Five Tips To Save Your Sanity: Writing A Toast Or Eulogy When You Don’t Know Your Person That Well

A road sign pointing the way to Sanity in one direction, and Insanity in the other... (which will you choose?)

You’ve agreed to deliver a speech to celebrate the guest of honour – the bride, the groom, the retiree or the deceased – but now that you’re actually sitting down to prepare, you’ve uncovered a slight problem:

You don’t really know the person that well.

Hmmm… what to do?

Don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Whether travel restrictions have hampered your ability to meet your niece’s fiancée, or organizational silos have prevented you from getting to know Jamie in accounting beyond that one meeting in 2018, we don’t always know the people in our lives as well as we’d like.

You’ve got your pen in hand… and… you’re drawing a blank.

Here Are Five Speechwriting Tips When You Don’t Know Your Person That Well

1) Start Early

I always recommend starting speech prep in advance, but in this case especially, time is on your side. Having a few extra weeks gives you the freedom to explore a few options and track down key details you may need to help your speech sing.


2) Focus On What You Do Know

Make a list of everything you do know about the person you’re celebrating – it’s probably more than you realize. Have they talked to you about their interests or hobbies? In your limited encounters, what do you like about them?  How do they make you feel?  Can you talk about upcoming plans you have together?


3) Check Social Media (If Appropriate)

So. Huge caveat here: This is a tool that can help in certain cases. If the deceased had a private account, you’re obviously not sending a friend request now like a weirdo. But if you’re already connected, or they post frequently and publicly, their FInstaTok may provide clues about what’s important to them.

Plus, connecting on social media is a good way to convey your interest in getting to know them better.


4) Talk To People Who Know Them Better

This isn’t a closed-book exam – you’re allowed to ask questions.  Have coffee with people who can help, and explain your situation. Ask questions and take notes. If it feels right, you could even ask for a second set of eyes once you’ve finished your draft, to help fill in blanks or correct anything you’ve misunderstood.


5) It’s Okay To Be Honest

If you haven’t had a chance yet to get to know your guest of honour as well as you would like, say so! And signal a willingness to get to know them better going forward, if possible.

Keep it simple, and don’t apologize – this tribute is still about them, not you. But being honest about your current relationship will ensure you’re speaking from a place of authenticity, and might even open the door to getting to know them better going forward.


Lastly, R-E-L-A-X.

At the end of the day, this ceremony is meant to bring people together to celebrate, reflect and/or honour their loved one(s). Your speech is one part of a much bigger purpose.

Set the intention to genuinely pay tribute to your guest of honour, and let that guide how you show up at the podium. Remember: Your audience wants to hear from you.

Show up calmly with love in your heart, and everything will be just fine.

Cheers to them, and cheers to you!

A tiny flower

P.S. If you’re so stuck it’s suffocating that whole love in your heart vibe, let’s book a 30-minute chat.  I’ll take care of the words and you can focus on everything else (and still sleep at night!)  Together, we got this!

Photo by hh5800, Getty Images Signature

Leaf - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Shannon Marshall

Hi - I’m Shannon, a speechwriter for all occasions, and owner of Centrepiece Writing Studio. I write heartfelt speeches, handcrafted just for you.

If you need a hand finding just the right words for your toast, eulogy or milestone celebration, I've got you covered. I'll help you tell your story.

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Shannon Marshall - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Centrepiece Writing Studio is grateful to operate on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen people, now represented by the Songhees and Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) nations...
The glorious land commonly known as Victoria, BC.

With great respect for the earliest residents of our shared coastal home, CWS strives to uphold our mutual values of storytelling and environmental stewardship.

Flower - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC