By: Susan Dugdale | First published: 05-01-2010 | Last modified: 01-15-2019
Farewell speeches mark significant departures. They are so much more than a casual "see you later" and a mumbled "thanks for everything" as you make a dash for the door.
A planned goodbye speech crystallizes the moment of leaving, giving it focus, form, and dignity. It provides an opportunity to publicly acknowledge people and events, as well as to graciously show your appreciation and gratitude for them.
And that, I think, is the sort of speech you want to give!
Everything you need to prepare an excellent farewell speech. Click the video for a complete overview.
A farewell speech is frequently expected when leaving a job to take another and is given by the person leaving or, to the person leaving by a colleague, manager or boss.
Other situations calling for farewell speeches are graduations (leaving a school, a class...), retirements or perhaps when a long-time member of your club or neighborhood departs. A funeral speech or eulogy is yet another form of a goodbye or farewell speech.
I think the biggest trap is allowing yourself to play that old con game in which you suddenly, without regular practice, become a marvelous impromptu speaker.
When asked to say a few words you'll be fluent! You'll remember everyone and everything you wanted to mention. The speech will be structured. It will open with a flourish and close with a slice of unforgettable wisdom. Perfect.
Reality can be very nasty sometimes. "Umming and erring", rambling, missing out things and ending with a limp "Yeah, well, that's it" and a shrug exposes the con. Yep, fell for it. Again. Sigh.
Think ahead. Plan. You will know if a speech is expected.
Learn from either your own previous experience or from what you've witnessed. Be it the good, the bad or the ugly!
There is a fine line between formal and informal particularly in a work place. Straying too far on either side may not be received well, and the impact may ripple on in ways you have little control over. Like for instance, being overlooked rather than asked to give a presentation.
Pitching your speech appropriately and delivering it well takes practice. For your own sake do it.
Good communication skills, (which includes public speaking), will open more hearts, minds, and therefore doors, than any other skill you might have!
(For more, please see The Importance of Communication Skills in Business.)
So having established the need to do more than bumble through a hastily cobbled together farewell speech, here's what you are aiming for.
These are the characteristics of a speech that an audience, (your co-workers, employers, classmates, friends, fellow club members ...), would be delighted to hear.
If it's you who is leaving and you're preparing a speech to mark the occasion, here is a list of the type of material expected, and appreciated in a farewell speech.
Obviously you're not expected to cover all nine points in lavish detail. Pick what feels right to you and applying the brevity, positive, respectful and sincere guidelines, prepare your speech.
To show you how the content suggestions and the "graciousness" guidelines work together I've prepared a sample speech. That's below.
The speech is 573 words long. Depending how fast or slow you speak that will take approximately four minutes to deliver. (You can find out more speech rate here)
The speech is entirely fictional. I've written it from the point of view of a person working for a company called Smith and Black. Here he/she, (I've not defined gender.), led a team which was involved in community initiatives. He/she is leaving to do further study. The speech will be given at a gathering in the company staff room.
"Thank you for coming along. I am delighted to see you all here.
Do you realize we've been sharing each other's company for 2920 days?
We've been together through approximately 417 Mondays. 417 Wednesdays. (Half way! It's the weekend soon. Hang in.) And 417 yay, it's Fridays!
Eight years of fun times, challenging times and everything in between.
And today I am officially leaving you!
In the past some of you have questioned my sanity. Now, standing here in the midst of you all, I'm wondering about it too!
It's bittersweet to leave a workplace you've enjoyed. I might joke about the Monday blues, having to return to work after a weekend full of activities centered around family and friends, but that's all it is – a joke. I realize I have been very fortunate. This place, this work, and its people have meant so much to me. I am proud to have been a member of the team here.
Eight years ago you made it easy for me to feel at home. Smith and Black is a rare company. Its workplace is genuinely a mirror of its HR policy. Inclusion is more than a buzz word in a manual here. It's real! That makes it doubly difficult to leave.
Thank you for your belief in me, your support and your friendship. None of us achieve in isolation and the successes we've enjoyed together have been the result of our mutual cooperation and collaboration. It's a pleasure and a privilege to have worked alongside colleagues who understand how to bring the best out in each other.
In the middle of our daily business: meeting targets, initiating projects and developing new ones, it's all too easy to lose sight of the most important element of all in any organization – the person, the people. Us. You and me, as individuals with hearts, minds, and feelings.
That we don't is what makes Smith and Black unique. Thank you Bob for your inspired leadership. Thank you to my team: Monica, Tom and Sam for your trust in me, for your humor and all your hard work.
We've been involved in some outstanding projects together. I'll always remember our “Feed a Friend” out-reach program and its extraordinary success. The “Red Balloon” initiative had lofty goals which we slaved to bring to fruition, and failed. The hard lessons learned there we deployed in our biggest success of all – the “No Child Left Behind” program. That was magical, inspirational work which will go on making the world a better place.
With so much to be grateful for – outstanding colleagues, an ethical humane company, and meaningful work, it seems perverse to leave.
However, I am!
As some of you already know, I'm going to take up an offer to further my understanding of the practical implementation of diversity policy. It's an amazing course, taught by some of my heroes in the field. This is something I've wanted for several years and the right time to do it is now.
I am going to miss you all. You've been part of my journey for a long time.
I've already packed memories of fun, collaboration, consultation, and friendship into my heart to take with me. Those I'm deeply grateful for.
My wish for you is that you too are able to follow your dreams. This is not goodbye. Per courtesy of email I will never be far away!"
If you're expected to give a speech on behalf of your club, company ... to a person leaving use the content suggestions below and write your speech using the guidelines given above.
*About The Speech Builder - this is an app that "builds" personalized speeches. There are 3 farewell speeches to choose from: a farewell from an employer to an employee who is leaving, a farewell from a co-worker to another co-worker who is leaving and a farewell from a leaver to the co-workers being left.
The easiest way to take your content ideas and turn them into a speech is to use an outline. Click the link for a downloadable fill-in-the-blanks speech outline.
The speech outline covers the main points you want to make in the order you want to make them. Once you've filled it out, test by saying it out loud.
Choose what best suits you and the occasion.
If the situation is very emotional or you are very emotional this may be the safest way to get everything you want to say out.
Using your completed speech outline as a guide write the whole speech out.
When you print your text out be sure to use a large font so that it is easily read. Double space your lines and number your pages for the same reason.
Here's an article from one of my newsletters on how to read a speech aloud which goes into more detail. For the best results, read it.
Make brief summary notes on numbered (cue) cards that will serve as memory prompts to guide you from one idea to the next.
These are very good if you have practiced and know your speech. They let you interact with your audience more freely than reading word for word does. The result is a more spontaneous sounding speech.
Click the link to find out more about preparing and using cue cards.
If you have time this could be the option to go for. The advantages are that you speak directly to your audience. Because you are not relying on notes you can use readily use gestures and make eye contact.
Check here for tips and techniques on how to remember a speech.
The disadvantage could be the risk of forgetting what you wanted to say entirely through being overcome by the emotion of the occasion but this is significantly lessened through practice.
If you'd like to know more about how to deliver your farewell speech well check out these pages:
If you find yourself under attack from a fit of nervous apprehension at the mere thought of giving your goodbye speech look here. Help is a click away.
Please don't use your farewell speech as an opportunity to vent any pent up frustrations you may have, regardless of how tempting it may be. Instead focus on what was undeniably positive and sincerely highlight it.