Retirement parties are not only an opportunity to be recognized by family and friends for a long and distinguished career, but also a means to address co-workers for a final time before you leave the job for good. Regardless of the venue size or location, or how elaborate the party may be, it is customary for the retiree to thank everyone for attending and to offer an expression of gratitude to colleagues. While a short speech could suffice, there are also other ways to express your appreciation.
Prepare a list of names of co-workers, both past and present, who have made an indelible mark or significant impact on your career. Be sure to thank them during the speech you plan to make at the reception, mentioning both a first and last name so they can be recognized by other attendees. Examples and outlines of retirement speeches can be found online, including at the Write Out Loud website.
Create a photo collage depicting co-workers over the years, both in and out of the office. Ask family, friends and associates to contribute either original or quality color copies of all photographs, then mount them on poster boards, leaving space for a thank you message addressed to each person under the photo. Place the boards on easels, where they can be prominently displayed during the party. Ideas for photo collages can be found on the Idea Room website.
Write individual notes that can be used as place card holders at each table. This will allow you to personalize messages to colleagues that would be longer than what can be mentioned during a speech and to say thank you for attending the party. This should be a more straightforward comment, with a small personal anecdote added at the end.
Choose inexpensive party favors for your guests to take home. The Party 411 website, which offers tips on planning a retirement party, recommends picture frames as a way attendees can keep the guest of honor with them at all times. A way to fill the frames might be to set up a photo booth or photo-processing area at the party where former colleagues can take pictures with the retiree.
Send a personalized thank you letter for gifts following any retirement party, but especially one thrown by your business or corporation. This should include mention of any colleagues you worked with over the years, including supervisors and directors. If you worked for a small company, it may be appropriate to include all the employees, while at a larger company, include only those you worked with directly or had become friends with prior to your departure.
A retirement party allows the retiree to indulge in introspection and feel proud of his accomplishments in the workplace. Thanking colleagues should be a personal but lighthearted part of your to-do list, not something that should be costly and stress inducing. Remember, if you forget a mention during the party, an acknowledgment in a follow-up letter will suffice.
Never share embarrassing stories about co-workers during your party speech. Personal anecdotes and memories of this nature are better left for a privately read thank you card or letter.