One day, you will find yourself at the point in your career when it’s time to turn the page and move onto the next chapter of your professional life. Depending on your position and tenure with your company, there will be a retirement party or ceremony. Such occasions command the expectation that you will give a farewell speech.
Naturally, you want this speech to be engaging, memorable, and not too long. Writing a speech in advance with your primary talking points is a good start, but talking points are just the beginning. Your speech needs to take on a life of its own with extemporaneous one-liners, jokes and stories.
How do you make all these elements come together in a single speech? If you’re embarking on your retirement journey and need to compose a speech, this guide is for you. Read over these sample speeches and tips for retirement speech writing to create your perfect retirement speech.
Best Retirement Speeches
“Good writers borrow. Great writers steal.” -T.S. Eliot
This quote is not an endorsement of plagiarism, but that great writers use what others have written to inspire them. Here are two retirement speeches that knock it out of the park. Draw inspiration from these words as you begin to compose your own retirement speech.
The author manages to walk that fine the line between personal regards, gratitude and what comes next in their journey. They also key in on what makes a speech great: preparation. The better you prepare, the better your speech will be. Additionally, notice how they express gratitude to their colleagues without using up too much time by addressing each individually. These two nuggets of wisdom alone should be extremely helpful in planning the body of your speech.
In this sample, the author focuses more on stories and memories, as well as what lies ahead for them. They also personalize their thanks to at least one person for giving them the opportunity when their journey began with the company many decades ago. They also give more attention to what lies ahead in their speech and to expressing warm feelings about their upcoming Golden Years. The positive elements of your career and showing gratitude towards the people who have helped you are critical elements of a strong retirement speech. Personally thanking those who helped you achieve your goals is an especially deft touch to add as well.
Now that you have perused some samples for inspiration, let’s get down to the task of writing your perfect retirement speech.
Six Tips For Writing And Delivering Your Perfect Retirement Speech
1. Start With What & Why
Delivering a successful retirement speech without both a reason and a goal is a recipe for disaster. It’s akin to backing down your driveway without checking your mirrors or backup camera and swerving in a random direction. It’s dangerous, erratic and definitely leaves a negative impression on your neighbors. When you do not decide on “why” and “what” in advance, you run the risk of the following pitfalls:
- You will run on about unrelated nonsense and seemingly disconnected ideas and memories because they don’t have a unified reason to be included.
- The audience will quickly lose interest.
- You will leave a poor, unfavorable last impression with colleagues.
- You will drive your speech into the ground, and it will be awkward for everyone.
Begin composing what you want to say with why you want to say it. Set a goal or objective for what you want to communicate with your speech. It’s recommended that you focus your “why” on expressing gratitude to your team and celebrating the positive aspects of your career.
As far as what to mention, don’t forget to thank your team and your original hiring manager if you can. If you have enough time, you can thank one other person who has had a significant impact on your time with the company. Keep the names and specific mentions as brief as possible to avoid making people feel left out or unappreciated.
2. Keep Your Outline Simple
After you establish your reason and objective for your speech, you are ready to start outlining the main ideas of your speech. This will function as the “bones” of the speech, help you stay on topic and say what you want to say. Here’s a brief example outline:
- Open by acknowledging and thanking attendees.
- Next, discuss how you began your career vs. now.
- Address those who have helped you or influenced you along the way. Keep it brief.
- Share anecdotes about lessons learned.
- Express gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had.
- Celebrate your accomplishments and successes that have made you the proudest.
- Talk about what you are going to miss and why.
- Share cherished memories from your time at the company.
- Add one or two brief funny stories or anecdotes that you will always remember.
- Close with thanking the appropriate people. Again, be brief.
3. Know Your Audience And The Space
You may be speaking to people you have known and worked with for years, but you still need to consider your audience when speech-writing. The audience is the final word on whether you carried off a successful retirement speech. Fail to connect with them, or worse offend them, and you can all but guarantee your speech will flop.
One of the most important factors to consider is the age of the attendees. Are there a lot of younger workers in their twenties and thirties present? Make sure your anecdotes and jokes center around workplace events and practices they will relate to. If you’re too specific and niche in your allusions to the good old days, you will lose your younger colleagues in the audience first. You will also want to weigh what anecdotes you do and don’t share, as such experiences may not be fondly remembered by everyone.
Additionally, you need to consider the space and venue where you will deliver your retirement speech. Informal retirement parties at home or a restaurant/bar can take a more informal tone and include more personal content. Retirement celebrations at the office or a public space, like a convention hall, are best carried off with a more formal tone and content. You will need to make a judgment call about which tone and what content are best suited for the space and venue.
4. Grab The Audience’s Attention Right Away
Public speaking experts estimate you have approximately ten seconds to engage an audience’s attention before they lose interest. Jokes or questions are good places to begin for attention grabbing “hooks”, but they are cliche. There is another proven technique that puts both to shame, though: props.
Holding a physical object immediately engages the audience’s curiosity. They want to know what you have in your hand and how it’s related to your retirement. This object should be unfamiliar to most in the audience, but familiar and meaningful to you. You can also tie your prop into a joke or question for added impact.
Finally, as you progress into your speech, don’t focus too much on telling them all about you. Give them something interesting and valuable to them. If it’s tied into a meaningful prop and joke/question, so much the better.
5. Encourage Audience Interaction
Directly address audience members you know within the first sixty seconds of your speech. As you do, encourage them to interact or engage in a little banter. The key to making this technique work is to encourage them to respond, so you can build on that interaction. It can even be as simple as asking for a show of hands, or playing the “put a finger down” game.
To play, ask audience members to put a finger down on a raised hand to participate. Statements and questions should relate to if they have ever done activity X, task Y, or chosen option Z at work. Keep it to five questions or less. When you finish asking the questions, ask how many people had to put all five fingers down, then four and so on.
Your questions should let your audience know how long you and their fellow audience members have been with the company. Alternatively, it can indicate how many activities you have shared in common at work. You can ask humorous questions as part of this participation exercise, but use your best judgment. You don’t want to risk losing your audience because your humor did not amuse them.
6. End On A “Mic Drop”
After engaging your audience with humor, stories and what wisdom you’ve collected over the years, it’s time to wrap it all up. End on a statement or metaphor that ties the entire speech together. Relate back to your prop from your hook, or refer to a talking point from the beginning of your speech. Thank the audience, and sit down.
All in all, the best endings are also the briefest. Tying everything together at the end should feel natural and take the least amount of time. It should feel like you dropped your microphone with the final word and ridden off into the sunset.
Writing your farewell speech for a retirement celebration does not need to be a stressful or difficult process. Set a reason and goal, outline what you want to say, read your audience and the space, hook your audience, encourage interaction and end on a mic drop. All that remains is to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse your delivery.
Practice in the mirror and monitor your body language. As best you can, you should also try to eliminate verbal tics like “um”, “ah” and “uh.” Rehearsing helps with this process significantly. Don’t be afraid to rewrite your talking points or switch out jokes and anecdotes as well. No piece of writing is ever truly finished until someone or a deadline wrenches it out of your hands.
Bottom line, follow these tips and rehearse to deliver your perfect retirement speech. Preparation always pays the best dividends in the long run.