How to Write a Tribute Speech to Your Mother: Step-By-Step

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Writing a tribute speech is one of the best ways to memorialize your mom. Recognizing your mom's legacy is a gift to one of the most important people in your life. A speech is a great way to praise her and a great way of laying her life to rest. 

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For most people, though, writing and delivering a speech is a little scary. How do you start? How do you keep from breaking down? How do you conquer fears of public speaking?

We’ve included a list of tips, below. You can build your narrative from the ground so you can deliver a poignant, emotional speech.

If writing a tribute speech is just one of your responsibilities after a death, check out our post-loss checklist for some help through the process.  

Step 1: Do Your Research

Even if you and your mother were best friends, it’s still a good idea to confirm the facts. Family stories and blurred memories over the years can change hard facts. Make sure to verify details, even if you’re sure you know the answer. In most cases, Google can’t help you. Look through mementos to find your answers. Diplomas, marriage certificates, and photos can help you confirm most details. 

If you don’t have access to these mementos, or your mother didn’t save anything, try something else. Other family members may have stories and mementos that you don’t. Fact-check with many people to help you gather enough information for a foundation. 

Don’t make the mistake of writing a tribute speech like a biography. You don’t need to write a third-person essay. Focus on the relationship you had with your mother and how that changed you. 

Share your final wishes, just in case.

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Step 2: Think About Impact

What do you want to emphasize? How do you want your audience to feel when your speech is over? It can feel daunting to try to condense an entire life into a short speech. You’re faced with so many memories, it can be hard to pick one, but make it simple: Decide how you want your audience to feel. 

There are a few common results that you might want. You may want people to feel grateful for their mothers. To achieve this result, you could emphasize the role she held in keeping the family together. You may want people to feel impressed by the type of person your mother was. To do this, you could share memories of her tireless volunteer work. You may not have something specific in mind, though.

Sometimes, grief is so overwhelming that all you want to do is share what your mother meant to you. If that’s what you want, think of memories that show your close relationship. Consider what your mother did for you, taught you, or provided you with. After all, mothers leave an indelible footprint.

Step 3: Pick Thematic Anecdotes

When you’re selecting memories, it’s easy to be vague. After all, being specific means spending a lot of time living in memories. After a recent death, your first instinct might be to avoid this — but it won't help you through it. 

It doesn't help people who are grieving with you to give vague generalities. They want to know details, ones that couldn’t apply to every mother in the world. Tell specific stories. What traits do you highlight? When you think of your mother’s personality, what stands out? You might want to talk about what your mom meant to you. It’s up to you to dig deep and think about why your mom mattered so much. 

Her sense of compassion might have changed your outlook on the world. You could always depend on her and her reliability structured your childhood. Once you’ve discovered your “why,” pick out traits. Then spend some time recounting your memories. Which ones illustrate the traits you want to highlight? 

When you pick your stories, keep them streamlined. No one wants to listen to a speech that meanders through someone’s life. Choose two or three traits. This will condense your story for the audience. Streamline your stories in the retelling, too. Condense them into a few poignant sentences for a great way to hook your audience. 

Step 4: Be Truthful

Whether you're speaking a funeral, memorial service, or her retirement party, chances are that most people in the room knew your mother. Not everyone has a great relationship with his or her mother. Some people never knew their mother well. Others had a complicated relationship and you may struggle to share good qualities. 

This is okay! Not everyone has a "Gilmore Girls" relationship with his or her mom. Here are a few options if you're struggling: 

  • Write the speech. If she had a drastic, public issue, such as alcoholism, most people attending already know. Dragging it into the light and expanding on it will make people uncomfortable. Using a tribute speech as a soapbox for your issues isn’t appropriate. 
  • Focus on the positive. If you can’t, though, it’s appropriate to refuse the offer to deliver a tribute speech. Not saying anything is better than lying or making it sound like someone was a better person than they were. 

Step 5: Deliver Your Speech

Some people, gifted with words, offer anecdotes and attention-grabbing openers. They’re made for writing a speech. But do you feel terror at the mere thought of giving a speech? 

There are a few simple tips to follow to ensure that your speech goes well. One of the most important tips is giving your opening hook a time to shine. If you remember college essays, you remember the importance of an attention grabber. Rather than starting with a boring sentence, craft an attention-grabber. This will inform and excite listeners. Wait for the audience to settle down and pay attention before you start speaking.

It’s important to come prepared, too. Bring tissues and a bottle of water to help you through your speech. Bring notes, too. If you want to type out your entire speech beforehand, do so. If not, try writing out cue cards.

Sample Outline Speech for Mom

Struggling with how to craft your speech? Here’s an example outline for you. Customize or rearrange to fit your unique needs!

Introduction: Start with something that will grab the audience’s attention. It could be a fact about your mother that’s surprising, one that no one else knew. It could be a mild joke if the mood is appropriate. Once you’ve snagged the audience’s attention, introduce the basic facts about your mother. State your relationship, too, so people know who you are. 

Overview: Provide a birds-eye view of what your relationship with your mother was like. How did her upbringing influence the kind of person she was? How did she pass that onto you? This is the place to highlight the traits you remember most about your mother. 

Anecdotes: The anecdotes you select go here. Share your memories, with an emphasis on the traits you discussed above. Stating those traits serve as a thesis statement and a road map through the rest of your speech. 

Influence: Depending on how many anecdotes you shared, you can talk about her in two ways. You can do so after each separate anecdote. If you only have one or two, you may save this for the end. Talk about how these character traits changed your life. Illustrate them with stories.

Why Your Speech Matters

It’s easy to feel like a tribute speech is impossible to craft. It seems like there’s always someone who could do it better. But a tribute speech serves as a personalized gift, one of the only ones you can give after your mother dies.

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