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How to Organize a Speaker Event in High School
Bringing in outside speakers for events at your high school can bring many benefits for you, your classmates, and even your teachers. However, making the event happen requires organization, work ethic, and numerous other skills. Read on to learn what it takes to organize a speaker event and pull it off without a hitch.
Why: reasons for bringing in a speaker
Events featuring outside speakers can be valuable experiences. Experts in different fields can offer specialized information on certain topics; for instance, a lawyer might come to your school to share lessons on his or her practice, which in turn could inspire students to look into the law profession.
Another option is bringing in someone with an interesting or inspiring life story. Perhaps someone in the community faced a particularly difficult experience and is willing to share it with your school. This can have a personal impact on listeners.
Additionally, a speaker on a contentious issue (moral, political, ethical, or otherwise) can provide a new and interesting perspective and challenge young people to form their own opinions on the issue at hand.
Finally, a well-known or in-demand speaker, such as a celebrity, politician, or other influential figure, could anchor a fundraising event for a club, group, or cause. (For more information on organizing a fundraiser, check out How to Plan and Execute an Effective Fundraising Event for a Club, Group, or Cause.)
Organizing a speaker event also demonstrates leadership on your part. As we discuss in Your Resume Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile, admissions committees want to see leadership, which demonstrates the sort of skills and maturity you could bring to their campus. Furthermore, bringing in a speaker shows that you are dedicated to a specific cause or niche. Leadership doesn’t just mean leading a club or activity; organizing an event that impacts the entire school demonstrates strong organizational skills and dedication as well.
How: setting up the event
Before you jump into setting up your event, make sure you take some important initial steps. Start by talking to school administrators and getting permission. You will need to work with them to ensure the event runs smoothly.
You also need to figure out funding. Depending on the type of speaker you are bringing in, their fees may range from free to very expensive. Even if the speaker isn’t charging you to speak at your school, there may still be other fees associated with the event, such as setup and any equipment you might need. Think about whether you will charge an entrance fee. Also consider your budget for advertising, fees to use the space, and any other materials you need. Figure out how you will raise money to cover your expenses, including the speaker. This is especially important if you are using the event as a fundraiser for a specific cause, since you will need to raise funds to cover your expenses in addition to the money you will be donating.
Who: choosing and approaching a speaker
So how do you find a speaker?
Ask for tips from clubs or the student government within your school—perhaps they have been working with a group or individual who might be an interesting speaker. Also ask for tips from other schools, clubs, and organizations in your area and community, who might be able to connect you with a potential speaker. Think about your school’s notable alumni, as well as relatives of current students; people who are affiliated with your school are more likely to be willing to do a favor for you. Finally, use your networks, search online, and use any other resources to find a speaker. For tips on networking, check out The Introvert’s Guide to Networking in High School.
Try to choose potential speakers who are appropriate for your location and budget. Otherwise, the speaker may expect you to cover their travel expenses, which could be costly. You should also do some research to find the speaker’s preferred contact information. Make sure you contact your speakers using their preferred contact method, whether it be email, letter, phone call, through their assistant or publicist, or another method.
Write a polite message explaining your event idea and requesting the speaker’s time, using formal and respectful language, and including their title, if relevant. (For instance, if the speaker has a medical degree, Ph.D., or other doctorate, address him or her as “Dr.”) Introduce yourself and describe the work your group or club does, and provide information about the event. Explain why you are inviting them to speak and the topic you would like them to cover. You should also mention who referred you. Be sure to provide your contact information and thank them for their time.
Be prepared for the speaker to say no or negotiate timing or fees, and have a backup plan just in case.
Where: finding a location
When searching for a location, keep your expected audience size in mind. You may want to send invitations and request an RSVP so you can better gauge how many people you are expecting.
You should also consider other potential needs, such as security concerns, disability access, interpretation, audiovisual equipment, and so on.
Consider what spaces are available at your school. Auditoriums or other large spaces are probably your best bet. If an auditorium isn’t available or not big enough, consider what is available in your community, such as public conference rooms, public libraries, recreation centers, and other spaces. If you want to use a community space, you will need to contact the correct representative and work out coordinating details with them.
More logistical and planning considerations
Speaker events don’t just require planning in terms of the event itself; you also need to figure out marketing and publicity for the event to make sure people know it’s happening. You’ll need to advertise the event and sell tickets, if you are charging for the event. For instance, you might make a Facebook event and invite friends, as well as use other forms of social media, such as Twitter and Instagram, to advertise it. You might also make posters to hang up around your school and public spaces, such as the local library. (If you want to display posters and flyers in other places, be sure to ask for permission and follow the correct protocol for doing so.)
You might also need staffing for the event itself, such as people to take tickets, watch the doors, accompany the speaker, and so on.
Additionally, have a plan in place for logistics after the event. Will someone cover the speaker event for the school newspaper? Will the club or group sponsoring and organizing the event meet to debrief and discuss how it went? Who will write thank-you notes? (Don’t forget that crucial last step; you should thank the speaker and anyone else who helped make the event happen, such as the owners of the space you use, for their time in writing.)
For more information
Planning a speaker event requires some work and planning, but it will be well worth the effort if you pull it off successfully. It can have a tremendous impact on your classmates and community—and yourself!
For more tips on successfully running an event or leadership in high school, check out some of CollegeVine’s posts below:
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills. The ultimate goal is for college admissions to just be the next step in series of successes driven by the student.