Congratulations you’re about to retire. That’s good news, I hope, for you. And now you have the opportunity to give a farewell speech. This may be the last business speech you ever get. Therefore, it is time to talk about retirement speech. Let’s make it a good one.
So, how to make a good retirement speech? It is a speech where you take time to put a spotlight on the accomplishments of your career. You’re going to tell what you’re proud of and what you think the organization should be proud of. It’s perfectly fine to have a little more emotion than usual but don’t fall apart.
You’re not just being escorted out the door unceremoniously. Your fellow workers and your colleagues are holding a party or some event for you where you’re going to be allowed to speak. That means you’re going to give your retirement speech.
Therefore today we’re going to hop right in with the practical tips to get you prepped and ready and confident about this.
Table of Contents
What is a retirement speech?
First things first: for starters we have to define what a retirement speech is and what it is not, and so we can narrow our focus in preparation.
Retirement speech is not a speech to the board of directors, and it’s not a speech to analysts at the conference. Therefore, you don’t have to go over every single success by quarter and every single jump up and the stock price. That’s not the time for that sort of speech.
The primary goal of retirement speech is to highlight your best moments in this company.
How long should a retirement speech last?
You don’t want to go on all night. But if this is a lunchtime party or evening dinner in your honor, you don’t have to worry about it being just two minutes long.
This is the last time people are ever going to have to hear from you in this particular organization potentially. So they’ve gathered in your honor. They’ll listen to you.
Therefore I wouldn’t worry about the length of your retirement speech. If it’s exciting and heartfelt, then it could be 10 minutes, or it could be 29 minutes. People will listen to you, and they will like it, and they will respect it.
Is there a PowerPoint in your retirement speech?
You certainly don’t need PowerPoint although if you wanted to use pictures in one, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, you don’t need to have a PowerPoint presentation.
How to write a retirement speech / What is the retirement speech structure?
Your retirement speech structure is fairly simple. I want you to write down everything you’re proud of, and it might be something entirely inconsequential to the bottom line. It doesn’t have to be about the bottom line, but there needs to be some human element to it.
#1 Write down three things you’re proud of
I want you to brainstorm right now and let’s come up with three things that have happened during your career that was meaningful to you and where you can start to tell a story about it.
#2 Take a moment of reflection for yourself.
As I said earlier, it’s an opportunity for you to thank people; to make them feel good about themselves and your time. Tell them, what this career meant to you, what this place meant to you and what these people meant to you. Also, this is a chance to make everyone feel good about your tenure there.
#3 Tell a story
What I want you to do now is to tell a story about it, and a story is simply you recounting a real problem.
I mean, all of us have problems with clients, customers, colleagues, particular challenges, etc. Just state:
- What the problem was?
- What the client (or one of your colleagues said to you)?
- Where were you when this problem happened?
- How did you feel about it? Were you’re feeling depressed or bummed out or worried?
- How was it resolved?
- How did everything work its way through?
- How did you work together as a team?
That’s it. That’s all a story is.
It’s you talking about a problem recounting a real conversation you had with real customers, clients, colleagues or other employees. This is a story of how you felt about it and how you (or your team) solved the problem.
The more your stories relate to things that everyone in the room can understand the better. This way people will be able to re-experience it with you.
#4 Thank the people specifically
You thank the people who meant something to you, and you thank them specifically. You should mention some specific acts or tell stories recounting particular things you and your team did that was meaningful to you and perhaps to others.
Your speech should make people feel good about themselves and you. You should make them realize that you feel good about them and you wish everyone continued success.
What’s going to make it so meaningful is when you thank Sally and accounting or James and I.T.
Don’t sound like a B-level actor who’s won an award
Thank people in precise, meaningful terms of what they did getting you out of a jam or helping you with the crisis. That’s so much more meaningful than sounding like a B-level actor who’s won an award.
“I’d like to thank the following director my accountant my CPA.”
You don’t want to sound like you’re just giving some sort of generic things. You want it to seem heartfelt. You want to be looking directly at people when you’re talking about it and when you’re reliving that situation that was horrible at the time, but we can now laugh at it.
You need to be smiling and laughing about it and looking at the person who got caught with mud all over them, or something embarrassing happened.
#5 Make fun of yourself
If you’re going to talk about something embarrassing, make yourself the butt of the jokes. I mean you don’t have to worry about your corporate reputation here or your organizational reputation that much because you’re retiring, therefore you can be a little looser.
I’m not suggesting you get risque and say wildly off-color or politically incorrect things but you can be a little looser in this situation it’s merely not as formal a presentation.
So you want to make fun of yourself because now is the perfect time to do it.
How to outline a retirement speech?
#6 Don’t write it all out
I don’t think you want to write it all out. If you absolutely insist you can, but I want to tempt you against reading it because reading it makes it seem impersonal.
It makes it seem like a quarterly conference call with analysts, and there’s an S.E.C. attorney behind you.
Remember, this is a personal moment. So, I would recommend not reading your speech out loud.
