to the draft based on your feedback.

The entire process usually takes two to three days, or faster if you need to deliver the eulogy sooner.  Contact me using the form on this page or call me on 1300 731 955 to discuss the process and the fee for writing a eulogy.

About Michael Gladkoff, Speechwriter

Michael has been writing speeches for over 30 years. He started during his teens when he joined Toastmasters. He began writing speeches professionally in 2005. Since then, he has written hundreds of speeches. Besides being a eulogy writer, Michael writes speeches for business leaders and special events. 

Best Man Speech — Tips for Writing a Memorable and Enjoyable Best Man Speech

A best man speech can be one of the best wedding speeches on the big day and help guests have a great time if you plan it right. If you’re the best man at a wedding, your best man speech is your chance to shine. If you’re not sure how to write a best man speech, here are a few tips to create a great best man speech that wedding guests will admire.

For the best man speech, don’t introduce yourself

First, you probably won’t need to introduce yourself at the beginning of your best man speech as this is usually done by the master of ceremonies. What you will want to do is write a short introduction for the MC or discuss your background with him or her. Don’t give away too much though — save the good stuff for yourself. If you are introduced, you won’t need to say something like, “My name is _______ and I will be delivering the best man speech today”, as the guests will already know this.  

Welcome and thank people during your best man speech

As an opening line, you can welcome guests and thank anyone who has helped with the special day. It’s also customary to thank people who have travelled a long way to participate in the wedding day. People who have travelled a long distance across Australia or from overseas will appreciate the gesture. It will also help break the ice between guests during the reception as they get to know each other. 

At some point during the speech you will want to thank those who have helped you. I usually include this at the beginning after welcoming people, as this leaves the rest of the speech open to talk about the groom and bride, and their future together. Say your ‘Thank yous’ to the groomsmen and any other good friends who helped out. Sometimes you will also want to thank the bridesmaids if they have assisted you in your role as best man.

Once you have the formalities out of the way, it’s time to start talking about the groom in your best man speech. Things to talk about can include when you met and what you have done together over the years. If you have known the groom from an early age, you will have plenty of material to draw from. You can include stories about sports, school and university, travel and other activities.

Include funny stories in your best man speech

The fun comes in when you start talking about the funny and dumb things the groom has done over the years. These stories will make your best man speech enjoyable and memorable. When including these stories be sure they are appropriate for all audience members. If something is too embarrassing or won’t be appropriate for all guests, it’s probably best to leave it out of your best man speech.

In one speech I wrote, the best man wanted to include some ‘raunchy’ material that some might find embarrassing. To be sure, I double checked with him and he insisted that this material stay in. After the event, I asked him how it went. He said that the audience loved it. So it always depends on who is in the audience. 

Best man speech jokes can be easily found online. It’s a matter of finding the right one that connects to the best man. In one case, the groom was an accountant and I included this for the best man:  “Since he’s an accountant, he should make a good lover — because he’s great with figures.” 

In one best man speech for the brother of the best man, I wrote a short section where the best man teased his brother (the groom) in a lighthearted way. It went like this:

Carlo is older, but I am the best man.

Carlo is a good swimmer, but I am the best man.

Carlo has more muscles, but I am the best man.

Carlo thinks he is smarter, but I am the best man.

Carlo is better at fishing and hunting, but I am the best man.

Carlo is good at jujitsu, but I am still the best man.

And not only all of that – I am two inches taller than he is!

In another example, the younger brother was the best man and complained that the groom always cheated and tricked him when they played rock, paper, scissors. 

In the end, the type of humour you use will depend on the audience. If you feel some of the guests don’t have a sense of humour, include some of it anyway to lighten up the speech and wedding reception. It doesn’t have to be a completely funny best man speech, but should include some humour. 

Highlight the positive in your best man speech

The next part of the creating the perfect best man speech is when you talk about the positive qualities of the groom. Looking back on your friendship, think about the groom’s best traits. These could be things like hard-working, determined, reliable, trustworthy and entertaining. Choose a few of these and give examples.

