Your Farewell Speech

8 Simple Rules For
A Successful Speech

Do you think you should prepare a Farewell Speech?

Congratulations, you have worked many years, and at last your working career is coming to an end, and you will be moving to a different and likely even more productive life than the one you are leaving. There is one more thing to do and that is to present a speech at your retirement.

Alternately, this may be a farewell as you change jobs, or the job you have had, has been made redundant.  If this is the case, I am sorry to hear that, as I have been there too.

What is on this page is equally important to all who wish to be prepared to give a farewell speech.

Are you nervous?

Do you feel nervous?  You are not alone, as most people do feel nervous speaking to a group.  Even famous actors and comedians like Billy Connelly have professed nervousness before a performance, but you would never have known. Some nerves are fine, as they assist you on the occasion.

You do not have to do yoga to ease the nerves, there are some simple things you can do that help.

So if Billy Connelly can overcome nerves for his magnificent comedy stories, so can you.

My Personal experience

I have heard quite a few retirement and farewell speeches, provided the odd farewell speech myself, and also farewelled quite a few colleagues with some considered words in a farewell speech.  What follows are my learnings that could assist you.

My 8 Rules for a successful
Retirement or Farewell Speech

1.     Be prepared

Whether you know you will give a retirement speech or not, it is wise to be prepared for the farewell occasion, just in case.  It is important to properly leave the organisation.  So have some carefully thought out words in your pocket or purse.

Even if the occasion does not arise, don't be concerned, you have been prepared.  This is not a time to adlib "some words".

Aim to be positive and thankful for your time there.

2.    Do not burn your bridges

Keep any ill feeling to yourself.  You need to consider life after you leave, and you never know if you may require a reference of a referee.  Burning your bridges will leave you isolated as no one wins.

A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives roses. 
~Chinese Proverb

It is better to be positive and thankful for the learnings from this time in the organisation.

You may not know, but what is always remembered long after a speech is given is not the exact words, but the feelings generated.  Think about the famous speeches you have heard, it is primarily the feelings you remember: warmth, being uplifted, inspired.

Your retirement or farewell speech needs to create a positive atmosphere and a warmth.  Having said that, you do not have to be an orator, simply positive and thankful will do the trick.

3.    Shorter is best

I have been there when someone has given such a long speech that you could see many looking to see if they could reach the exit without being seen.

I don’t mind people looking at their watches during my speech, but it is damned disconcerting to see them shaking them to see if they are still working.  Anonymous

Keep it short, my friend, speak at least 3 minutes, and up to 7 minutes will be fine, and they'll love you.  As a guide, 10 minutes is a possibility if there is laughter in the room.

4.    Consider your audience?

Consider these questions to assist you ...

  • Who is your audience?  Who will be there?
  • Most likely there will be staff who have just started with a long future ahead of them and could be a little divorced from the retirement thing, and may be a little curious about the occasion.
  • Your peers will be there, thinking about their retirement, or leaving.
  • Your boss, the management and Board Members could be there.
  • Consider humor and quotes.

Remember everyone there will be wishing you best wishes and wanting to make you feel good.  Keep this in mind when you are thinking about your speech and when you are giving it.

5.    Memories of times past

Think about ...

  • Who helped you?  Maybe thank them if they are there.
  • What were some struggles early on?  Maybe some mistakes as you learnt your new job.
  • Tell some brief stories or anecdotes.

Tell some jokes about yourself, but I suggest veer away from colleagues or the boss.  Humorous stories and anecdotes about yourself will be well received and create a relaxed atmosphere.

6.    What are some accomplishments?

Briefly identify some accomplishments, and consider ...

  • The BEST are those that were done in a team.
  • Find at least one that shows the leadership of your boss, the Board or management to which you were proud to be involved.

Your humility will be appreciated, and there will be bucket loads of good will toward you.

7.    Practise your speech

It needs to be said that you need to practise your speech.  Practise and practise as did Winston Churchill.  If you can, like Winston, in front of a mirror is a good idea.  Speak it out load.

Do not read your speech on the occasion, although if you are very nervous, at least reading it will provide the words you may otherwise not speak.  So do it in this event.

To speak to those gathered (and not to the piece of paper)

  • Type/write it down in full and 
  • Highlight with a color marker the key points, or 
  • Use one card (both sides) with bullet points.  
  • Give a copy to a friend for safe keeping if you are concerned about forgetting it.

With good practise, you will be surprised how easily the next point will come to you, and very often without reference to your notes.

If you wish, here are some other ways to remember your speech.

8.    Do not burn your bridges

Yes I know, this was point number 2, but is worth mentioning again.

  • Keep the bridges up between you and everyone and
  • Don’t speak too long.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Joshua Heschel

By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach. ~Winston Churchill

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. ~Amelia Earhart

Everyone will rejoice in your words and you will leave a good feeling amongst all. 

Enjoy the moment.

And best wishes for your future.

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