July 20, 2015—I give many presentations at various places. I always appreciate the invitation to give a presentation about things of mutual interest, but I sometimes am frustrated on those occasions when I find myself having to think about my presentation while having to deal with inconveniences or obstacles to delivering a good session. Here are some suggestions from a weary presenter about how to be a good speaker’s host:
- Work out logistic arrangements ahead of time so your speaker knows what to expect. (I’ve shown up for presentations where there was no projection equipment, even after I was promised there would be one available). Only two places have ever sent me an in-house checklist form for room setup and equipment needs. At a recent gig, I traveled by taxi from the airport to the site with no information about where to check in or about my room accommodations for the night before the event. It took almost an hour of wandering around a large campus to find the check-in desk.
- Work out the agreement about fees and travel and mileage reimbursement ahead of time. Be mindful that a presentation requires more prep time than the presentation contact hour, and, travel takes time away from your speaker’s day job and is wear and tear on the body. Make it worth your speaker’s time and effort, and you’ll likely get a better return on your investment.
- Mail, or e-mail, a confirmation to your speaker with topic, date, fee agreement, and details of the event (like the program schedule), etc. If you create a brochure for the event send a copy to the speaker.
- If your speaker sends handouts masters for duplication, double check that they have been duplicated in time for the event (three times I’ve shown up and no handouts were ready. On one of those occasions the files were still in the computer of the host—unopened).
- If your speaker sends handouts masters for duplication, be sure to follow instructions (if he or she requests double-sided handout copies, then copy them double-sided. If the handouts have pagination, make sure the handouts are in numerical order.).
- Provide water for your speaker at the event.
- Don’t ask your speakers to do something in one hour. It takes 90 minutes for a good presentation. Any less than an hour is not much more than “filler” or entertainment. An hour after the event for which you paid good money, most of your attendants will have forgotten what was said.
- If you give a speaker a time slot for the presentation, then give them the FULL time slot for the presentation. I continue to show up at places having planned for a 90 minute presentation only to have to sit through 10 to 15 minutes of announcements, mini-talks, business meetings, and rambling housekeeping information. During that time I’m mentally thinking about what I’ll need to cut from the presentation.
- Don’t plan anything for before your speaker’s presentation. I’ve had to sit through devotionals, “worship” events, singing, and even another presentation that (1) had nothing to do with what I was asked to present, and (2) inevitably spilled over into my presentation time.
- Keep your introductions short. Your speaker needs all the time he or she can get.
- If your speaker brings books or products to sell at the event (with your permission, of course) assign someone to handle the sales table. It’s impossible for a speaker to be attentive to people who come up for questions after the presentation and handle the sales table at the same time.
Treat your guest speakers with a little bit of consideration and word will get around that you are a good host. Even “low maintenance” presenters appreciate a little consideration and thoughtful gestures. It only takes one bad notice from another speaker to give me pause about accepting an invitation to a place with a poor reputation for hospitality.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary. Formerly, he was Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer and Don Reagan.