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Inviting Guest Speakers

How to Invite a Guest Speaker to Your Group

Guest speakers are a good way to add interest to your meetings and help your members get the most out of your organization. Often, for a minimal cost, your group can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of an accomplished professional or a respected authority in his or her field. You can ensure that your event comes off smoothly and to the satisfaction of both you and your guest if you follow these simple suggestions:

* Try to narrow down the focus or topic that you're asking the speaker to address. It's difficult for a speaker to know what to do with a topic that's too global; be as specific as you can about what aspects of the subject you'd like addressed or what points you'd like covered.

* Call or write your speaker, giving him/her adequate notice of when you'd like her/him to speak. Calling at least three or four weeks in advance gives you the best chance of getting the person and date you want, and gives you plenty of time to prepare and publicize your event.

* There is no absolute rule about honoraria (speaker's fees), but generally, most local people, alumni, and others who don't make their living by speaking to groups will be willing to speak without a fee. Others-for example, a person whose job is to present training seminars, or members of certain professions (attorneys, psychologists, etc.) who usually charge an hourly rate for sharing their expertise-will often want some kind of honorarium. If you aren't sure, ask. You can say that your group has budgeted $X for this event-or that your unfortunately have no budget for this event, and would they be able to speak without a fee?

* Most speakers would like you to pay the expenses they incur by coming to speak to your group. You can get a parking permit for your guest by going to the Parking Services office and paying the appropriate fee (allow time to mail the permit to them!). If your guest is driving from outside the Santa Barbara area, you should offer to reimburse them for travel (you might want to use the University's rate, which is $ .24/mile). If your guest is coming from far away, you may need to pay for meals, overnight accommodations, and/or air fare. Ask-most people are willing to negotiate and make arrangements affordable for your group.

* Confirm your agreement in writing. Include the time, date, and location of your event, and any fees or expenses to be paid by your group. Enclose the parking permit if you're providing one, and if your guest is unfamiliar with the campus, a map (you can get one from Parking Services or the entrance kiosks) and/or directions. This simple step can save you immeasurable trouble because it serves several purposes: it makes sure that everyone has the same understanding about when, where, and how much; it ensures that your speaker can find you; and, according to the University's Business Services staff, in the event of an accident your group is on much firmer ground in terms of the University's insurance if your guest has clearly been invited to campus for an official purpose.

* In your letter of confirmation you may also want to include some information for your speaker, such as the kind of group he/she will be speaking to; how many people to expect; their majors, interests, or other background information; the specific topic(s) you want them to address; the amount of time they have; and anything else they could use to plan their presentation to best meet your needs.

* If you will be describing the presentation on a poster, flyer, or program, it's best to ask your speaker for a title and description of what they will cover. They may ask you to go ahead and write it, but always offer them the option first-their understanding of what they have to say may be very different from yours! You should also double-check that you have the speaker's full, correct name and title.

* Check with the campus bookstore to make sure they know an author will be appearing so they will have books in stock. They may be able to do book signings and displays.

* Ask your speaker if they have any handouts or materials which they need you to have duplicated, or if they will need any audiovisual equipment. Be sure to allow time to get copies made or to order media equipment.

* At the meeting, someone from your group should introduce your speaker, giving their name, title, and a brief bio (any college degree(s) they have and where they got them, their jobs, community activities, publications, awards or other accomplishments that are relevant to their presentation).

* After the presentation, don't forget to write a thank you letter! You might enclose copies of evaluation forms if you used them, or mention any comments or feedback from those who attended. This lets the speaker know that someone was really listening-and it helps them improve their future presentations.

The Office of Student Life staff will be glad to help you with your guest speakers. We can suggest possible sources of funding, help with logistical arrangements, and offer other assistance to help make your event a success. Stop by or call us!
Anyone needing special arrangements to accommodate a disability may contact the Office of Student Life, Student Resource Building, 893-4550