Preparing for your retirement dinner speech is very different from the scores of meetings you’ve probably spoken at and the countless presentations you’ve given. Keep in mind that in the past, you’ve always been trying to sell an idea or a product but the retirement speech is just a warm, heartfelt talk about your experiences with the company and your thanks to your colleagues, co-workers and family. That doesn’t make it any less important, and you do need to prepare for it carefully.
Delivering the Retirement Dinner Speech
Having spent enough time working on your retirement speech, and now that you do have it in place, you now need to work on delivery. Delivery is critical as your talk will have the necessary impact only if it is delivered effortlessly and in a flow. It’s understandable that you’re nervous but rehearsing your talk carefully will help you ease some of the queasy feeling.
Speak slowly and naturally and make sure that you pronounce every word clearly. Avoid mumbling, rushing through the sentences or too many awkward pauses with “umms” and “ahs.” And remember to keep your breathing even; that will also help you keep the tone of your voice even.
Retirement Dinner Speech Cues
You could carry a copy of the retirement speech as an example to help you deliver your talk or you could create cue cards with bullet points as tips. But the issue with the written speech is that you could end up reading it instead of connecting with your audience. As for the cue cards, make sure the tips are written clearly or type them for an easier read - use a big font! Also, keep them carefully ordered so your speech flows naturally. You also have the option of memorizing the entire speech, which is a good idea, but only as long as your delivery does not sound monotonous and wooden. If you forget a sentence or two, you might falter and not be able to carry on.
Choose the approach that is most likely to help you by rehearsing with it. By now in your career, you likely know the best way to present for you. For some the best way to present it is memorization, others rely on notes and some just need an outline. Sometimes, when speaking, it’s okay to add a small remark or two if it fits in with the speech and is relevant to a particular person in the audience. Or possibly, someone did something or said something at the beginning of the retirement party to which you give an impromptu mention in your retirement dinner speech.
Connecting with the Audience
When giving your retirement dinner speech, make sure you connect with the audience by making eye contact with the people listening to you. You probably know all of them since they’re your coworkers and family members (most retirement event organizers ask the guest of honor for a list of the people they’d like to invite). Smile a lot and think about how you interact with them every day, at work or home. Remember to glance at your written speech or cue cards only very briefly. Looking down for too long will break the personal connection you have made.
Rehearsing the Retirement Speech
Memorizing your speech is a great idea because it frees up your hands and you can gesture a little to emphasize a comment. But rehearse carefully, preferably, in front of a mirror so you can see how you present yourself. Ask your spouse or another family member to hear your speech, take notes and present their feedback at the end of the talk. You could also record yourself speaking and play it back. If you can make a video, that would be even better. You will know exactly which sections of your retirement speech need polish.
Watching yourself will also help you learn when to pause for effect and which phrases or words to stress. You will also understand how to time your retirement humor and how to keep your expressions friendly and cheerful. The video will help you correct any oddities of your body language. If your retirement dinner speech takes longer than 10 to 15 minutes to deliver, you’ll know you have to edit it - under 10 minutes is best. Why? The most effective speech is one that holds the audience’s attention and is over before that attention wanes.
Get Comfortable on the Stand
Position yourself on the stand so you have the best spot to reach out to your audience. If there is a lectern, you could place your cue cards or sample retirement speech on it. But lecterns can also act as a barrier between you and the audience. Therefore, you want to visit the presentation room before your retirement party begins to be sure everything is set as you desire.
If the lectern is too low, you could be bending to read the cards. You could stand a little to one side of the lectern so you have a complete, uninterrupted view of the hall or restaurant. It is also advisable to check with the organizers and ask if you’ll be speaking into a mike or if it will be attached to your lapel.
Dressing the Part
Choose an outfit to wear for the occasion a few days in advance. You must look good and feel comfortable in it because feeling good always adds to your confidence. When you try it on, try rehearsing your retirement dinner speech in it and watch yourself. Also, take care of grooming routines prior--haircut and facial hair -- so that you’re relaxed on your big day.
Some Don’ts of Delivering Your Retirement Speech
Being nervous and emotional is a real possibility but try not to make it evident and maintain your composure. Don’t fiddle with your clothes or hair and make sure you don’t sway or look uncomfortable. If you’re holding your notes don’t let them cover your face. Also keep in mind that your retirement speech session continues until you say “Thank You!” and sit down.
Make sure your talk does not reveal the true reason for your retirement if it belies some problem. Whether it the age or health factor or your needing to spend more time on your marriage, these details are best left out. And, never reveal little-known secrets and facts just to catch the attention of your audience. This is a happy event (hopefully) for you and your colleagues so leave out any downers.
Keeping these pointers in mind should help you deliver your retirement dinner speech with confidence and flair, to be remembered for a long time afterward.