If you have been asked to write, and perhaps deliver, a farewell speech at a colleague's leaving party, somebody must think you are the best person for the job. This fact should calm your nerves. It is an honour. It is understandable that you may feel a little daunted; however, this is an occasion where goodwill prevails. Those in attendance will want you to succeed. Do not attempt to deliver a farewell speech off-the-cuff or leave it to the last minute to prepare. This is a task worthy of your time and careful attention.
Research the life and career of your co-worker. You may feel that you know her well but there are always anecdotes you can gain from colleagues or her family. Learn about her early days with the company. If she has been with the firm for a considerable period of time, put her career in a historical context: For example, mention some of the changes that have occurred in the time she has been in her post.
Refer to your colleague's successes and achievements. Make the comments personal with anecdotes and emphasise her people skills or qualities. People attend a leaving party to recall someone fondly before they go. If she has been a particular mentor or inspiration to junior colleagues, mention this, giving examples.
Include humour in your speech. This can help make the tone of the party forward-looking and less emotional. Avoid mentioning any embarrassing incidents or traits. There is a fine line between being humorous and offensive. Always err on the cautious side. Include an apt quote or anecdote. Aim to flow smoothly from the introduction to the conclusion of your speech.
If you are uncertain, ask a trusted colleague, or your partner or friend to look at your speech. It helps to practice speeches by reciting them out loud to practice keeping a conversational tone and avoid rushing through the text. It also allows you to relax so that you can pause during audience laughter or applause and resume speaking when listeners have quieted enough to hear you continue. If you have time and it is appropriate, gather photos to show on slides during your presentation and match your anecdotes to the photos.