For the non-professional public speaker, the retirement toast is an opportunity for both creativity and anxiety. The retiree must be feted properly and in good taste, as well as entertainingly and with good humor. Do not let the anxiety overshadow the joy of the occasion -- make your toast memorable and meaningful with these simple tips.
One of the most important parts of your retirement toast -- especially if yours is the main or longest speech that will be given at the party -- is the opening remarks. You want your speech to hook the listeners and not offend any of them. You may wish to open with a simple greeting, a meaningful quote about retirement or a joke of some kind. Another way to begin is with a funny story about the retiree.
Quotes and Jokes
If you choose to use a quote or joke in the beginning (or any other part) of your toast, make sure it is both humorous and appropriate. Good examples include the anonymous sayings "Retirement takes all the meaning out of weekends" and "Retirement is a time when you never get around to doing all those things you never got around to doing while you were working."
The bulk of any retirement toast should be made up of anecdotes about the retiree. Make sure that at least one of them is at least mildly humorous, and that they highlight the retiree's best qualities (for example, his work ethic or good humor in the face of stress). If you use a vaguely insulting anecdote (for example, an embarrassing story of some variety), make sure you turn it around at the end to make it somewhat more positive. The exception to this rule is if the retirement party is explicitly a "roast" of the retiree.
Things to Avoid
Again, unless the retirement party is a "roast," avoid insulting the retiree. Since most retirement parties involve the retiree's family, some of which may be elderly, stay away from old age or "over the hill" jokes, not to mention predictions involving nursing homes, toothlessness or wheelchairs. Some may take offense at these.
Most retirement toasts should end with the retiree -- as opposed to the speaker -- being applauded. Call for the retiree to stand and say something like "Let's hear it for Bob" or "How about a round of applause for Bob's 40 years of faithful service?"