Tips for inviting outside speakers
If you’re involved with a student organization, you may want to invite speakers unaffiliated with the university to your campus. These events can be exciting opportunities, but if planned hastily and with little consideration of others, they can push audiences away rather than drawing them in. It’s important to be thoughtful and intentional throughout the process.
What are you trying to get out of the speaking engagement? The chance to hear a particular thinker in person? A lively debate? A wider campus conversation? All can be valuable and interesting, but being able to articulate these goals will help you more effectively market, plan, and guide perceptions of the event.
Although you have a right to invite speakers of your choice, you should be aware of the impact that your invitation will have on the campus community. Choose your invitees and topics of conversation mindfully, and do your best to consider and anticipate possible reactions.
Especially if you want to invite a popular or controversial speaker, give yourself plenty of time (at least a month, ideally several) to plan the event.
Keep lines of communication open with the speaker and the university at all stages, from the invitation to planning to execution.
Make use of venues that require tickets or university identification to minimize the chance of disruption. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the university to change the venue if your expectations for the event change.
If you anticipate protests or dissent, make sure that the university and/or local law enforcement are in the loop so they can help the event go smoothly and keep everyone safe.
Your work doesn’t have to end when the speaker leaves campus. Especially if the event sparked controversy, you can take the opportunity to engage with your community to continue the conversation.