If you know the bride well enough, you can speak about her positive qualities as well.

Following this, talk about how the bride and groom complement each other. These might be opposite personality traits that help to balance them as a couple and things they have in common, such as they both love footy, rugby, camping, going to the gym, etc.

Send them off with best wishes and a toast at the end 

At the end of your best man speech you can talk about the future. Paint a positive picture of positive things to come, whether it’s travel, career, family or a new home. Don’t forget that it’s an emotional day, so it’s okay to be a bit inspirational as you talk about the couple’s future together. 

The final words should be your toast. Before making the raising a glass for the toast, ask the guests to fill their glasses and stand up.

Best man speech template

Although I don’t offer a best man speech template, here’s an outline of what is typically covered in the speech and the order it’s presented:

  1. Welcome guests and highlight any who have travelled a long way to attend.
  2. Thank anyone who helped you as the best man.
  3. Discuss your history with the groom — how long you have known each other, memorable and funny stories and things you have done together.
  4. Talk about the groom’s most positive qualities — this can be hard work, helping others, staying fit, persistence.
  5. Mention how the happy couple complement each other — this can be things they have in common and how their differences balance each other out.
  6. Speak about their future together.
  7. Toast the bride and groom.

I have written many best man speeches over the years and will be glad to discuss your specific requirements. Please contact me on 1300 731 955 or use the contact form at the top of the page for a no-obligation discussion. If you are interested, I can provide a quote and timeframe for writing your speech. 

For more information and wedding speeches in general, check out our wedding speeches page.

 

How to Write a Christmas Party Speech to Remember

Writing a Christmas party speech can be daunting, especially when you know it is going to be delivered before work colleagues and peers. However, writing an air-tight speech will go a long way to quelling those nerves. So here are the basics for writing a great Christmas party speech, from A-Z.

Christmas table setting for a Christmas party speech.

Writing the Beginning of Christmas Party Speech

A Christmas party speech must do two things as quickly as possible: the first is to get the listeners’ attention, the second is to present the question or theme which will expanded upon in the body of the speech. Traditionally, a Christmas party speech will begin by welcoming the guests, thanking them for coming, and perhaps acknowledging those who made a special effort to be there. By contrast, the modern approach is to postpone these formalities until later in the speech, to grab the listener’s attention immediately. A speech of this kind will begin with a story of sorts. For example, ‘The end of the year looked a long way away back in August. When the big project landed on our desks, I know several of you were very sick with the flu, and poor Joan was taken to hospital.’

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with doing the greetings and acknowledgements first, but neither is it wrong to leave it until later in the speech. But if you do choose to go with option A, keep it short and sweet. Then launch straight into your story.

The Body of a Christmas Party Speech

This is the bulk of a Christmas party speech, which will include all the highlights and low-points of the year, as well as the lighter moments. Again, these anecdotes will ultimately be seen through the lens of whatever themes you have established at the beginning. Perhaps Joan came back to work a few days later than they had been told, and found only one slice of her “Welcome Back” cake in the refrigerator. As a result, the moral of the story established at the start might be that ‘laughing and caring about one another is what gets us through the hard times.’ From this premise, you would have carte blanche to launch into every funny story and act of kindness that year. On the subject of humour, a quick reminder to take care that your laughs are good natured and won’t embarrass or offend. This is not an open-mic comedy spot; these people know one another and must work together.

At some point in the body of the Christmas party speech, you will need to talk about the challenges and regrets of the year. Talk about those that have retired. Perhaps someone died. If so, be sure to honour their memory. Those closest to them will greatly appreciate that you remembered them.

Ending a Christmas Party Speech

 The end of a Christmas party speech is the perfect time to thank everybody for coming along, and to highlight your message (in my example with Ruth, laughter and caring). If your opening story was not of a personal nature, you might want to end with a recollection of Christmas – from your childhood, or how special it is to spend it with your children. A Christmas party speech, after all, is an opportunity to bring people closer together, in laughter and gratitude. Beyond being staff members, we’re all human.

