Fear of public speaking is among the most common phobias in Western culture, often coming in ahead of dying. So the combination of death and public speaking can easily rattle a person’s confidence. When putting together a eulogy, it’s not uncommon to struggle. The good news is that there’s no right or wrong way to start. You can take your eulogy in just about whatever direction you feel. However, it can be helpful to have a bit of structure to follow when putting pen to paper.

Here are a few guidelines you can use to write a eulogy.

Start with the Introduction

It might seem unnecessary, but it’s normally a good idea to start by introducing yourself and defining your relationship with the deceased. Talk about how long you’ve known them and how you met.

Pick a Direction

This can be the hardest step to complete. As previously said, there are a lot of directions you can take a eulogy. You can tell your favorite story about the deceased that you feel best describes them. You can talk about what you admire most about them. Or you can say what you’ll miss most about them. When picking the direction, just ask yourself ‘what’s the one thing I want everyone to know about them?’ Once you’ve answered that question you can figure out what style offers the best solution.

Pick a Theme

Now that you know the style of eulogy you’ll be using, pick a theme. You can use a central theme to tie all the stories, introductions, and images you plan on talking about. The theme could be an answer to a question, the deceased favorite catchphrase, a defining moment in your relationship, or whatever you feel best defines their life.

Practice and Have a Backup

Once you’ve finished writing, make sure to do a few practice runs. It might feel strange, but saying the eulogy out loud at least once will help you iron out any awkward phrasings. No matter how confident you feel the day before, ask someone to be your backup just in case you can’t make it through the entire speech.