If you’re preparing a speech for an upcoming retirement bash, you are either retiring, or speaking about someone who is. These clearly require different approaches. So firstly, let’s focus on the retiree:
You are retiring
You’ve been working in the same role for quite some time. Life is about to change dramatically. You’re either moving to work elsewhere (or start your own thing) or retiring for good. And to celebrate the occasion, you have to stand up in front of your colleagues and say something pithy.
This is actually quite an easy speech to make. And you can make it without running through the cut-and-paste retirement speech jokes about gold clocks and too much time with your spouse.
As with every speech, the best place to start is in your audience. Imagine you are a colleague who has worked with you. Will they want a tear-jerking epic, tracing your professional and emotional development in minute detail? Will they want drawn-out reminiscences of colleagues long since departed, or stories of complicated deals done long ago?
In most cases the answer is a resounding ‘no’ (although there are a couple of accountancy firms that encourage this sort of thing!).
The key is to be crisp, self-deprecating and relatively brief (10 minutes max as a general rule).
Which means that should NOT:
- Remind colleagues of your greatest deals
- Talk through your many promotions
- Pontificate on how you achieved such incredible success
Nor should you belittle the business. If this really is your ‘great escape’, don’t forget that the others have to return to work the following morning. So by all means have a joke or two about common grievances, but don’t make them feel that they are stuck in a horrible rut.
Retirement speeches that work best tend to:
- Contrast the business today to how it was when you arrived
- Tell an anecdote or two about when you did something really silly
- Focus on the lovely things you will miss – what makes the atmosphere at work so special
- Give thanks those who have done the most to make your time there so special (but don’t start listing everyone)
The beauty of that approach is that it balances humorous / lighter material with more sincere stuff, and makes the speech about the business rather than you. A nostalgic memory or two might add some colour, and a brief look forward would be great (but more about the business’ future than your own).
You might want to finish with a toast to the company – or, even better, to your colleagues. You will come across as modest, amusing and thoughtful. And you can leave the job of bigging you up to …
The person speaking about the person who is retiring!
If this was a wedding you’d be the best man. Your role is to send the retiree off in the best possible way, which doesn’t mean telling a series of stories about debauched nights out, disastrous decisions or their smelly breath.
Your job is to make them feel like they have been valued, without going into too much detail as to why. It should focus on the personal benefits of having worked with them (lessons learned, problems shared, steam let off) rather than a list of their ten greatest deals / sales / audits. A fun story or two would be great, but not if it is all about you.
Remember, you are not there to demonstrate what a huge role you played in the retiree’s life, but to speak for your colleagues in singing his or her praises.
It’s also important to touch on areas outside work. Remember that for the retiree, this is (hopefully) not the end of their life. It’s a new beginning, something they have (hopefully) worked long and hard for. So if they want to spend more time at home, mention the sacrifices they have made to get to where they have at work. If they want to play more golf, use a golf-related theme to link the speech together.
Keep it under ten minutes, keep it punchy and light, but ensure that at least 20% is sincere and meaningful. Ensure that when you finish speaking, the retiree feels that they are truly appreciated.
Want some help with a retirement speech?
And what about a brilliant retirement present?
OK – this is a bit cheeky, but if you’ve read this far you may have a feel for the way we work. If you like it, please do take a look at our memoir writing service, where we conduct a series of interviews with people keen to record their personal and family history and then write a short book for them to share with their families. If you’d like to give us a gift to the retiree, we’ll create a personalised voucher for you to hand over after your speech and will do a fabulous job.
We hope our guide on how to write a great retirement speech has been of help.