Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rehearse Your Eulogy Or Funeral Speech In Front Of A Video Camera, Not A Mirror

If you want to write and deliver an effective eulogy, you need to do two things before the day of the funeral or memorial service: prepare, and rehearse. Preparation helps you discover what to say. Rehearsing helps you know how to say it. And how not to say it.

But when you practice your eulogy, do so in front of a video camera, not a mirror. Speaking in front of a mirror is unnatural. You are speaking to yourself, looking at yourself, and that does not reflect reality, if you'll excuse the pun. As you look at yourself in a mirror, you are unlikely to do any of the things that public speakers do that distract their audience and detract from their talks.

Practicing your funeral speech in front of a video camera, on the other hand, is guaranteed to reveal any gestures, body language, posture problems, verbal ticks and other problems that you need to fix before the big day.

Let me give you a practical example. Back in 1982, when I was serving in the Royal Marines, I took a course on military instructional technique. It was a course that taught us how to teach soldiers. As part of the course, each member of the class had to deliver his lesson to the class while he was filmed on a VHS video camera.

The results of my session were illuminating, and uncovered a terrible habit I had. A habit I never would have discovered by rehearsing in front of a mirror: I didn't look my audience in the eye. As I spoke, I looked at the floor, at the back of the classroom, at the student's chests, anywhere but in their eyes. Effective communication between people requires eye contact.

I had no clue that I never made eye contact while delivering a talk or lesson. But the video camera did. It caught this problem in dazzling full colour, with sound.

As I am sure you can appreciate, I would never have discovered my error if I had practiced in front of a mirror. That's because, like most people, when I look at myself in a mirror, I look myself in the eye. I'm not nervous about locking eyes with myself. When I am speaking at my reflection, I am confident and unaware.

That is the beauty of rehearsing in front of a video camera. You are not speaking to yourself. You are speaking to an audience (sort of). The other big advantage of delivering your eulogy to a video camera is that you can watch yourself afterwards as many times as you need to in order to catch those mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, verbal ticks and other problems that get in the way of you writing and giving a great eulogy.

So prepare your eulogy, and practice your funeral speech. You'll be glad you did. And so will your audience.

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