How To Give A Memorable Goodbye Speech

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on September 15, 2013 – 6:02 AM

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. And, 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!”

101 Ways to Open a Speech Copy Tease Clickable

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 goodbye speech as well. When I left Nightline in 1999, for example, 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 speech.

As I look back at that moment, 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.”

Office-Party.jpg

There’s no specific formula for an effective goodbye speech, but the version I drafted above offers a few ideas:

  1. First, anecdotes work well. The first is humorous and self-effacing; the second is heartfelt and offers a bit of personal biography.
  2. In between, you’ll find a serious point—a thank you for not making an inexperienced staffer feel so inexperienced.
  3. The remarks are purposefully short but pack a lot of content into remarks that take just 90 seconds to deliver.
  4. And, best of all, it’s original. No one else could deliver those remarks, because no one else had all of those specific experiences.

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.

My new book, 101 Ways to Open a Speech, is now available at Amazon. You can read more about the book here

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Comments (9)

  1. By Daphne Gray-Grant:

    When I left the newsroom where I’d worked for six years, the people in my department threw a party for me. It’s one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t speak in any sort of official way! I was too emotional and didn’t feel I could say anything without breaking down.

    I won’t ever make that mistake again. Thanks for providing such a great template!!

  2. By Heather Smith:

    Lovely piece & some great advice, thanks for sharing!

  3. By Brad Phillips:

    Thank you so much, Heather! I have fond memories of my days with Nightline, and hope that came through in the piece.

    Thanks for commenting,
    Brad

  4. By Patrick McSweeney:

    Thank you for sharing this. In a few weeks, I will be leaving a firm where I’ve spent the past 15 years. This provides the framework to prepare my thoughts for both an email farewell message as well as a “speech” to co-workers on my last day.

  5. By Brad Phillips:

    Patrick,

    I’m delighted to hear that this post was useful to you. Congratulations on your 15 years of service to your firm, and best wishes in your future endeavors.

    Best,
    Brad

  6. By rob:

    I made the same mistake as Daphine. I think about it often. I widh i would have read this back then.

  7. By Phillip Wand:

    Great advice, wish I’d read it before I left my first job. I was much loved and so popular that the whole building arranged a surprise party for me. My boss presented me with a cake and flowers and a gift and said such lovely things about me that, when everyone called for a speech, I became so nervous and panicked and punched my boss to the ground. Never will I be caught out like that again!

  8. By Juan Sepúlveda:

    When I left my post as a director and scriptwriter of a daily radio show I knew I could not deliver a speech, so I did not. I wrote it down and send it to each work mate, and to my bosses. I made it in the same wording an extension of one of our editorial pieces, and the top brass decided to air it the day next to my departure. I was overwhelmed. Many thanks for sharing your moments.

  9. By Obetta jovita:

    Your speech was nice only that am still a student preparing a send-off speech as an assignment.

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