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Public Speaking
Farewell Speeches
This Paper’s Contents:

PAPER SEVEN : Farewell Speeches

1. Introduction

Perhaps of any of the speeches covered in this series, these speeches should be the simplest, and therefore our guide notes the most brief (and we anticipate they will be!)

But one of the things we have sought to emphasise again and again, is the motivation behind the speech. Understand the dynamics of the situation and that will inspire you in putting together your speech.

There are two sides to be considered here:
-  the speech of the manager who is staying and
-  the speech of the person who is leaving.  

There are no doubt lots of other situations that could come under the heading of “A Farewell Speech” but we’re going to limit it to these two.

2. The Background

The person leaving is moving on – either to retire or to move on to another job. Having watched these events, and having done my own farewell three times (no more!), I think these speeches more than most lend themselves to hypocrisy – but that shouldn’t put us off trying to make a good job of it!

I say that because if you are the person leaving, it is quite possible that you are thoroughly glad to be going; you’ve had enough, you’ve done your stretch and even though it has often been enjoyable, sometimes it has been tough and sometimes people have been unpleasant – and you’re leaving all that behind. You would do well to leave it out of your speech as well.

If you are the manager (it tends to be someone of some seniority, so we’ll call them a manager) if the truth be told, it is quite possible that you’re glad to see them go. They’re no longer so fit and able and are not so productive as they once were, and again, if the truth were told, they’ve sometimes been a pain to you when they have criticised things going on. You would do well to leave that out of the speech as well.

If you think I have a jaundiced view of work life, I can only tell you what I’ve seen in three entirely different work contexts and what I’ve heard others saying. If you have an entirely different work experience, that is great; forget I said it.

3. The Goals of Farewell Speeches

Well, I think with all the speeches in this series, there are good, solid, practical reasons why it is good to be nice in your speech.  

Now literary people hate the word ‘nice’ because it seems so bland, but listen to these words that come from a dictionary to describe ‘nice’:  “agreeable, attractive, delightful, satisfactory, kind, considerate, generally commendable”. If you produce that sort of speech it will have a variety of good and practical spin-offs

If you are the manager saying farewell to a colleague and you do it ‘nicely’ then the following are possible things that come from it:
-  The person leaving will thank you and think well of you and will speak good things about you, even if they haven’t always got on well with you. They will go away and be able to say, “Well, I was surprised. S/he was really nice about it and said some really nice things about me. They were really nice.” That does your reputation no harm!
-  Their other colleagues who are all listening will also have similar thoughts and as you will continue working with them, that will make them feel good about you. All of these things are grist to the mill of good working relationships.

If you are the person leaving, you could just rudely tell them their fortunes, but you’ll go away with a nasty taste in your mouth.

If you are retiring (you think) your attitude may be that you’ll never need them again, but you can never know what the future might hold. You may think it unlikely but someone might approach you to do some part time work in the future that would just suit you – but it still needs a few words of reference from your previous employer.  Your old manager will be more willing to give a good reference if you did a good farewell.

If you are leaving to go on to a new job (implying that you have many years to go), how much better that in the gossip in bars you are spoken of well. Bad words only come back on you.

So, although there’s not a great deal of difference between the two speeches, we will consider them separately.

4. The Manager’s Farewell to an old Colleague

It is said that no good speech is complete without a few quotes, anecdotes, interesting facts or personal stories. To be able to do this speech well, it means that you've got to know the person being honoured quite well, either that or you need to draw on the knowledge of other colleagues and the Human Resources Dept.

Whatever you think of this person, you want to be seen to publicly honour them. They have been there some time / a long time, and they have contributed to the workings of the organisation. They may have contributed a great deal!  Honour them for it. It only costs words.  Your words could send them off into retirement feeling optimistic and good about life and, yes, a little sad at the world they are leaving behind. If they are moving to a new company, you may end up doing business with them!

Obviously every speech has to be tailor-made but the following are some of the things you might want to include:

1. The Person’s history in the organisation
-  When they came, how many years they’ve been there.
-  How they developed through the company.
-  Things they’ve been involved with in the company.
-  Achievements.
2. Why they are leaving
-  Retiring – make sure you have talked to them beforehand and found out what they intend doing with themselves.
-  Moving on – their gain is our loss.
3. Best wishes for the future
-  Wish them well and leave a door open for the future – who knows what it holds.

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