Retirement speeches should be positive. They should look to the future and what it may bring. That is not to say, of course, that they should not mention the past. Someone who is retiring has a past with a particular company and that should be mentioned and celebrated.
Over the years a retiree will usually have made many good friends. Leaving the company then may make him or her feel lonely, as though they he or she were losing those friendships. A colleague or boss who is addressing the retiree should bear that in mind and perhaps make some suggestions as to staff re-unions or other ways to keep in touch. He or she should also bear in mind that the retiree was a skilled member of the workforce and that what he or she says will help that retiree leave proud of his or her achievements.
It is worth remembering too that a generic “John was an excellent worker” is not enough. He should find out what John’s specialty was and mention that. It is good too of course to mention how the retiree’s personality added to the ambiance in the company. If a boss does his research properly he/she may find that in thirty years John was never late or never failed to send a letter to someone who had a bereavement. John may have been an expert on cars and helped fellow workers choose the ideal model for them. Whatever the retiree’s contribution was it should be mentioned?
A retirement speech should also look to the future and mention John’s plans if they are known. If they are a secret then perhaps it would add to the fun of the occasion if some suggestions were made as to what John could do in the future. If his family are present it is polite to know the names of his wife and children and to say how much John has spoken of them. Alternatively you could mention the photos he has of his grandchildren who are without doubt the most wonderful grandchildren in the world!
On the other hand if John wishes to speak he should express his thanks to those who helped his career, mention his particular friends and speak of his future plans, plans that don’t include getting up at 5.30a.m. every morning. He might mention that instead of that awful commute to work every morning he is going to go cruising instead. His speech should be gracious, light-hearted and, like all retirement speeches should say that the future is unexplored territory just waiting to be discovered.