2. Tribute speech guide

Tribute speech guide 

- how to prepare a sincere commemorative speech

By: Susan Dugdale | Last modified: 04-18-2021

A tribute speech belongs in a special category of speeches called commemorative. Its principal purpose is to inspire and celebrate; uniting listeners in sincere, heartfelt gratitude and admiration for its subject.

Have you been asked to prepare a tribute speech and need to know more?

What you'll find on this page

  • what occasions are most likely to call for a tribute speech
  • the characteristics of a tribute speech
  • how to begin the process of writing a tribute speech 
  • how to choose a topic
  • information about eulogies or funeral speeches, (a special type of tribute speech), with links to examples.

Image: Hands cupping a lit ceremonial candle. Text: How to prepare a tribute speech

What occasions call for a tribute speech?

A tribute speech may be delivered at any of the following celebrations:


Image: Remembrance Day crosses with red poppies. Text: Remembrance Day - an example of an event often marked by a tribute speech.

These may be family events for example; a 50th wedding anniversary or a milestone birthday, or they could be public ones, for example; celebrations marking historic events like Remembrance Day or, the passing of a famous person.


At a family reunion this form of speech may be given to honor its senior members.

Similarly it will be an important part of the reunions of people brought together by work, sport, interests or vocation.

Memorial services or funerals

Image: 1940s photo of a young woman, with a dried rose. Text: A eulogy is a form of tribute speech.

The eulogy you hear at a memorial service or funeral is a special type of tribute speech celebrating the life of the person who has passed away.


A tribute speech at an award presentation will honor the achievements of the award recipients. For example film, music or sports awards.


Although thought of as 'wedding speeches', the best man, father-of-the-bride speeches and their variations, are all forms of tribute speeches.


The tribute speech heard at a retirement celebration honors the retiree by acknowledging their service and contribution.

The characteristics of the speech

Whether the focus is a person,  or an event involving a  group of people, its characteristics are:

  • admiration and respect
  • a focus on positive qualities: perseverance, dedication, humility, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, sacrifice, service, kindness, humor ...
  • highlighting accomplishments and the difficulties overcome to achieve them
  • a reflection on the positive impact and contribution of the focal group or person on the lives of others
  • grateful acknowledgment of what we can learn from their example to take into the future

How to begin writing a tribute speech

Image:Sign - girl saying shhhh. Text: Creativity in progress. How to write a speech.

The first step in your process is finding out as much as you can about the occasion itself and then deciding on a topic, (if it hasn't already been decided for you).

You'll want to know:

  • who the audience is
  • whether you are the only speaker, or one in a series of speakers
  • how long you expected to speak for
  • whether the event is formal or informal
  • if there are any special requirements the organizers may have that need to be included in your speech

How to choose a topic

Generally the occasion chooses it for you!

If you're asked to speak at the celebration marking your Mother's 70th birthday or a similar event, then you know what the central topic is.

What you'll need to decide is how to handle it or what angle to take.

Get some help to find the right topic

Image: red field poppies. Text: Lest we forget.

If it's not clear what you should talk about, you'll find this page on how to select an inspiring tribute or commemorative speech topic helpful.

It walks you step by step through the process of finding a topic to suit your audience's needs and has a great selection of carefully picked links to help you research topic possibilities.

Get some help with planning and writing

There's a tribute speech template here that will be useful to help you plan the sections of your speech. Use it as a guide.

(On the same page is a speech I wrote to honor my Mother. It follows the template.)

Image: purple flag irises. Text: a tribute speech for my mother Iris.

Or if you'd like more than an outline to help you, you'll find the entire process of writing a speech mapped out step by step here: how to write a speech.

Are you here because you need to prepare a eulogy?

Image: Lily of the valley flowers. Text: How to write a eulogy step by step.

These links below will guide you through the process:

Would you like to read a sample eulogy before you begin?

Reading others can be really useful in helping you decide what you want to achieve with your own speech.

Well known tribute speeches 

Here are three famous speeches, each illustrating the characteristics of a fine commemorative speech.

Image: Launch of space shuttle Challenger - 4th April 1983.
  1. Ronald Reagan's tribute for the crew of the Challenger Space Shuttle that exploded during its launch.
  2. Sen. Edward Kennedy's eulogy for his slain brother: Robert F. Kennedy.
  3. Oprah Winfrey's eulogy for Rosa Parks.

Not-so well known tribute speeches

I am very fortunate to have a collection of not-so famous tribute speeches on write-out-loud.com. 

These are very special because they're by people probably similar to yourself who have been asked to write a speech about someone they've loved dearly. 

Image: Blue forget-me-nots Text: 50+ eulogy examples

There are eulogies for mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, colleagues,  and friends.

All of them have been sent in to provide examples to help people who are trying to write.  Seeing how others have handled the task gives them the courage and confidence to begin.

These eulogy pages get thousands of visitors every week.

And lastly, here is that link to the commemorative speech for my mother.


Do you need help with preparing to deliver your speech?

You'll find everything you need to help you give your speech confidently by visiting the site map .

There's tips on making and using cue cards, how to overcome fear or anxiety of public speaking, how use your voice well, and more.

If you're struggling for words you may like this offer ...

Speech writer graphic with text: Are you finding writing your speech hard? I could do it for you. Click and find out more.