How to Write a Retirement Speech

Giving a good retirement speech is no different to giving a good speech in other situations. So if you're a natural public speaker, chances are you're not going to have a problem. But if you're the type of person for whom public speaking is a waking nightmare, you'll have to cope with the added pressure of ending your career on a fitting note. In this article we'll give you some tips to hope you cope with the nerves and make a great retirement speech.

Fighting the Fear

There's really nothing to worry about - you'll probably never find a more forgiving audience than at your own retirement party. But for some people, public speaking is unavoidably frightening. We've all heard the cliché about picturing people in their underwear, and indeed there's a grain of truth in that - you're speaking to a room of ordinary people, not a den of monsters. But there are plenty of more concrete techniques you can use to get calm.

First of all, write your speech well in advance and get to know it thoroughly. If you need to, write down and memorise every word, or if you're more confident with improvising, write down a series of cue cards that remind you of what you want to say. You can take these cue cards out with you when you actually speak.

When it's actually time to speak, take a few deep breaths to relax. The speech-giving society Toastmasters recommends that you address your audience first, to buy some time and to relax. Toastmasters makes another important point - the audience is hoping you will succeed, not that you will fail. So turn that nervous energy into enthusiasm and give the best retirement speech you can.

Retirement Speech Content

It's a tricky proposition, summing up a career of perhaps 40 years in five minutes or less. Start by writing down all of the things you might like to cover. For instance, what are the big achievements that you'd like to draw attention to? Is there anyone in the company who deserves special mention for the help they gave you, or just for their close friendship?

Once you've got this list of ideas together, think about how you'd like to structure your speech, and the tone you'd like to use. Humour is a great tool and you should have plenty of material from throughout your career. But don't be too frivolous on this important occasion - you've earned the right to a bit of serious consideration and reflection.

It's always good to begin your speech by addressing the reason that everyone has gathered. Speak directly to people, even name them directly - thank whoever was chiefly responsible for organising the party, or anyone who made a special effort to come. This will help engage people personally in the speech from the outset.

Next, try a general passage about how long you've worked at your current company for.  Perhaps you could also talk about where you began your career. An example would be: "It's hard to believe it's 20 years since I first walked through the front doors of Monster Media. So much has changed in that time - back when I started we still had typesetters working to get the magazine pages laid out…"

After this is a good opportunity to tell a few of your favourite humorous anecdotes - so if you want to take a dig at the boss, now's the time to do it. But unless you're set on burning your bridges, make sure that you don't push anyone's buttons too aggressively.

If all goes well, you should get a few hearty laughs, before moving on to a more reflective finale that gives people an insight into how you feel about your career. This doesn't have to be clichéd - tell people how you really feel, although try to avoid being too negative. End on a positive note and you should have everyone eating out of your hand.

There are free example speeches available online if it all seems too much. You can even purchase pre-written speeches. But if you want it to come from the heart, you're going to have to write it yourself. And it's not that hard - at least give it a try

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