Using Guest Speakers Effectively

Having a guest speaker is an excellent way to provide current, realistic expertise on a critical topic, as well as increase the perceived value students receive from your class. To maximize the impact of guest speakers, be sure to do the following:

  • "Clear" the guest speaker with your instructional leader before your first invitation, eliminating political problems that might occur;
  • When inviting the speaker, clearly identify your goals for their presentation, the specific topics you want them to address, the time parameters, areas that are "off limits," and their stance on answering questions from students;
  • Obtain a resume or "bio" from which you can develop an accurate, enthusiastic introduction;
  • Confirm the appearance, by email or telephone, a week or so in advance, being sure to identify the parameters agreed upon earlier, as well as any needs, e.g. audio-visual equipment, which they may have since identified;
  • Develop a contingency plan, in case the speaker develops a last-minute conflict that prevents their appearance;
  • Prepare students the week before for the presentation, suggesting questions they might ask, and encouraging their full engagement in the presentation;
  • Greet the guest speaker warmly in the hallway outside the class, and clarify any last-minute questions they might have;
  • When introducing the speaker to the class, do so extemporaneously and enthusiastically, without reading from prepared notes;
  • During the presentation, play an active nonverbal role - modeling professional behavior for students and energizing the speaker;
  • Toward the end, prompt questions if appropriate;
  • If the speaker unreasonably exceeds the time parameters, simply stand and move from your seat in the rear up the side of the classroom;
  • At the conclusion, thank the speaker for specific insights their presentation orchestrated;
  • Walk the speaker to their car, gathering the name of anyone who should receive a "cc'd" copy of your thank-you letter.

Afterwards, debrief the content of the presentation, and gauge students' response to the guest speaker.

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