‘Slip, Slop, Slap’: How to Use Figures of Speech for More Persuasive Writing

 

Launched in 1981, one of Australia’s most successful advertising campaigns has changed people’s attitudes towards sun exposure and reduced the two most common forms of skin cancer. The slogan Slip, Slop, Slap was at the centre of the campaign, promoting safety in the sun by slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat. This successful advertising campaign offers important lessons for public speakers, advertisers and anyone who wants to persuade and have their messages remembered.

At the time the campaign was created, melanoma rates were increasing in Australia. The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria – now Cancer Council Victoria – was looking for a way to make an impact. They approached Philip Adams – the ABC broadcaster who was then a creative director at an ad agency – to develop an advertising campaign that would promote protection against the damaging effects of the sun. (You can watch the original video here.)

The effectiveness of the Slip, Slop, Slap slogan is a result of using three figures of speech — alliteration, onomatopoeia and tricolon — in the slogan.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a figure of speech where initial consonant letters, or sounds, are repeated in at least two different words in successive sentences, clauses, or phrases. This can occur in adjacent words or these that are separated by other words.

This figure of speech has been used since ancient times in poems, stories, speeches and more.

A well-known example of alliteration is ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.

This figure of speech is also found in poetry. Here’s an example from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

The technique has also been used by speakers to capture attention and be more memorable.

Looking back, through the vista of years of trial, tribulation, and turmoil, into that Valley of the Shadow of Death, into which we and all free peoples of the earth were plunged, we may now lift up our voices, and thank God that, through their sacrifice, we have been brought safely into the green pastures of peace. – William ‘Billy Hughes’, Australian Federal Parliament, September 1919

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. – John F Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 1961

Advertisers understand the power of alliteration and use it in slogans and names:

Functional… Fashionable… Formidable… – Fila

Greyhound going great. – Greyhound

Don’t dream it. Drive it. – Jaguar

Krispy Kreme

Weight Watchers

Banana Boat

Tetley Tea

Range Rover

Coca-Cola

It’s no coincidence that alliteration is used in some of the most memorable poems, speeches, advertising campaigns and business names.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is the term that describes a word that phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. Examples include:

  • splash, sprinkle and squirt — for water descriptions
  • giggle, mumble and blurt — for voice descriptions
  • bang, thump and thud — for describing collisions
  • bark, meow and moo — for describing animal sounds.

Advertisers understand the effectiveness of onomatopoeia and have used it in campaigns, including:

  • ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop’ – for the Rice Crispies cereal
  • ‘Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, oh what a relief it is’ – the slogan for Alka Seltzer tablets
  • ‘Click-clack, front and back’ – Australian ad promoting seat belt safety to children.

Tricolon

A tricolon is a figure of speech where a series of three parallel words or phrases that are of a similar length. This figure of speech has been used in speeches and presentations from ancient times to the present day:

Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.) – Julius Caesar

Do we not find ourselves hampered in commerce, restricted in influence, weakened in prestige, because we are jarring atoms instead of a united organism? – Alfred Deakin

I see one-third of a nation illhoused, illclad, illnourished. – Franklin D Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, 1937

Combining the Three Figures of Speech

So now we can see how the ‘slip, slop, slap’ advertising slogan cleverly combines three figures of speech. The result is a phrase that people can easily remember and act upon. In fact, it is now estimated that many Australians are deficient in vitamin D due to lack of sun exposure, and medical professionals are recommending moderate sun exposure a few minutes a day to increase vitamin D levels.

Use Figures of Speech in Your Speeches and Presentations

The ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaign shows how figures of speech can be used to make a phrase memorable. Many of the greatest speakers, past and present, have understood the power of words and have used figures of speech. Given this fact, it’s amazing that some public speaking ‘experts’ still tell us that our words only account for 7 per cent of messages when speaking in public.

Michael Gladkoff

 

Writing Speeches Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies for Greater Impact

Lectern with speeches on it.

Using the right words and phrases in your speeches and presentations can help you make a bigger impact and be remembered. Similes, metaphors and analogies are three figures of speech that you can use to inform, influence and inspire your audiences. You can also use them in your marketing copy and business documents.

