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Reading at a Funeral

A celebrant colleague called Claire recently wrote an article about speaking in public, and it got me thinking about what advice I would give. Tips I would offer are: to take a drink of cool water before you start reading; it relaxes the syndrome of ‘emotional throat’ - you know, that horrible feeling when you feel you can’t swallow. Repeat as often as necessary during the reading. Ask the celebrant to have water ready poured for you, then you aren't worrying about shaking hands, or spilling the water .

Stand steady, often people will have shaking legs from nerves. Stand with your feet planted apart about a foot or so - it really helps. Put your hands on the edge of the lectern, and that also helps to steady yourself. Don't tap your fingers, and gents, don't jingle keys or coins in your pockets

Take a deep breath through your nose before you start, and exhale s-l-o-w-l-y. That slows your heart rate down.

Read MUCH more slowly than you normally would. The temptation is to get through it as quickly as possible. But your audience will be listening through a filter of grief and different emotions, so they need time to really hear what you are saying. Practice beforehand of course!

Print your reading in a clear font such as Arial, and in a large size (14 is ideal) with 1.5 line spacing - use paragraphs too so you can easily follow the words.

Print on one side of the paper and number each sheet in case you drop them on the floor!

Send a copy to your celebrant, as Claire said, so that they are able to step in on the day if necessary, and they’ll have a spare copy available, just in case yours gets left behind at home (it has been known! )

And exactly as Claire says, it’s an honour to be asked to read; consider it as your gift to the person who has died.

If you want any tips or help about speaking in public, feel free also to contact me, via this page or my website. I used to teach Effective Speaking and Presentation Skills to Army and RAF officers, and ‘Speaking with confidence’ to civil servants worldwide,as well as many years’ personal experience of public speaking, at events and on BBC and local radio.

published 11th Apr 2018, 6.06pm (about 6 months ago)

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