Many individuals give a farewell speech when they retire from their chosen profession, either on their last day or at the retirement celebration. A retirement speech is a great way to express appreciation for those you work with and recall joyful memories. People want their retirement speech to be memorable— and memorable for the right reasons. Trying to find the right words to sum up an entire career can be anxiety-provoking, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these six fantastic tips to write and deliver a speech that strikes all the right chords.
Keep it short, but not too short.
A good retirement speech should be long enough to convey your appreciation and warm feelings for your coworkers but brief enough to avoid rambling and keep your audience’s attention. Farewell speeches typically run from three to ten minutes in length.
The venue may affect the length of your speech as well. Just a few minutes might be most appropriate for a casual announcement or celebration. However, a more formal retirement event calls for a slightly longer speech.
Honor your audience
In most cases, you’ll be talking to both coworkers you’ve worked with for many years and coworkers who are newer to your company or department. Individuals who are new to the company may enjoy hearing more about the journey, and those who are close to retirement themselves may relate more to your plans for the future. Be sure to balance your speech to suit your audience, making sure not to neglect either demographic.
Catch their attention
There’s no point in giving a speech to people who aren’t listening. Be sure to hook your audience’s attention right at the beginning of the speech. Surprise them with a story of one of your first mistakes, and explain how it colored your career. Display a silly picture of you and your coworkers enjoying time together or a photograph of yourself from your earliest days working at the office. Share something that has changed about the company since you started.
Reminisce and reflect
People are often unsure what to talk about in the middle of their speech. There are a number of key points that are appropriate to highlight during a retirement speech. Popular topics to cover in a farewell speech can include:
- The company when you started vs. how it is now
- Individuals who helped you move forward in your career
- Opportunities that you are grateful for
- Memories you treasure
- Elevate coworkers that improved your career direction
- Share the success and contributions of those who retired before you
- Amusing or heartwarming stories and anecdotes
- A favorite accomplishment or two
- What you will miss most about your job
- What you are looking forward to in retirement
When recounting stories and anecdotes, remember that a retirement speech is meant to focus on the positive aspects of your journey. Stories should be light, entertaining, and inspirational. This is not the time to air company grievances, roast a coworker, or call out your boss.
While mentioning a personal achievement or two is perfectly acceptable, extensively listing triumphs can be offputting. You can avoid sounding self-aggrandizing by keeping success stories short and giving credit to the people and departments that helped you achieve the successes.
Practice your delivery
Bring notes with you to the speech to help keep your thoughts in order, but don’t prepare a detailed script. Speakers who have overly detailed scripts or who memorize their speech run the risk of sounding robotic and insincere. Speakers who don’t have notes to follow run the risk of rambling and confusing listeners. It’s best to have a framework and a practice session or two but to speak as naturally as possible.
Practicing your speech with another person or small group before making it in earnest will help you to avoid stumbling on your words or rambling. It helps you prepare by ensuring that your thoughts are in a clear and comprehensive order. Rehearsals can help you recognize if your body language and tone of voice are consistent with the tone of your speech.
Don’t neglect your ending.
Although it is important to catch your audience’s attention at the beginning of a speech, it is equally important to end the speech on a memorable note. Close with a heartwarming or inspirational story, a memorable quote, or a message of hope and gratitude. Leave your audience feeling good about their helpful contributions in the past and hopeful about their future with the company.
While some of the friendships you develop during your career will extend far into retirement, others will naturally fade. Your retirement party or announcement may be the last time you speak to some of these individuals. A well-crafted retirement speech is meant to enrich and inspire rather than cause contention or jealousy. People are much more likely to remember how your speech made them feel than the words themselves.