Working Effectively with Guest Speakers

Feb 15, 2018 | Organization

Working Effectively with Guest SpeakersI’ve planned a lot of events throughout my career. And now I speak at a lot of them, too – both in person and virtually. I’ve realized one thing that can make you stand out when it comes to event planning is working effectively with guest speakers.

Guest speakers may be an executive or employee from another area of your company, or an outside trainer or speaker. Regardless of where your speaker comes from, it’s crucial to go out of your way to ensure all the details are in place when he or she arrives at your event. This allows them to focus on giving a great presentation, rather than having to spend their prep time figuring out where they should be, when they’re supposed to speak, and other details that should have been communicated before their arrival.

Working successfully with a guest speaker is an important part of your event planning duties because the speaker and/or their area of expertise is often what draws people to the event in the first place.

In Event Planning, Communication is Key

When a speaker is working with an organized and proactive event planner, it makes almost every aspect of preparing for the event more enjoyable and less stressful – not just for the speaker, but also for the organizers and the audience.

I can typically tell before I arrive onsite for a speaking event whether it’s going to be an efficient, timely, and positive experience or not based on the pre-event planning and communication with the organizers. Most times, planners ask me the questions before I’ve had a chance to send my list of requests for room setup, microphones, handouts, etc.

When the event planners are not organized and on top of the details, it impacts their speakers. It also creates a level of insecurity and distrust that only adds stress for the speaker and the event organizers alike. Things are more frantic and last minute. Speakers feel uncertain about how the final event is going to flow. And your attendees can sense the unease as well.

No one can plan for every possible pitfall, and most experienced speakers are prepared to adjust their activities and content to a certain extent. But the sooner you can communicate any changes, the better it is for everyone.

Checklists Make Event Planning Easier

When you’re planning events, you need to develop checklists for each aspect, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting important details.

I spent many years on the program committee for the local chapter of my professional association. We had a checklist for monthly meetings, annual admin week events, and division conferences. Some elements were the same across all three lists. But the more complex and involved events will always require additional attention to details.

Our checklists ensured the details were managed and communicated in a timely manner – no matter who was responsible for coordinating the event.

Here’s a list of items to help you to develop your own custom checklist for communicating effectively with your guest presenters/speakers:

  • Date of the event
  • Time of the event
  • Topic, title, or theme
  • Review contract terms for payment(s) (if applicable)
  • Length of time the speaker is scheduled on the agenda (including Q&A)
  • Location/address of the event
  • Expected arrival and departure times at the event
  • Primary contact person and phone number for planning
  • Primary contact person and phone number for day of the event
  • Number of attendees anticipated
  • Audio/visual equipment needs (projector, screen, laptop, sound system)
  • Preferred microphone style (wireless, lavaliere, mounted on podium, handheld, etc.)
  • Preferred stage and lectern type (if applicable)
  • Preferred room arrangement (classroom style, rounds, horseshoe, etc.)
  • Training material needs (flip chart paper, easels, markers, sticky notes, name tents, pens, etc.)
  • Handouts (distributed in advance, at the meeting, digital or in print)
  • Food sensitivities to be aware of for meal planning
  • Travel planning details (if applicable)
  • Nearest or best airport
  • Preferred hotel and/or discount rates available
  • Ground transportation recommendations
  • Speaker bio or preferred introduction details
  • Additional activities the speaker is invited to attend (dinners, lunches, other sessions, etc.)

When you work from a checklist, you ensure your speaker’s needs will be met consistently. It also enables them to be more confident and prepared to deliver their absolute best to your attendees.

Make Your Next Guest Speaker Love You

Throughout my career, I’ve spoken at huge conferences, small meetings, and everything in between. The best events are the ones where the speakers are made to feel like a priority, rather than just someone who’s there to fill the after-lunch spot. When you plan ahead, communicate regularly, and manage the details of your event, your speakers will be thrilled to take the stage!

© 2018 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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