FUNERALS AND PUBLIC SPEAKING - Con Koutsikas Public Speaking and Communication Trainer and Coach

Funerals and Public Speaking

Last year I attended the funeral of an elderly lady, who, to be honest, I had never actually met.  The obvious question is why the heck were you there?  I was there as a mark of respect to other family members who I was very close to and also to give me an opportunity to directly pass on my condolences.

The funeral was conducted according to Greek Orthodox tradition in a Greek Orthodox Church with barely standing room available.  At a reasonable guess there would have been 250-300 people.  Now I know most of you reading this are really wondering where am I going with this, what’s the point and more importantly, what does this in way have to do with public speaking?  Trust me, I getting there!

I am a very keen “people watcher” or an observationalist.  I observe people’s body language, facial expressions to understand the thoughts between their ears so as such it didn’t take too long to work out there many there were thinking and feeling the same as I was.   Now you could say, well it’s a funeral, everyone pretty well has the gist of what’s going on and you would be right, BUT this is where I make my point.

I was up the back and could barely make out what the priests were saying despite the fact they had a microphone, and it wasn’t just me.  I overheard many attendees mention they couldn’t hear a thing.  As a speaker or presenter you have an obligation to ensure your audience can hear you.  One of the fundamental public speaking tips we share is to ensure you have checked the all audio/ visual equipment.  If your audience can’t hear you, they’ll be switching of REAL quick whether it’s a funeral, wedding or Bar Mitzvah.  It would have taken only a few moments prior to the service to check and rectify any issues.  I wanted to know about this ladies life, her experiences and the positive impact she had on her family and the community but I, along with many others, were deprived.  Along with not being able to hear them, there was a significant demographic who would not have either understood the meaning of the service or the language.  There was a feeble attempt at performing part of the service in English but it fell short of providing any real value.

Well the priest isn’t selling anything, what does he care who can hear or understand I hear you say…..WRONG.  As there is competition in every area of life as there is in religion.  As a youngster I attended church with my mother, albeit not overly willingly, but as I got older, my attendance was limited to obligatory events such as weddings, christenings and funerals because I could neither hear most of the time not could I understand.  All community organisations struggle for members which ultimately drives income necessary for their ongoing survival.   The next time you’re presenting anywhere, make sure your audience can not only hear you but can understand the language and the context.

If you are part of any organisation, be it a commercial entity or a not for profit it’s fair to say you have an element of passion.  As such you have an obligation to not only yourself but to the organisation and maybe look at taking on a leadership role.  One of the pre requisites of leadership is effective public speaking.  You need to be able to communicate your message effectively.  Your audience, whether its 2 or 200 need to be able to clearly hear, understand and be sold on your message so they ultimately take the required action in your message.  Effective public speaking is crucial to you and your organisations success. I always say, “The quality of your communication will ultimately determine the level of your success”.  One of the best ways to improve your communication is having efficient public speaking skills.

Effective public speaking skills increases your confidence, which makes you more persuasive and influential.  Whilst the priests at the funeral were not there to influence or persuade as the primary objective, they missed an opportunity to influence and persuade potential parishioners of the value and the overall experience they are able to provide at that church.  How many times have you attended a service at either a church or with a celebrant and either yourself or others have passed comments on the experience.  “That priest performed a lovely service” or “I highly recommend this particular celebrant”.
And finally…..

The funeral reminded me of the finality of our existence on this earth at this time.  I’m not here to debate or discuss re incarnation or anyone’s religious beliefs be it Hindu, Muslim or Christian but there is no denying, when your dead in this life, your dead.  We all have things we say “were gunna do” or “I must get around to …” We also have relationships which we take for granted.  We hold silly grudges and don’t talk to them because we are angry.  If you only get one thing from this blog, make it this!  Life is limited, longer for some than for others but never the less limited.  Don’t keep putting off things which are important to you, challenge you to become a better person or challenge you improve professionally.  Don’t regret what you’ve done but regret what you haven’t done.    Life is too short to pile up woulda, coulda and shouldas and who do you think would have the greatest clarity on life? The ones nearing the end of theirs.  If you want to know about regret, I strongly suggest you read “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware.  Make sure you have ample tissues or hankies because if this book does not draw tears you either need to check your pulse or there is a heart missing!  Ware spent many years caring for those facing their own mortality.  When she questioned the dying about any regrets they had or anything they would have done differently, she found common themes surface repeatedly.  In no particular order the top 5 were I wish:

  • I’d let myself be happier.
  • I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I hadn’t worked that hard
  • I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted and assume there will be a next time.  I ALWAYS tell me kids I love them after every phone conversation and hug and kiss them every time I see them.  I know they know but hey, it’s my thing.  If that’s the last time I see or speak to them I want them to remember my last words.

As always, I look forward to your comments.

My name is Con and I am The Con Versationalist

Until next week, bye for now.

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