Giving a retirement speech is bittersweet. You’re happy for the retiree, but you also know you’ll miss her. So, how do you make this occasion special?
You do it with a personal speech about the retiring worker. However, writing a retirement speech takes time, a little research and lots of admiration. It is a duty, but it can also be a joy.
Retirement speeches praise the retiree, but they should get beyond what is called “the Girl Scout effect,” in which you list adjectives to describe the person. It goes something like this: “Samantha Lonegan was trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
Now, of course, you should include some of the good qualities — but you should strive to show the qualities in action instead of simply telling about them. For instance, to illustrate the person’s kindness, you might discuss how John Jones played Santa Clause every year at the company family party. Or to show his kindness, you might discuss how he made coffee every morning for the whole crew.
Your speech should get at the human qualities of the worker and not just his or her work credits.
So here are the two most important rules to writing retirement speeches:
1. Show as well as tell about the person. Describe experiences in action.
2. Share the retiree’s human side, as well as the work persona.
Now, let’s talk about structures for the speech. Below are some basic organizational structures you might try when writing the retirement speech:
Milestones / Accomplishments / Contributions
The most basic way to organize the speech is to chronologically list the accomplishments of the retiree and illustrate them along the way by showing as well as telling about the good things she has done.
Before And After
This is essentially a two-part speech in which you discuss the retiree’s accomplishments on the job for so many years before his retirement, and then talk about what he’ll be doing after retirement. (This might mean you need to research exactly what the retiree will be up to after his retirement.)
Here, you’re looking at the effects of the worker on her company and on her co-workers. Explain how the company is a better place because of the retiree.
If you choose this style, you’ll talk about all the people the retiree has “touched” (figuratively, of course!) throughout the years. This probably means a little anecdote about each lucky person.
This involves looking at “the many hats” the retiree has worn throughout the years. With this strategy, you can show how truly valuable this person has been.
Life Without Him: The George Bailey Approach
A speech could be formulated on the premise of looking at what life will be like without this person. For example, one could say how disappointed everyone would be on his birthday without the retiree’s homemade birthday cakes.
You could write a speech like the plot in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where you discuss how your “George Bailey” changed the world, by talking about all the things that would be different if he had not been at the company.
Whatever organizational strategy you use, your main objective should be using stories to illustrate the person’s hard work and dedication to the company.
You Dislike the Retiree
It is entirely possible you’ll have to speak in honor of a co-worker you dislike. Sad, but someone’s got to do it. The trick here is to speak to his co-workers, hopefully people who like him, to find out personal aspects about the person.
Whatever you do, don’t shy away from making the speech by giving the task to someone else. Put your personal feelings aside and try to speak objectively about the retiree. There has to be a few good points to this guy. Just keep the speech short and factual. Play up whatever minor accomplishments this person has made.
The Retiree was Loved by Everyone
If your retiree was extremely well liked, consider sharing the stage with your co-workers. Allow them time to stand up and speak about the retiree’s credits and accomplishments.
The Retiree Was Extremely Private
Maybe no one really knows this person. What you’ll want to do in this case is play up this person’s diligence and hard work.
No matter what structure you choose, you’ll always need to organize it to sound coherent.
Organization of the Speech
In your introduction, you’ll be greeting your audience and introducing the retiree. You’ll want to include her name, title, department and how many total years of service.
The body will contain the meat of the speech and might utilize one of the structured templates above. Keep the speech to around five minutes, and definitely try not to go longer than ten. If you go on too long, people might start to disbelieve your praises.
The conclusion will wrap the speech up and will stress how much the retiree will be missed. You could even ask the retiree to stay in touch so that he doesn’t find himself alone and cut loose in retirement land.
In summary, whatever style or shape your speech takes, remember to speak from the heart. This person you’re celebrating has given his or her life to your company. Send the person out right. The retiree should feel a great sense of gratification from listening to your speech. She should be fulfilled, and this should be one of the greatest nights of her life. Make the retiree proud, and make yourself proud. Be honest. You’re in the presence of greatness.