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So long, cheerio, goodbye! How to write a memorable farewell message


SpeechIt's time to leave, you're moving on. But how do you make your swansong a grand finale? Whether you are making a speech about yourself, or someone else, Lesley Morrissey has some great advice for your final message.

You've been asked to sketch out a farewell message – and you're probably thinking 'why me?'. It might be that you're the departing person's manager, or their closest colleague. It might be that you're in training or HR and that's one of the things people expect you to do – or it might simply be that you are a lively personality and someone thought you'd be good at it!

Of course, you could say 'no', but you could also add to your profile if you do it – as long as you make a good job of it.

So, where do you start?

Find out who will be there when you make the speech
If it's just your department you'll probably make a different speech to the one you'd make if all the directors and senior management are there.

Photo of Lesley Morrissey"Check how long you'll be expected to speak for. There's nothing worse than someone who goes on and on – but if you don't say much at all people may feel uncomfortable."

Take into account the person who is leaving
Are they an extrovert and able to handle a bit of fun, or are they more shy and retiring and would really rather not be the centre of attention?

Consider the situation where the presentation will be made
Is it going to be a special 'meeting' in the office environment, or an informal affair down the pub? Is it a big do for someone who has been around for years and years, or is it just the people in the department going out for a nice meal?

Think about the reason they're leaving
They might be retiring, have been head-hunted to a fantastic job, be leaving to become a mum, or they could even be off to live in another country. Each of these will create a different environment for your message.

Check how long you'll be expected to speak for
There's nothing worse than someone who goes on and on – but if you don't say much at all people may feel uncomfortable.

So, now you know:

  • Your time frame

  • Where you'll be

  • How formal or informal the situation will be

  • Who will be there

  • How comfortable the person leaving will feel

  • The reason why they're leaving
  • That's the basis for your plan!

    Now for some dos and don'ts.

    Use the person's name at the beginning and smile at them.

    Be appropriately formal if there are senior management present, or if the person leaving will feel uncomfortable with too familiar an approach.

    Take the leaver's feelings into account and don't make them feel uncomfortable in any way.

    Refer to any real achievements they've had – but pick out two or three rather than relate a long list, stick to the bigger ones and the most recent. If you can't find anything momentous, talk to their colleagues and get some quotes about what they have been like to work with.

    Appreciate the value they've added to the organisation – no matter how small it may appear, reliability, determined approach, ability to complete projects can all be useful.

    Add a word or two about their popularity (unless they are really anti-social, but then you probably wouldn't be making this speech!).

    Be sincere (or ask someone else to make this speech).

    Say where they're going and wish them well in their new life.

    Tell jokes.

    Tell embarrassing anecdotes.

    Focus on any negative situations that may have occurred (for example 'We'll never forget the day Jim drove the forklift truck into the delivery of new china!').

    Expect everyone to know enough to pick up on any cryptic comments – keep it simple and straightforward.


    Try to create something positive that isn't really true.

    Say anything negative about them or their work.

    Imply that they are making a mistake in leaving.

    When you're planning your speech write all the things that you want to say down and arrange them into a logical order. It's not a good move to read the speech out – it is likely to sound wooden. An easy way to keep on track and not forget anything is to put the key points in bullet form on postcards – with three to four points on each card (use a black marker to make them easy to read from a distance).
    Practise at least a couple of times – you'll be surprised how the time frames work. Most people try to get too much into one presentation and you'll probably only need to speak for a few minutes. It's better to be too short than too long!

    "Don't focus on any negative situations that may have occurred (for example 'We'll never forget the day Jim drove the forklift truck into the delivery of new china!')."

    But, what happens if it's me that's leaving and I have to make a speech?
    Many of the tips above apply, but, of course, you won't need to make references to your own achievements!

    You'll need to know how long, where, to whom, and the expected level of formality. Then you'll need to spend some time thinking about your career with the organisation.

  • What were your high points?

  • What have you learned that has been or will be really useful?

  • Who has helped and supported you?

  • What have you really liked about working for this company, your various bosses and departments?

  • What will you miss the most (don't be sarcastic – not 'I'll really miss Joe wingeing about the coffee machine every day')?

  • Who would you like to thank and why?
  • Know what is likely to make you emotional and think about whether it has to be included, or whether you can deal with getting a bit emotional without suffering severe embarrassment.

    If you have something profound to say – and can do it without becoming pompous – then go for it, but try it out on a couple of friends first and ask them if they think it works.

    Do have a few practice run-throughs, it will help you to feel confident and know where you're going, which will also help to stop you mumbling and rambling!

    When you stand up to speak – smile at everyone, keep your chin up, make eye contact with them and remember to look at the people you are mentioning when you do so.

    This is one episode in your life – maybe a very long episode – but, it's also a new beginning and, if you approach it from that angle, you'll feel good about the situation.

    Good luck!

    Lesley Morrissey is a professional speechwriter and copywriter. Formerly a professional speaker herself, and having trained dozens of people in presentation skills, she is very aware of the importance of preparing to speak. Find out more about Lesley's company, Inside News, at or call Lesley on 01245 473296


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