How to Be a Great Guest Speaker

If you're high-maintenance, boring, or irrelevant, you may not be invited back. Here are 4 tips on being a great guest speaker.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #103

Guest Speaking Tip #2: Learn About The Organization and Event

The key to being a successful guest speaker is to deliver a message that resonates with the audience AND be easy to work with.

Next, find out from your contact what the norms are for speaking engagements like this one. Will the audience members expect handouts or access to the slides? Will the audience be tweeting during your presentation? How much time to they want you to speak?  How interactive do they want the presentation? Is there usually a separate Q&A session? What’s the best way for you to share your contact information and bio with every audience member?

Find out who and what was presented in the past. Find out what has worked and what has not. Ask what would be considered an ideal outcome. Ask about the room set up and if necessary, request a set up that works best for you and your topic. Don’t assume anything. Ask.

Send an email CONFIRMING all the final details: your time slot, the amount of interactivity, parking lot, building, room, floor, start time, end time, etc. Everything, in writing. It prevents problems.

Guest Speaking Tip #3: Communicate You’re A/V Needs In Advance

The next step is to let your contact know what your A/V needs are as far in advance as possible, and request only what is necessary. Avoid last minute surprises, as they often can’t be accommodated--and they turn you into that speaker.

Always use a microphone. Request a wireless microphone as your first choice; that way you won’t be tied to lectern and it will save your voice. (Just be aware that one is not always available.) If you need an Internet connection, request a direct connection, as the connection speed is generally faster. Finally, bring your own slide advancer.  I recommend one with the vibrating timer. That way you will be comfortable advancing the slides and you’ll have an external reminder of when you need to wrap up. 

Be sure to confirm your A/V the day before. If possible, communicate directly with the A/V person--especially if you have requested anything unusual in your set up; many times special requests do not get communicated properly, but can be accommodated if given proper advance notice. 

Guest Speaking Tip #4: Allow Extra Travel Time

Allow extra time in travel to arrive at the meeting location, especially if you have never been there before. Some things to keep in mind: Is there construction along your route? When is rush hour and how much more time will it likely add to your trip? Do you know how to get in and out of the parking lot? How far is it from the exterior doors to your meeting room? Never trust your GPS 100% to get you to a new location. Oh, and try to pick a flight that has at least one more flight after the one you’re booked on. 
We’ll pick up from here in the next installment

However, in the meantime, I started a discussion on the Facebook Page.  I’d love to hear your tips for being an effective guest speaker.

This is The Public Speaker, Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.

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Interested in co-writing an episode with me? Send me a sample of your writing.

If you have a question, send email to publicspeaker@quickanddirtytips.com. For information about keynote speeches or workshops, visit lisabmarshall.com.

Man Giving Presentation image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.