What to do when YOU are invited to speak

imprrh@gmail.com —  April 21, 2014

I was invited to speak for a camp meeting.  It turned out to be an unforgettable experience.   The person who picked me up introduced himself as the transportation coordinator.  He showed up with a Toyota Yaris.  After traveling for 8 hours on the plane I was starving.  He said that we had to wait another 2 hours at the airport to pick up another presenter.  After my insistence he took me to Subway at the food court in the mall.  While I was ordering he went to the bathroom and timed his return right after I paid for the meal.  After the 2 hours passed we traveled to the camp meeting location without a GPS.  He got lost and ended up in a different state.  After 5 hours in the car we finally arrived.  I asked the person who had invited me when I was scheduled to speak to the youth.  He called another person and asked him the same question.  The other person replied, “He’s not in the program”.

I was lucky.  The other couple the transportation coordinator picked up, had it even worse.  He stopped on the side of the road to relieve himself. He got back in the car without washing his hands when a police cruiser drove u.  He proceeded to drop them off at the wrong hotel.  They had flown all night long.  I believe most of these mishaps could be avoided if you follow the following suggestions.

When you’re invited (Downloadable “Invitation Information Check sheet” available here)



1.       Be intentional

  • Ask what the purpose of the event is and the audience you will be speaking to.
  • Ask how many times you will be presenting and how much time you will have for each presentation.
  • Specify what your AV needs are.
  • If you plan on using handouts be clear as to who will be making the copies of those handouts.
  • If you plan on selling any of your materials let them know and ask them to share what their policy is on that.
  • Ask for a poster/promo and schedule for the event as early as possible.
  • Ask the host three important questions.

1. What do you hope to accomplish through this event?

2. What information or background can you share with me that will help me in preparing my material?

3. What action steps do you want people to take as a result of this event?

  • Prayerfully tailor your information and tweak your PowerPoint so it reflects the event you’re a part of.

2.       Be flexible

  • You’re not the queen of England or the king of Pop.  Things don’t always happen the way we draw them out.  Don’t be a Diva.  Be understanding and humble.
  • The moment to express your displeasure and evaluate the activity is not while the activity is going on.  The host doesn’t need added pressure to what already is a difficult situation.

3.       Be sensitive

  • Nobody likes a speaker that leaves a mess when they’re gone.  Different churches have different styles.  Do your job in a professional way and be sensitive about the local expectations, needs and present struggles.
  • Ask what the dress code is.
  • Be careful not to use your platform to fill your own personal agenda or vendetta.
  • If they allow you to make your own travel arrangements (ex. Flight, hotel, etc…) ask them what their budget is.  Be reasonable as you set up your travel plans.  Please keep all receipts and give those to them for reimbursement purposes.

4.       Be clear

  • If the host doesn’t mention it, ask them to inform you of what they will financially cover.    Including the specific amount of the honorarium, airfare, hotel, per diem and car rental they have budgeted for.  Some speakers have a specific honorarium amount and some don’t.  Whatever you do be clear on the expectations.
  • Please submit all receipts as early as possible and request reimbursement before the event is over.

5.       Be thankful

  • Both publically and privately thank the host for his kindness and highlight specific positive things that happened during your time together.
  • Write a short email to the direct supervisor of the person who invited you highlighting a specific strong area of the event.  Copy your host.
  • If they ask you for an evaluation use the sandwich method.  Start out by mentioning something positive, continue with something that could improve and end with something positive.

Being invited is an honor and a privilege.   Whenever your opportunity comes give your best and do your best.  Any other ideas or thoughts that I missed write them in the comment section.


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6 responses to What to do when YOU are invited to speak

  1. Great and timely article!! I’ve been asked to speak for an event and you got me thinking. Question: Do you prefer to give out the checklist and have people get the rental car and airplane tickets and such for you or do you prefer to do it yourself?

    • imprrh@gmail.com July 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm

      after many nightmares, i preffer to do it myself, unless i trust the person to follow instructions and look out for me, (which is not often)

  2. José Javier Colón July 11, 2013 at 4:36 am

    En un país cuyo nombre no voy a mencionar nos fueron a buscar a un aereopuerto. El joven nos vio y como eramos muchos nos dijo que llegaramos a una ciudad que estaba a seis horas nen transporte público. Estuvimos alrededor de un día de viaje más 12 horas adicionales entre aereopuerto y llegada. Cuando lo logramos, tuvimos que quedarnos en un hotel porque el anfitrión no nos contestó el teléfono. Tuvimos que llamar al otro día a nuestra unión, para poder hacer el contacto y sólo así después de 10 horas adicionales pudimos llegar a nuestro compromiso para cantar de inmediato. Ahora me río,pero fui yo quien coordinó con el anfitrión y los muchachos me querían matar!!!

  3. …on the other hand, these adventures make great blog posts!

  4. We were invited to speak for a large gathering — over three thousand people. Sabbath morning, when the service was over, everybody scattered to have lunch on their own and we were left there, by ourselves, waiting and wondering what to do. Finally one of the pastors must have seen our confusion and asked us if we had any plans for lunch. When we told him we were not sure, he said, “well, you’re welcome to come to our hotel room. . . we can split our sandwich with you.” So, plan for the guest’s meals, particularly on Sabbath. 🙂