Let’s look at some examples of similes, metaphors and analogies, and how they are used in speeches, presentations and other formats.

Similes in Speeches and Other Formats

A simile is a rhetorical figure expressing comparison or likeness that directly compares two objects through a word such as like or as.

Here are a few examples from ancient to recent times:

A room without books is like a body without a soul.  – Cicero

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.  – Albert Einstein

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.  – Frank Zappa

Henry was 18 when we met and I was queen of France. He came down from the north to Paris with a mind like Aristotle’s and a form like mortal sin. – Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter

Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.  – Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now

Metaphors in Speeches

A metaphor compares one thing to another, but asserts that one thing is actually another.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.  – William Shakespeare

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.  – Sir Winston Churchill

The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.  – John F Kennedy

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of a nation into the beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  – Martin Luther King

Nationalism is both a vital medicine and a dangerous drug. – Geoffrey Blainey

The term iron curtain is an example of how powerful metaphors can be for creating an image in the mind of listeners. Churchill was not the first person to use the term. But after he used it in a speech he delivered in 1946, it became a popular term for describing the closed societies of the Soviet Union and the satellite nations that were under its influence after World War II.

Another great example of the power of metaphors in speeches is Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Throughout the speech Dr King used well over 20 metaphors to create pictures of the ideas he was conveying. A few include:

a great beacon light of hope

flames of withering injustice

joyous daybreak

long night of their captivity

manacles of segregation

chains of discrimination

lonely island of poverty

vast ocean of material prosperity.

In order to gain a better understanding of the skilful use of metaphors in context of the speech, you can read the complete text at www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm.

Given the effectiveness of metaphors in the world’s greatest speeches, the question is not whether to use them, but how to create effective metaphors and use them in your speeches and presentations.

Analogies in Speeches

An analogy is an extended metaphor or long simile. One example can be found in a speech I wrote for a vocational school graduation ceremony. The speaker wanted to emphasise how important it was for the graduates to have goals after competing their studies. I used the following analogy:

In graduating today, you have reached the pinnacle of your experience at Melbourne Vocational College. But this is only the beginning. There are much bigger goals and dreams ahead of you.

It’s like climbing a mountain. As you climb, you often can’t see the top. Just when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle, you look up and realise that it’s only a plateau and the peak is still way off in the distance. These distant peaks are the dreams and goals that life has in store for you. They are out there, but they must be worked for.

Analogies are effective for explaining intangible concepts. For example, when giving a motivational talk on how our limiting beliefs can hold us back, Denis Waitley used the analogy of his friend’s dog that would not move when its leash was tied to lightweight chair. The dog was feisty and wanted to play with guests when they visited but falsely believed that the chair was too heavy to be able to move. From a young age the dog was tied to a post outside after being given baths and assumed that it would not be able to move when its leash was tied to any other object. Waitley draws an analogy from the story by comparing it to people’s mind sets:

Unfortunately, too many of us are like Spike. We find ourselves in a situation in which we assume we’re helpless, and we give up. Some past experience tells us we can’t move ahead, and we give up without even trying. Sometimes only a five-pound weight is holding us back, but as far as we’re concerned, it weighs 500 tons, and we can’t do anything but sit down, like Spike, and work our way into a state of depression (from “How to Sharpen Your Imagination” in Insight by Nightingale Conant, No 107, 1991).

Analogies can be helpful when explaining complex ideas or technical processes. When writing for an executive with an Australian IT company, I used the following analogy to explain a challenging project where software that is an integral part of running the mobile phone network was being updated. With millions of users depending on the continuous operation of the network while the update was being made, there was no room for error as the company representative explained:

Updating the telecommunications software was like changing an engine on a 767 jet at 37,000 feet. We were changing one of the engines and needed to ensure that the plane kept running and didn’t fly around in circles or crash.

Analogies are also very effective for explaining large numbers. A good example of using an analogy to put numbers into context appears in the television series Cosmos. In the original series, Carl Sagan spoke about the history of the universe. Given the enormity of the figures, he compared the 15-billion-year life of the universe to a calendar year, which he dubbed the Cosmic Calendar. In the updated version of the series, released in 2014, host Neil deGrasse Tyson presents the same concept of a Cosmic Calendar, but with a revised universe age of 13.8 billion years.

