Arranging Speakers For Programs

“Arranging Speakers For Programs”

© Eddie Rhoades

I occasionally get emails from someone asking if I will speak to their garden club. More than likely I don’t know the person emailing me and I must email them back for the omitted information plus a variety of missing details that need taking care of such as:

  • What is the name of your organization?
  • Where do you meet and can you send me directions?
  • What time of day is the meeting and what day of the month?
  • If it is a seminar for more than one day do you plan for me to speak once or twice? (you would be surprised how many want you to speak twice.)
  • How many will be in attendance so I will know how many handouts to bring?
  • Do you pay your speakers an honorarium? Is it a set price or do we negotiate?
  • Are you a non-profit organization?
  • Do I need to bring my own slide projector and screen or is one available? Is there a stand for the projector?
  • Are there provisions for PowerPoint presentations?
  • Will there be a business meeting before my program? Average length?
  • Is there a microphone? Will someone be on hand to operate the lights, heat, air-conditioner, test the microphone?

Years ago when I became a club vice-president in charge of arranging programs, someone gave me some very good advice: “Line up all your programs for the entire year and publish this information in your organization’s newsletter.” It can also be printed on flyers to hand out to potential members. The Program Chair is not a hard job but there are certain responsibilities involved. I have been to meetings where no one had a key to get in the building, where the speaker didn’t show up, the microphone didn’t work, the speaker brought a horizontal slide tray but the provided projector only accepted vertical trays, the treasurer was not in attendance so the speaker couldn’t get paid, emailed directions said turn left when they should have said turn right (this person claimed she said turn right ’til I showed her a printout of her email and she said “Oh please don’t tell anyone”). Program chairs should have someone else proofread directions before mailing them out. Famous speaker Jim Wilson said he was once left standing on the curb in the dark after everyone else had gone home leaving him waiting for a taxi to come take him to the Atlanta airport. He also said he would never speak for this particular organization again.

A reminder should be mailed and the speaker should be phoned a day or two before the event. I have had speakers cancel on me the night before an engagement. I leave their names on my list but I add a little note beside it. Have a contingency plan in case anything goes wrong but if you are prepared nothing should go wrong. Keep a folder of speakers and their topics and any other notes to be passed along to the next years Chairman. Someone should greet and offer to assist the speaker when they arrive. Someone should also be prepared in advance to introduce the speaker. Don’t wait till they come in the door to ask for a Bio.

If a speaker runs overtime, have a predetermined signal such as pointing to your watch to show time is up. Sometimes there is time for questions afterwards but be prepared to say “That is all the time we have for questions,” and thank the speaker on behalf of your organization. Place a cup of water at the speaker’s podium. Have a small flashlight handy in case they need one in order to read their notes. Ask if they want low lights so people can follow along on the handout and make notes or if they prefer it to be darker which enhances the slides. Assist the speaker in making their exit. The day after the program a thank-you card should be mailed out to the speaker. With advance preparation and attention to these details everything will go smoothly and it will make you and your organization look more professional. Speakers are more likely to want to repeat and to tell others what a good experience it was where they are treated well.

Also check out Tony Avent’s more complete version, “Care and Feeding Of Speakers.”

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