Tips for inviting a guest speaker to your class.

Internationally renowned professional speaker and author, Bob Urichuck (www.bobu.com), seen here motivating my 1’st year business students.

Each semester I like to have a ‘Guest Speaker Week’, where I invite grads or someone from my professional network to come in and talk to my students. It switches things up during the semester from the normal routine, and gives students an opportunity to learn something new or reaffirm what they have already learned during the semester. If you decide to invite a guest speaker, it’s important to make sure that everyone is prepared; yourself, the speaker, and the students.

Here are some quick tips to ensure a successful guest speaker experience. I’ll divide the tips into 3 sections: before, during, and after the talk.

BEFORE:

– Invite a speaker who can add value to the topic of the course (if you teach in the arts, maybe you could invite rock singer ‘Marilyn Manson’ in for a chat? See video here.).

– Pick a speaker who’s personality complements the personality/culture of the class.

– Cover the topic and time frame allowance with your guest speaker.

– Prior to the presentation, have the speaker send you their slides. Discuss which presentation software they use to ensure that everything will work properly (MS Powerpoint? Apple Keynote?). For example, if they use a MacBook or iPad, you will need a VGA connector for each of these since many classrooms usually only provide a VGA adaptor for PC based computers (IBM, Dell, Toshiba etc.). Your speaker should also have a back up of their presentation (on a usb stick or bring in their own laptop).

– Ask the speaker to send a picture of themselves so that you can create a customized ‘intro’ slide.

– Ask the speaker for a pre-written introduction and/or ask how they would like to be introduced. ‘Memorize and improvise’ the introduction; it sounds more natural. Keep the introduction short, usually between 1-1.5 minutes, and no more than 2 minutes.

– Your expectations for the students should be addressed prior to the talk.; arriving on time, business etiquette, mobile device policies, and questions to ask.  Create some questions with the students beforehand, and delegate them to various students. This will stimulate further conversation on the topic and avoid the awkward silence at the end of the talk when you ask the class, “Do you have any questions for our guest?”.

– Arrange for a parking pass, a gift (if the budget allows), and a certificate of appreciation. Most speaker’s don’t care about the gift, but paying for their parking and presenting them with a certificate is the least that can be done.

– Agree on a ‘signal’ for timing. It could be a subtle hand gesture or coloured cards. Give the speaker a signal when there is 15 minutes left, 10 minutes, and then 5 minutes.

– Create a sign for the door ‘Do Not Enter: Guest Speaker in Progress’. Put it on the door so late-comers don’t interrupt the guest.

– Confirm with the speaker that ‘everything is a go’ the day before the talk.

– Communicate to the students the day before the talk, restating the importance and benefits of attending.

– Double-check if there is any road construction going on around the college and let your speaker know in advance to allow for extra time or to advise on detour routes. I just learned this lesson myself; I forgot to mention a major street was closed due to construction, so my speaker had to make a 15 minute detour…”Doh!”

– Have a ‘Plan B’ for the class just in case the speaker doesn’t show up.

DURING:

– As mentioned above, keep your introduction to 1-2 minutes and make sure you discuss and communicate the benefits to the students.

– Remind the students to put their cell phones on ‘vibrate’ mode.

– Put the ‘Do not enter’ sign on the door(s).

– Close the door(s) loud enough so that everyone knows it’s time to start. A verbal prompt will most likely be necessary as well.

– Have the students take notes. That way, they can hand in their notes for participation marks. It also gives you a record of who attended, which is important if there are substantial participation marks given for attending (In my classes, I make attendance mandatory, so students will lose the marks if they don’t show up).

– I like to stand at/near the back of the room so I can monitor students. If you see anyone rudely ‘chatting’, texting, or worse, sitting there with their eyes closed, slowly walk over to them and quietly and subtly ‘nip it in the bud’.

– If the speaker doesn’t mind, take some pictures of them while they are presenting. I like to take a picture that includes showing part of the audience with the speaker standing at the front of the room (like the pic of Bob Urichuck in this post). Note: If you are showing students’ faces in the pictures, then you need them to sign a waiver.

AFTER:

– Once the speaker has finished, thank them and quickly summarize some key points that the speaker made.

– Signal to the class representative to thank the speaker on behalf of the class, and to present the speaker with a certificate and small gift. Initiate clapping once this is done.

– Don’t forget to give the speaker the parking pass before they leave.

– Follow-up with the speaker via email, once again thanking them for their time. This is when you can add any positive feedback you received from students, and also attach a picture(s) that you took during the presentation. Your speaker will appreciate this, since they can use the testimonials and picture(s) for their own marketing purposes.

– Keep in touch with your guest speaker so that you can invite them back the following year, especially if they were well-received.

Inviting a guest speaker takes some time and effort to plan, but I have always found that students look forward to listening to successful people in their fields, especially if they are grads from the program; it lets them know that yes, there is life after graduation.

I think I’ve covered most of the basics, but if you have any additional tips, feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

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