Inviting a guest speaker to your classroom can be a powerful and memorable experience for your students. Unique perspectives and expertise shared by an outside professional can be very motivating for students as they consider their own academic goals and career paths. Hearing from someone in the community can help to reinforce course material in a real-world context and deliver a renewed sense of relevance to the class (Leboff). Guest speakers also have the potential to challenge stereotypes that may exist in a particular field. Bringing in diverse role models that students can relate to helps to make your course more inclusive and builds community both inside and outside the classroom.
The following is a list of considerations for instructors when inviting a guest speaker to a classroom:
Prepare students ahead of the speaker’s visit:
- Let students know why you are inviting this particular guest.
- Ask students to research the speaker’s background: review personal websites, read articles, review book chapters written by this person, etc.
- Ask students to prepare 2-3 discussion questions for the guest. Students could submit these questions to you for review.
Give the speaker plenty of context:
- Discuss with the speaker how the presentation fits into the course. What are the objectives of the course or this specific unit? What happens after this presentation?
- Make sure the speaker knows who to expect in the audience. Is this an introductory course or more advanced? How many students will be in attendance?
Consider the format:
- Discuss with the speaker their presentation style. Some may come prepared with a formal presentation, including slides, while others prefer to use a less formal ‘fireside chat’ or ‘Q and A’ format (Leboff). Another possibility is for one or more students to interview the speaker.
- Ask the speaker if they have any specific technology needs for the presentation.
Follow up with students after the visit:
- Facilitate a class discussion (in person or online) where students are able share their thoughts about the presentation. Provide guiding questions to help prompt students.
- Turn the follow-up activity into an assignment:
- Prepare a written reflection on the speaker’s presentation, how it relates to course topics, ideas they agreed or disagreed with, etc.
- Debrief about the presentation in small groups and then report out to the whole class.
- If there are multiple speakers during the semester, ask students to select the speaker who had the greatest impact on them and write an essay explaining why; or have students compare and contrast two different speakers.
- If the speaker is widely published, have students critique an article written by this person.
- Write a thank-you note or email to the speaker.
We’ve heard from some instructors that it can be challenging to find guest speakers with little or no funding. One suggestion is to start with your own network of peers such as colleagues at your institution or nearby institutions. Reach out to your contacts from LinkedIn or other professional networks. Former students who are now “in the field” could be another possibility. Another group not to be overlooked is local business owners or other community members who often appreciate the opportunity to speak to students. If you are struggling to find a speaker, two sites that may be worth looking into are SpeakerHub and Pathful (Shane).
Do you have any additional tips to share about hosting guest speakers? Please feel free to share them in the comments.
Amy Brusini, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation
Image Source: Pixabay
Lebhoff, D. (2019, November 22). Making the Most of Guest Speakers in the Classroom. Top Hat. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from https://tophat.com/blog/making-the-most-of-guest-speakers-in-the-classroom/
Shane, S. (2022, March 22). Leveraging Guest Speakers to Increase Student Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from https://www.edutopia.org/article/leveraging-guest-speakers-increase-student-learning/