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Tips for working with guest speakerscomment (0)

May 4, 2006

By Betty Baggott

A pastor friend reminded me that several years ago, I wrote on “How to treat a speaker” and suggested I do it again. This is a subject any meeting planner, including me, needs to think about when arranging a program. After more than 20-plus years of speaking in churches, let me share some observations — even though it may mean I receive a lot fewer invitations.

1. Unless it is an emergency, do not wait until the last minute to extend the invitation. Most people who are speakers plan ahead.

2. Follow up with a letter if the invitation is extended by phone. Touch base again as the event draws closer.

3. Don’t play “hide-and-seek” with the invited guest. Once the guest arrives have someone at the door to greet him or her. If you are busy with other details, assign a host or hostess to keep the speaker company.

And even though it settles your nerves and keeps you from worrying as to whether he or she is going to show up, don’t give the speaker a time to arrive that warrants standing around for some 30 minutes or more. It wears one out to greet and share “memories” of days gone by. There is ample time to thank the speaker and give a handshake afterward.

4. Don’t make your speaker stand in line to get his or her plate. Suggest the speaker go first. This way he or she can eat and be ready to speak.

5. Don’t cause your speaker to choke on the food as he or she tries to give you introductory material that you failed to get ahead of time.

Likewise if you have gotten a biography, use some of it. Pertinent facts about that individual will make the audience more receptive to what is said. Then be sure that you do not take too much of the speaker’s allotted time with a long introduction.

6. Don’t cram so many things on the program that the speaker must give a 30-minute speech in five minutes.

7. Don’t remind the speaker that you tried three other people but they were all tied up that night.

8. Don’t try to get someone for nothing. Some churches and organizations are bad about not wanting to pay people for their services. There is no greater honor than to speak for the Lord but remember gas is expensive. Many times, a baby sitter has to be paid if both spouses attend. A single woman is self-supporting and cannot afford to go in the hole to drive many miles to speak. The time it takes to prepare and the time away from family is deserving of the appropriate honorarium. Some churches cannot afford to pay, and any consecrated speaker will help these churches out and appreciate being invited. Churches need to be fair and generous. Some are and some are not.

9. After the occasion, write the speaker a thank-you note. Let the person know his or her talk was effective.

I recently received a note from Teresa Denney, head of the women’s ministry at Josephine Baptist Church, Elberta. Her kind words about my presentation at their “Tea party” luncheon reminded me of the honor speakers have to lift the name of our Lord and share what He has done in their lives. So many times, speakers pour out their hearts and never hear a word of reaction or appreciation. 

10. Challenge your members to pray for the upcoming event. Prayer goes a long way in preparing the heart of the speaker and those attending.

What I am talking about is common, Christian courtesy. Thank God for the many churches that practice it.

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