Program Host and Program Coordinator Best Practices
Plan ahead. Speaker schedules tend to fill months, if not years, in advance.
Schedule sufficient time for a presentation. Few topics can be covered reasonably in less than 45 minutes, with another 15 minutes for questions and answers. Demonstrations and workshops often take longer.
Don’t make your speaker to wait more than 20 minutes to give their talk. Schedule any business portion of your gathering for after the presentation. If business must come first, schedule a long break after the business meeting so your speaker can arrive later and set up without rushing.
Expect to compensate your speakers appropriately. Although a talk may take an hour, many more hours go into preparation and travel even for local speakers.
Most experienced speakers have set fees. If the fee is more than your group can afford, you might find another group to share the cost, but first be sure your speaker is comfortable with that arrangement.
Some speakers require a non-refundable deposit or a cancellation fee.
If you are hosting a speaker for your company or business, treat the speaker as you would any other professional consultant and expect to compensate him or her commensurately.
Most speakers have a list of talks for you to choose from. Consider which of those talks would best fit the interests and knowledge level of your group. Make sure the speaker has that information, too. A good speaker will adjust a topic to fit your group.
If you have a particular topic in mind, tell the speaker. They may have a talk they can readily adapt. Or, they may be willing to create a custom talk. Keep in mind, however, that it takes many hours to put a talk together, so they may decline or ask for an additional fee for a custom talk.
Room Setup and Equipment
These days, nearly every speaker uses a computer for their presentation – unless they are doing a demonstration. If your group or organization hosts speakers on a regular basis and you don’t have a good quality digital projector and a large screen, it is high time to make that investment.
In addition, ask your speaker if they need:
- A podium
- A laptop
- A microphone (lavaliere not hand-held).
- Tables for a demonstration or display. If so, how many?
- Plastic tablecloths, broom, dustpan and other items for a demonstration or workshop
If you prefer speakers to make their own handouts, let them know how many copies to bring and how you will reimburse them for the cost.
If you prefer to make the copies, tell the speaker when you’ll need the master in hand, and ask about special directions for making the copies (two sided, separate sheets, etc.).
Books and Other Items to Sell
If your speaker has books or other item, agree who will order the items and who will sell them. If your speaker orders and sells them, he or she will usually bring them. If your organization orders and sells them, you will need the distributor’s contact information. Order several months in advance.
If your meeting is open to the public, the speaker will expect you to promote the event.
Be sure to discuss promotion with the speaker. Have a plan for what your organization’s promotions. Be clear about how the speaker will promote their talk.
Your promotion might include:
- Posting the talk on your organization’s website
- Sending press releases to local media (newspaper, radio, TV, etc) at least a month in advance
- Sending press releases to local garden clubs, horticultural societies, plant organizations, etc. Most of these organizations publish information on a monthly or yearly basis. Inquire about their publishing deadlines
- Posting on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter
- Facilitating interviews with local media outlets
The speaker’s promotion will be similar but targeted at their contacts.
- A speaker is a guest. Treat him or her as you would any other guest.
- If your speaker travels more than 30 minutes to reach your venue, he or she should be compensated for travel costs, mileage and/or food and lodging
- For overnight accommodations, some speakers are comfortable staying in someone’s home and while others prefer a hotel and dining out. Be flexible with the options
- Out of town speakers might be interested in visiting gardens or other sight seeing while in your area. Best practice is to offer to make arrangements and have someone accompany the speaker
- Find out as much as you can to make the speaker comfortable. The better the speaker is treated, the better the presentation -- by a wide margin
Put it in writing
Once arrangements are finalized, provide speakers with a friendly letter of agreement that summarizes your expectations and theirs. It needn’t be elaborate, and you can set up a template ahead of time.
Your letter might include:
- Date of the talk
- Title of talk
- When the speaker will be paid
- Cancellation fee (optional)
- Non-refundable deposit (optional)
- Talk location and directions
- Travel and accommodation arrangements – as detailed as possible
- Time and duration of the presentation
- Arrival time
- Technology needs
- Other equipment needs
- Agreements regarding books and/or other items to be sold
- PR arrangements
- An itinerary of the speaker’s obligations, additional appearances, etc. as necessary
- Host contact information beforehand and on the day of the talk
A month ahead of time
Contact the speaker to check in and review arrangements
Ask the speaker for a bio. Share it with the person who will be giving their introduction. That person should review the bio promptly, prepare a brief but effective introduction, and discuss it with the speaker ahead of time.
On the day of the talk
- Arrive early to be sure the room is set up as agreed
- Set up and test the microphone, projector, etc. Make sure someone in attendance knows exactly how to operate them
- Reserve a parking spot near the door for your speaker
- If someone is transporting the speaker, be sure they give the speaker enough time to set up without rushing
- Have someone help the speaker unload and setup at the beginning, take down and load at the end. This is especially important if your speaker is bringing plants, books, and/or technology for their talk
- If the speaker is handling sales, provide a trusted individual to collect payments so the speaker can interact with the audience members and sign books
- Provide water for the speaker’s podium
- Help your speaker stay on schedule – agree on a signal to let them know when they are nearing the end of their allotted time
- Help keep the audience on time. Start the talk when it is supposed to start, help end the presentation graciously at end of question and answer time
- Have the speaker’s payment ready at the end of the talk
- Collect speaker’s receipts for reimbursement and reimburse promptly
- Send a thank you note to your speaker
- Visit GreatGardenSpeakers.com and rate the speaker so others know how wonderful they were!
- Wait until the last minute to fill your speaking schedule
- Expect the speaker to cover any of the costs related to their talk
- Ask for additional talks after you have agreed to a price
- Forget to promote the talk or put it off until the last moment
- Cancel at the last minute. If you do cancel, expect to pay for any costs the speaker has already incurred i.e. plane tickets, etc. Many speakers also ask for a non-refundable deposit or a cancellation fee
- Overschedule a visiting speaker’s time. Speakers do their best job when well rested, well fed, and prepared before their talk
- Schedule a projected presentation in a room that cannot be darkened
- Schedule a projected presentation outside in a tent!
- Forget to order books or other items that your group is supposed to sell
- Forget to make handouts
- Expect the speaker to set up technology or equipment that you provide
- Ask the speaker to give his or her own introduction
Please do feel free to contact us using the form on this page if you'd like to suggest an addition to our Best Practices!
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