Getting Ready To Give A Farewell Speech. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Paul Carroll of Toastmasters International. Paul will share advice on giving a leaving speech for your boss. If your boss is retiring or leaving the organisation for a new job, as someone who has worked with them for a long time, you may be asked to give a speech or say “a few words” to your colleagues at a leaving do. It is a public speaking challenge and a balancing act to include the right mix of emotions, anecdotes, praise and fun at the boss’s expense.
So how do you go about writing a farewell speech for your boss?
Getting Ready To Give A Farewell Speech
When you have worked in the same business with someone for a long time, you’ll likely be asked to speak at their farewell party when they move on to a new job or to set up their own business.
Such situations evoke mixed emotions. You may feel sad that you are losing a great colleague or boss, yet also feel happy that they are moving on to a new phase in their life. You’ll want to celebrate their achievements while also taking the opportunity to poke some fun. Make everyone chuckle as they look back over the person’s career (and, of course, bearing in mind any internal office politics and the organisational culture). It is a public speaking challenge and balancing act to include the right mix of emotions, anecdotes, praise and fun.
So what do you need to do to put together a farewell speech?
A Three-Part Outline
It is good to start by saying something about your association with the person leaving, as this explains why you have been asked to speak and sets the tone for the event.
I then recommend covering three points of importance. The first may be severe or reflective, but make sure that at least the last one is humorous or light-hearted. For a short speech, you’ll need three anecdotes illustrating three aspects or periods of your colleague’s time with the organisation. Or three characteristics they’re known for, two memorable achievements and something that went wrong (you get the idea). You could make the stories longer or add further anecdotes to each section with the additional time.
Signal that you are ending by giving a brief toast.
For someone you’ve been working with for a while, you’ll have plenty of experiences to draw on. Set a timer, give yourself five minutes max and quickly jot down as many ideas as possible.
For example, you might remember when the two of you were grounded because of a visa problem and spent a massive amount of time talking to border officers. Note down Visa/Airport and move on. You can review your list and decide the best stories for the occasion when you’ve finished. It is also good to ask co-workers to suggest the most memorable experience they can think of. You’ll know which to include when you review the overall balance of your speech.
Creating Your Stories
Many businesses hold teambuilding events. Suppose your usually polite, serious colleague or boss was left dangling forlornly on a zip-wire. In that case, there is likely to be some humour to evoke (remember the London Olympics and Boris Johnson)! The more senior the person, the more comic potential this will have.
An important consideration is how much detail to include.
What happens in TV dramas? Series about police/lawyers/doctors don’t show the humdrum aspects of their jobs. You won’t see an entire episode of Line of Duty where all that happens is that a witness sits looking through mugshots, trying to find the criminal.
Instead, you’ll see a few shots of the witness with the images, maybe with a clock on the wall ticking to establish it’s been a long time. Then you’ll see the “That’s them!” moment.
You’ll need a bit of shorthand and cut things down to a few elements that establish the context—followed by the revealing part you want to remind your audience about.
For example, I used a story where I reminded colleagues of when leaflets were printed to send to clients about “market volatility” and strategies for dealing with it. My boss, then a quiet fresh-faced graduate trainee (with English as a third language), pointed out that “volatility” was misspelt (on the front cover, no less). As I did with my story, you’ll need to ask yourself which details I add and which ones I leave out. Which adds to the build-up? Which adds humour?
I thought it was funny (well, later…much later) that nobody had read the front cover and that my now boss (who didn’t often speak up way back then) pointed it out. Correcting a spelling error “in his third language” was the icing on the cake whenever I retold this story.
Going back to the zip-wire story, if you have time for more than a one-liner. You can build in the nerve-pumping at the beginning, the dignity preserved or lost, how long it took, the eventual arrival of the rescue, and the epithets muttered by the boss about not having away weekends in future.
Finding Humour That Will Work
For example, if your manager or supervisor is retiring, it’s not the time for many heavy experiences that appeal to deep emotions. Nor is it the time for I-climbed-the-metaphorical-mountain inspiration. As in the outline above, you can remind your audience of a metaphorical mountain where your retiring boss took charge, and you all climbed together. However, I recommend primarily focusing on the lighter, fun stuff.
Of course, what’s funny to a group who experienced it might not seem so hilarious to anyone outside the group. This is why examples of this kind of thing often don’t seem funny–but rather nerdy–to outsiders. There’s a saying people sometimes use when a funny line fails to draw laughter: “You had to be there”. This may be cliché, but it’s accurate for speakers reaching out to an audience.
You can test my theory with this experiment. Tell a group of friends from outside your workplace a funny incident you can recall, which included your manager, relates to your profession/industry and which happened at work. Conversely, tell a group of (non-singing) colleagues something hilarious that happened at your weekly choir practice. The lack of shared experience will mean they probably won’t see the humour, even though it’s evident to you.
In summary, if you use the three-part structure outline at the start of this article, use short anecdotes and stories that will represent your colleague in a meaningful way to that person and others in your audience. You find everyone happily joining in your toast as you end your speech.
I hope you enjoyed that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Carroll DTM is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are almost 400 clubs and 8,000 members in the UK and Ireland.
Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management.
To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org.