Retirement speeches are a chance for you to reflect on your time in your role and what you learned and can teach others. They are an opportunity to thank the key people in your life and work who made who you are today. Retirement speeches are a way to give your “last lecture” as popularized by Randy Pausch. This article will help you brainstorm the ideas for your retirement speech to ensure that you say just the right words.
Some speakers get tripped up with retirement speeches when the focus is too much on them and their story. It is natural to not want to talk about yourself or brag about your accomplishments.
But I want to reframe that goal for you if talking about yourself in a speech is an obstacle. Instead of viewing this as an opportunity to brag or pontificate unnecessarily, view it as an opportunity to show gratitude to others and to use the events in your life as lessons that others can learn from and better themselves.
Use the following seven writing prompts to help brainstorm those ideas and craft a retirement speech that helps others into the future.
Prompt 1: What lessons have you learned in your life? What stories of your life illustrate those lessons?
Prompt 2: Who along the way was instrumental in your character development? A teacher? A parent? A friend? A mentor? A colleague? A son or daughter?
Prompt 3: What advice would you have wanted at key moments in your life that you can now give to others? For example, when you graduated high school, took your first job, married your first spouse, had your first child, or dealt with your first crisis, what do you wish you had known at those key moments?
Prompt 4: What and who are you grateful for? Why? Which moments or people in your life have changed you for the better?
Prompt 5: What do you plan to do with your free time now that you are not working or not as much? What do you hope to accomplish?
Prompt 6: Are there quotes from books, movies, songs, or famous people, that sum up the lessons you want to teach? Can you go beyond the overused cliché quotes and find the ones that resonate with you and your life?
Prompt 7: If you knew this was the last moment to say something to the most important people in your life, what would you say?
How to use the prompts for your retirement speech:
Each prompt is meant to get the ideas flowing. If one is not working for you, go on to another. This is simply an opportunity to brainstorm. You can use the prompts as an organizational structure where you touch on each one throughout the speech but it is up to you to determine the right order. Use each prompt to first generate the ideas you want to talk about, and then on subsequent drafts go back and organize them into a structured speech or essay.
For more advice on similar speeches, get my upcoming book, “Toast: Short Speeches, Big Impact.”
Eddie Rice is an executive speech writer, who has worked with CEOs, college presidents, government officials, and business owners. Let him help you tell your story. Your words can move your company and your people to action; they can make the difference between a lackluster or thriving culture. Need help on your next speech?