Are you Maximizing your Programming Dollars?

by Mike Dilbeck and Rick Barnes

As you consider hiring a speaker to come to your campus, you may be confronted by the limited resources available from your budget. You may also wonder if the speaker’s program is going to be worth the investment and if real change will be made with your students and on your campus.

Here are some questions to ask: Are you maximizing the dollars you spend to bring this program? Are you making sure that ongoing programming is in place to keep the conversation alive after a speaker leaves? Are you making sure that the program you bring is effective enough that students are even interested in keeping the conversation alive and causing real change?

We are committed to supporting you getting the most out of the dollars you invest in educational programming. To do so, the first critical thing to understand is that you must make sure that the entire process is effective — the before, during, and after of a program. Therefore, we want to present here a list of 15 “best practices” for having a speaker on campus.

Stage 1: Pre-Production
1. Venue: the perfect venue is not always the one that will simply seat the most people. Rather than having a bad venue that will seat everyone in one sitting—consider another smaller, yet more appropriate venue, and ask the speaker to do two programs.

2. Lighting: Make sure the speaker is well lit and that audience members, no matter their seat, can see him/her. If the speaker is using a visual presentation, make sure lighting does not “blow out” the screen.

3. AV: Make sure projector/screen combination is appropriate for the size of venue and audience—high-quality projectors are needed for large-screen projection (the projector in your office probably won’t cut it).

4. Promotion: As great as your students are, do not assume they will just show up, especially if the topic is a challenging one. Go overboard in your promotion efforts! If you have a budget, spend money on promotional pieces that get attention.

5. Attendance: Think strategically about whether attendance will be voluntary, incentivized, or mandatory. All of these have pros/cons to them—think from your intention and the dynamic you want to create.

Stage 2: Production
1. Participant Arrival: If the event is “mandatory” for any participants it is highly recommended that you check them OUT rather than checking then IN. You always want the program to start as close to on time as possible.

2. Introduction: Feel free to alter an introduction you receive to best meet your audience. You always want the right person doing the introduction and that is not always the person with the right title. In other words, this person should be comfortable behind a microphone, high energy and willing to speak before the entire audience.

3. Program: If you have secured a professional speaker for your event, the program itself should be the easiest part of your event. The speaker should handle everything regarding this part of the Production. But be prepared for the unusual: power outage, microphone problems, AV issues, etc.

4. Closing: Talk to the speaker about the closing of the event, but you should always be the opening and the closing. Some speakers may provide opportunities for Q&A following the event. If so, be prepared with microphones, etc.

5. Announcements: Talk to the speaker prior to the event to determine the best time for any announcements, other guests, etc. These are best handled prior to the speaker. If these will take too much time they should go after the speaker. An event that starts late always reflects negatively on the speaker.

Stage 3: Post-Production
1. Conclusion: Once the speaker concludes, the audience is now yours—refer to #5 in Stage 2 above. This is an excellent time to offer a challenge regarding the overall topic, make announcements about upcoming programs and events, etc.

2. Product Offerings: Many speakers offer products to support their message (books, video, etc). Talk to your speaker about these things as there may be a way to continue the message of the event well after the departure of the speaker.

3. Post-Event Evaluation: It is sometimes appropriate to offer a formal evaluation of the event. There are many electronic services that can help make this process easy and useful to you as the program host. Some speakers may be able to help you, as well.

4. Call to Action: Many programs wrap up with a “call to action”—a request for action that is shared by the speaker. If your speaker makes such a request, be sure to follow-up and make sure your participants know how/what/when they should take such action.

5. Carry Forward: Most programs you bring to campus can be carried forward to other programs/events you may be offering. If possible, carry the message forward so participants may further their understanding of the topic, even through Twitter, Facebook, print pieces, etc.

We hope we have provided you some important things to think about as you make the most of your educational programming and the money you spend. And, we have more! We have delivered this program at several conferences and have an hour of information available for you. If you would like more tips and best practices, feel free to reach out to us at the email addresses below.

Finally, thank you for the opportunities you provide to make such a difference for you and your students—we are honored to serve!

Mike Dilbeck—one of the leading speakers and experts on Bystand Behavior.