How To Give A Memorable Farewell Speech

It’s your last day on the job. Your colleagues have gathered in a conference room, gotten you a few nice going away gifts, and purchased a cake in your honor.

Suddenly, your co-workers begin chanting: Speech! Speech! Speech! 

Your adrenaline surges, your heart begins pounding. Oh no! A goodbye speech! If you’re like most people, you’ll mutter something like this:

“Okay, well, I wasn’t expecting to say anything, but, well, I guess what I’d like to say is that it’s been an amazing eight years here. You’re all an amazing team, you’re like a second family, and we’ve really been through some ups and downs together … okay, a lot of downs together. But I will really miss you, although this isn’t really goodbye, because I’m going to stay in touch with all of you…whether you like it or not!”

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If your goal is to leave a final, strong impression on your bosses and co-workers, that’s not a great way to do it.

I’ve been guilty of giving that bland farewell speech as well. In 1999, for example, when I left ABC News’ Nightline, at the time one of the most prominent evening news programs, the staff gathered in a conference room to send me off. Ted Koppel, the host of the program was there, as were the executive producer, all of the senior producers, on-air correspondents, and others. Frankly, I was overwhelmed that so many important people thought enough of me to have gathered in my honor. I made it through a few sentences, got emotional, and abruptly ended my farewell speech.

Tips for Your Best Farewell Speech

There’s no specific formula for how to give a great goodbye speech to colleagues at work, but here are some tips on how to deliver your best farewell speech.

Tell a story or two. Stick to anecdotes that are humorous and self-effacing, as well as heartfelt. Don’t be afraid to offer some details of your personal biography – particularly an episode that captures a universal human experience or condition.

Reveal gratitude or offer thanks. Share with your colleagues how they helped you to do your job better, allowed you to grow as a person, and/or helped you to understand something about yourself.

Keep it short and sweet. Strip your stories and remarks to their most essential details. It will help you to pack a lot of content – and offer a meaningful message – in  a short amount of time.

Make it original. When you focus on personal anecdotes and revelations, you deliver a farewell speech that is unique to you and far from trite.

Example Goodbye Speech to Colleagues

As I look back at my farewell speech to my colleagues, I wish I could do it over again. If I could, my goodbye speech would have looked more like this:

“Most people are nervous to meet Ted Koppel. I know I was. When I finally worked up the nerve to say hello, I confidently stuck out my hand and introduced myself. I then promptly took a step forward and caught my foot on an open file cabinet drawer, which sent me plummeting to the ground. (pause) It took me a good two weeks to get past that humiliation.

When I did, I quickly learned that this was a place that offered endless opportunities to a young staffer, far more than I had earned. You were open to my story ideas, welcomed me into edit rooms, sent me on video shoots, and gave me the opportunity to make some very public mistakes. People know Nightline is a great show, but they probably don’t know how great its staff is at making a young, aspiring journalist feel like a fully initiated part of the team.

My mother tells me that my grandfather never missed a Nightline. He died in 1982, when I was nine years old and when Nightline was only two. To this day, every night when I hear that opening theme music, I think of him, and how proud he would have been to know that his grandson worked here, with all of you. Thank you.”

Celebrating a colleague's birthday in the office

As you can see, this version is humorous, heartfelt and reveals a bit about who I am. How I start this farewell speech is with a funny story and then I move to a serious point – a thank you for not making an inexperienced staffer feel so inexperienced. I keep the remarks purposefully short but pack a lot of content into the 90 seconds it takes to deliver. And, it’s entirely original. No one else could deliver these remarks, because no one else has had all of these specific experiences.

Get Help Planning Your Goodbye Speech

When giving a goodbye speech to your colleagues at work, it’s important to keep it personal and professional. In our public speaking classes and custom workshops, we delve deeper into these public speaking tips and techniques, as well as others, to deliver effective and memorable presentations and speeches that are both.

Forearmed is forewarned, as they say. Your colleagues’ call to deliver a farewell speech may be impromptu, but that doesn’t mean you should feel unprepared.

The next time you leave a job, challenge yourself. Deliver a goodbye speech that will be remembered long after you finish your slice of goodbye cake.