Here’s a summary of the explanation of how it would look if 13.8 billion years were put into a single year:

  • January 1st – the big bang occurs

January 10th – the first stars appear

January 13th – stars coalesce to form small galaxies

March 15th – the Milky Way Galaxy forms

August 31st – the Sun appears

September 21st – basic life appears on Earth

November 9th – life that breathes, eats, moves and responds to its environment can be found

December 17th – larger plants and animals are found in the sea

Final week of December – forests, dinosaurs, birds and insects all evolved

December 28th – the first flower bloomed

6:24 am on December 30th – an asteroid collision hitting the earth made dinosaurs extinct

The last hour of December 30th – humans evolved

11:59: 46 on December 30th – recorded history begins

11:59 on December 30th – humans paint first pictures

14 seconds to midnight – humans start writing

7 seconds before midnight – Moses is born

6 seconds before midnight – Buddha is born

5 seconds before midnight – Jesus is born

3 seconds before midnight – Mohamed is born

2 seconds before midnight – Columbus lands in America

1 second ago – science is used to reveal nature’s secrets and laws.

The documentary included superb graphic recreations to show these events superimposed over a calendar year, which we all can relate to.

What to Avoid When Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies in Speeches

Similes, metaphors and analogies can be a powerful tool but be careful when using them in speeches. Some metaphors have been used so many times that they are “worn out”. George Orwell stressed this point in his essay “Politics in the English Language” when he wrote, “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

In addition, metaphors can fall flat or miss the point. In 2003, The Washington Post ran a contest to see who could create the worst analogies. A few of the choice ones included:

Even in his last years, grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Yes, these were specifically created to be bad, but they are good reminders to be careful when creating similes, metaphors and analogies.

The Challenge of Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies in Your Speeches and Presentations

One drawback is that it takes time, effort and creativity to come up with similes, metaphors and analogies for speeches. But if you give yourself enough time and apply your creativity, you can create these figures of speech to give memorable speeches and presentations that inform, influence and inspire your audiences. You can find more on our speech writing services here.

Michael Gladkoff

 

Why Write Your Speech and Not Improvise?

When asked in advance to speak or make a presentation at an event, an easy way out is to improvise. This might include having a general idea of what to say, creating an outline and then practising the speech a few times. It can work for an experienced and confident speaker, but usually the result would be much better if the speaker had taken the time to write out the words for their speech.

How to Become a Better Speechwriter

Whether you want to write speeches for yourself or others, here are a few steps that can help you develop your skills to become a better speechwriter.  These prepared me to become a freelance speechwriter and assist professionals, business executives and government leaders with their speechwriting needs.

1. Join Toastmasters to become a more effective speechwriter

I first joined Toastmasters in the mid 1980s when I was attending university. The great thing about Toastmasters is that it gives you an opportunity to develop your presentation skills in a supportive environment. When you join a chapter, you receive a manual of 10 speech projects that you deliver over time to the group. Each speech has particular objectives that are important for effective communication — such as organising your speech, vocal variety, body language and using visual aids. After delivering your speech, you receive a constructive evaluation from one of the members. This gives you ideas to improve as you move forward.  By continuing to write speeches and deliver them as part of the program, you will become a better speechwriter. You will also be able to observe more experienced members and see how they organise and present their speeches.

Although I have been in Toastmasters for many years, I still participate because I continue to learn more and improve my skills as a speech writer.

To learn more about Toastmasters, visit their website at www.toastmasters.org.au. I suggest visiting a few clubs in your area to find the one that best fits your personality and goals.

2. Read books on speech writing to become a better speechwriter

Reading books by professional speech writers is a great way to become a more effective speechwriter. Many speechwriters have written books in which they share their insights by using the speeches they have written for others as examples. These books provide the basics you can apply in your speeches. You can also find collections of great speeches from the past in your local library or book shop.

