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Composing your retirement speech

Making your retirement speech can be intimidating because of the emotions involved. Even though you have anticipated this time for years, you realize that this moment is your grand finale with the company. What you say will be the highlight of the party. This is the time to let your guests know you appreciate them and that you value your career with the organization.

You can tell some jokes or make a few wise cracks to add levity to the occasion. But you must mention some other points as you tell those in your organization goodbye.

Be sure to watch the time. While people expect you to talk about five minutes, they will become restless if you start rambling and go twice that long.

Tip -- After you have written your speech, read it over and time yourself. Then add 60-90 seconds because you never talk to others as quickly as you read text.

Boomer retiree celebrating his retirement
When you speak at your retirement party, you want to give those you've worked with something to remember you by. The most memorable comments you can make will be your thoughts about others.

As you draft your retirement speech, include some of the suggestions below for a balanced, well-rounded farewell.

Thank those who have come and those who organized the event. Get that out of the way first and you'll be sure everyone knows you appreciate their efforts.

Talk about when you first joined the organization. Colorful details help here, especially for those who are relative newcomers. Describe the number of employees, the equipment used, the type of services offered and what the organization was known for.

Mention one or two highlights during your career with the organization. These might be:
  • a major event
  • the unveiling of a new product 
  • a turning point in the way business was conducted
  • the expansion of services or employees
  • the toughest time you remember
  • the most fun time you remember.

Describe how the organization and its challenges have changed from the time you started.

Mention one or two people or groups you worked with but be careful not to get carried away. You'll inevitably leave out someone so limit the people you single out. A safe bet is to mention the person who hired you and the team you work with now.

Recognize and thank your family. Others may not remember that you did this but members of your family certainly will.

Express confidence in the future of the organization and your gratitude for having been a part of it.

Other pointers:
If you want to be funny, you might give a history of the company from your vantage point. The history would start the day you arrived and include special moments and funny events that happened during your career there.

Your retirement speech should have a humble tone. Nobody likes a braggart. Let others boast about the great things you did. This may be your last good opportunity to apply a fundamental principle of good leadership: where there is blame, accept it; when praise is due, credit others for the job well done.

Encourage others to keep in touch but let them know that you will not be hanging around. (That will be especially reassuring to the person who is taking your place.)

Tip of the hat to retiree
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