3 Funerals and a Wedding

Recently I was approached by 2 people with the same need but for completely different reasons. One of these was a man whose daughter was getting married. The other, also a man, had 3 people he knew with terminal illnesses. Both of them knew they would have to speak in emotional circumstances.

While shedding a tear or 2 is of course acceptable (and healthy) both of these clients felt they needed some help to ensure that they would not lose control.

As with all things, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution. Below is a random sample of techniques that may help you if you are in a similar situation:


Both before and during the speaking event it can be helpful to engage some deep breathing techniques.

There is a simple breathing exercise that can help hugely when feeling nervous or anxious.  When I do this breathing exercise (even when I am not feeling anxious) my heart rate consistently falls by 10%.

So, here it is – breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold for a count of four and release through the mouth for a count of four, and finally count to 4 before repeating the exercise.  Repeat this three times.  It really works a treat.

If you do this exercise several times during the day it slows your heart rate and gets more oxygen to your brain.  The benefits of slowing your heart rate are well known.  The benefits of getting oxygen to your brain are not as widely recognised.  Benefits include clarity of thinking and helping you focus – both of which can really help you when you are in a potentially emotional speaking situation.

Also, if you take a few more pauses than usual while you are speaking, you can continue to get additional benefits from the oxygen.


Read Verbatim
While this is something not normally recommended in public speaking it can work very well at an emotional occasion. By focusing 100% on the words, it can help remove us from the emotional situation. Some people find that following the words with their finger further improves this focus.


This may only be suitable for the wedding situation. If we feel we may be losing control, taking a nice slow drink of water can help us re-focus.

While we are on the subject of liquid and weddings – it is usually recommended to not have your second drink until after you have spoken.  However, if you are someone who seldom drinks – perhaps consider not having a drink at all until after the speech has been delivered.


Avoid direct Eye Contact
This goes against what would be the norm when speaking in public.  Usually, we make eye contact when speaking to help us to connect better with our audience and react to their reactions.

However, in a potentially emotional scenario – it is ok to avoid eye contact with the audience or the congregation.

In these situations I believe it is perfectly acceptable to only glance up at the beginning and the end of the speech . If you feel you should look up, but are conscious that looking might make you too emotional, then try looking slightly above the heads of the audience rather than into their eyes.

In a wedding speech you would be expected to look up a bit more than in a eulogy or other emotional circumstances.  If doing so, try the same tactic and avoid eye contact with “trigger” people.  This is one occasion where the stoney faced relative is actually a bonus!


Have a back-up speaker lined up in advance so you know that, if the worst comes to the worst, you can hand the script to them.


If you have a speech coming up that you would like help with, or if you are struggling with a specific area within a presentation, you may benefit from our confidential one-to-one coaching sessions.