My book about speechwriting is based on my experience writing hundreds of speeches and presentations for leaders in business, government and education. You can find more details at The Leader’s Guide to Creating Powerful Speeches and Presentations.

3. Analyse speeches to become a more effective speechwriter

Observing and analysing speeches will help you improve your speechwriting skills. You can watch speeches and presentations on YouTube, attend business events where speeches are delivered, listen to podcasts of speeches and more. Watching and listening to effective speakers will give you ideas you can apply as a speechwriter. If a speech is not that good, you can think of ways you could improve it if you were writing it. Either way, you should critically analyse the speeches you observe and think about how they have been written.

4. Keep on practising to become a better speechwriter

Practising your skills is the key to becoming a better speechwriter. Writing speeches for yourself or others will give you the experience you need to improve.  Before I began my career as a speechwriter, I wrote and presented over 50 speeches as a member of Toastmasters. Although I have written hundreds of speeches for clients since 2004, I continue to attend Toastmasters, read books about speechwriting and critically evaluate the speeches I hear.

Whatever your experience and objectives, there are always opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a speechwriter. These steps are not the only path to effective speechwriting, but they have worked well for me in becoming a better speechwriter.

Michael Gladkoff

Speech Writing — How to Add Humour to Your Speeches and Presentations without Telling Jokes

Adding humour to a speech or presentation is a great way to build rapport with your audience.  But one common piece of bad advice is to tell a joke at the beginning of the speech to “loosen up the audience”.  This approach is even more ineffective when the joke has nothing to do with the topic of the speech or the purpose of the event. If the joke doesn’t work, the speaker might lose momentum for the rest of the speech.  Also, not everyone is good at telling jokes. Some people enjoy telling jokes to their family and friends, and can make them laugh, while others often fall flat in their attempts.

But if you don’t tell jokes, how can you add humour to your speech writing?

One effective way is to use humorous quotations that are related to your message. Something funny has been said about every subject, and it’s easy to find these quotations on the internet.

For example, when I speak to audiences about writing, I mention the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein who said, “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

You can even find humour in computers and information technology. If you were writing a speech about computers, Google “humorous computer quotations” and you will find many to choose from.

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”  Joseph Campbell

“Software and cathedrals are much the same — first we build them, then we pray.”  Unknown

“If the automobile had followed the same development as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year killing everyone inside.”  Robert Cringely

“There are two major products that came out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We do not believe this to be a coincidence.”  Jeremy S. Anderson

“Experts agree that the best type of computer for your individual needs is one that comes on the market about two days after you actually purchase some other computer.”  Dave Barry

If the quotation is from an unknown source, you can say, “Someone once said” and then deliver the quotation.

After finding the quotations from the various sites, choose one or several that you feel will fit your audience and topic. If you are writing for a non-technical audience, a quotation that requires technical knowledge won’t be funny, so always keep your audience in mind. You also want to be sure that the quotation isn’t offensive.

Quotations can also help you add some humour when teaching. For example, when we give workshops on business writing and speech writing we emphasise the importance of being as concise as possible. But clear and simple writing often requires more time and effort, so we mention Blaise Pascal who wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

You can combine related quotations to strengthen your message while adding some humour. This example is from the opening of a speech we wrote for a CEO who was speaking about innovation at his company.

Innovation requires us to look to the future. But the pace of change can be so quick that many of the predictions about technology have been wrong.

In 1830, Dionysius Lardner, professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, said, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”

In 1895 Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society said, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

In 1926, Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television, said, “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

In 1977, Ken Olson, the founder and president of Digital Equipment Corp, said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

To be safe, I won’t be making any major predictions today. But I will share some of my thoughts on innovation at our company.

Before using quotations in a speech or presentation, you will want to confirm their authenticity and accuracy. You can do this comparing quotations websites or, even better, finding the original source of the quotation, such as an article or interview.

You don’t have to tell jokes to add humour to your speeches and presentations. So the next time you are faced with a speech writing task or preparing a presentation, find and use humorous quotations.

Michael Gladkoff