Now, you could spend a half an hour doing that, but it’s not a typical business speech where you have to get the wording just right because, let’s face it – no one is recording every minute of this and going to be picking it apart and criticizing in the newspaper tomorrow.
So here’s what I want you to do with your speech rather than write it all up.
#7 Have a simple one-page outline
I’d like you to have a simple one-page outline, and I’d like you to have the names of the people you want to thank on it. I’d like it to have bullet points that remind you of particular stories and things that happen.
This should be a clear outline where once you see those three words you know exactly what you want to say for the next three-four minutes.
You’re recounting that story. You’re thanking the people who are you talking about, and you know what you learn from it why it was so meaningful to you.
And that is the bulk of your speech outline right there.
#8 Give Some indication of what you might be doing in the future
If you’ve been a lifelong fan of birdwatching and now you and your spouse are going to travel the world on international bird watching Safari, and no one else knows about it they would love to hear that about you.
They’d love to know that you’re going to continue with an active life and you’re not just sitting home and watching television. They would like to know you’re doing something meaningful with your life and therefore now’s the time to share it with people.
- How to Outline a Presentation: A Complete Guide From a Pro
- 10 great tips on how to give a killer speech without notes?
How to make a good retirement speech?
Now, this is obviously not the time to settle scores to reopen old bitter things that happened with employees that you’re perhaps not as fond of.
#9 Spotlight the good things
You want to leave people with a good taste in their mouth with you because you don’t know what the future holds.
You may need their help if you’re running for mayor or city council. You may want them to hire you back as a consultant in two years when things have gone south, and the company and your expertise is needed.
Therefore this is the time to spotlight:
- the good things you’ve done of this organization
- the people you’ve worked with
- the positive memories
You may be retiring, but it never hurts to leave on positive terms to build goodwill.
I’m not asking you to lie and sugarcoat things if you hated it. But let’s focus on the positive there must’ve been something there at this organization that kept you coming back.
For now, I just want you to start to think and reflect upon. Ask yourself, why did you really enjoy in this organization what meant something to you?
#10 Put a highlight on your time there
I think what you want to do is put a highlight on your time there. Focus on the things you did that really meant something to you. Talk about the people you worked with and what they meant to you personally, what you liked about that or what you enjoyed the most.
This is a chance for you to make the whole organization feel good about themselves and you. It’s not a time to settle scores or to say “Well, I’ll tell you what I really think.”
Again, I’m not asking you to lie or sugarcoat. I’m merely suggesting that like at a funeral that’s not the time to pick on someone’s faults who just died.
It’s just not the time to pick on scabs or old wounds. On the contrary: it’s a time to put a spotlight on accomplishments on your career what you’re proud of and what you think the organization should be proud of.
#11 Avoid long history lessons
The good news is you don’t have to educate people on everything if you’ve been there for 40 years. You don’t have to tell them about everything you did.
You just want to put a spotlight on two or three things that really meant something to you. So, please avoid long history lessons during your speech.
#12 Keep your emotions in check
You want to be able to keep your emotions in check. This is a retirement event, and it’s your retirement speech. It’s not a stuffy formal business affair, and it’s perfectly fine to have a little more emotion than usual but don’t fall apart.
I’ve seen it you’ve seen it. People can sometimes fall apart in their retirement speech, and they’re crying their blubber.
I mean “I miss everyone” and “I don’t know what to do with my life.”
That’s just not the time for it now. Look, I’m not asking you to be Spock. I’m not asking you to be a robot. There’s nothing wrong with being sad but you don’t want it to stop the actual presentation. You don’t want to have to like stop and sit down and not be able to give your presentation.
#13 Rehearse on video
Before your actual speech, you should rehearse it in front of the video camera. This way you become so comfortable with the speech and how you’re going to deliver it that it’s much easier to keep your emotions in check.
So you want to be able to keep your emotions in check. That’s another benefit of practicing in front of the video camera can be a lot easier to do that.
How to end a retirement speech?
That’s a night for positive emotions. I realize you may have mixed feelings and it may be bittersweet, but it is time to accentuate the positive.
#14 End on a positive note
So, I want you to come up with a simple one-page outline. List the names of the people you want to thank in particular three stories that really dramatize for you the key moments of your career here.
Write down the events that meant something to you. Where there was a problem, and you can tell a real story.
Bonus tip: Don’t drink alcohol until your retirement speech is over
One final thing. I mean it’s probably an evening event dinner. There may be champagne flowing or other adult beverages of choice. I don’t want to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, and I certainly enjoy a glass of wine here and there.
BUT: I’m recommending that you don’t drink any alcohol until your retirement speech is over. The reason for that is alcohol.
Alcohol slows you down
Even one glass can slow down recall. If you’re giving a speech and it’s an emotional evening anyway that extra drag on your memory can sometimes slow you down and cause awkwardness.
“What was I going to say? I forgot! Eeemmm… very senior moment.”
You don’t want to do that.
Alcohol can also make you more emotional.
We don’t need more emotion at this moment. It can also make you sweat a little. If you want that to be the last impression people have of you, then go ahead.
So, for that reason, I recommend this to wait until after your presentation and then let the toasts fly.