You are in the early stages of planning a health literacy conference, training session, or special meeting. You are thinking about inviting an outside speaker who can add something extra to your program. Before extending a formal invitation, it helps to have a sense of how you and the speaker might work together. Here are some questions to consider.
- What is the goal of your event? Is it to introduce newcomers to health literacy? Teach a skill? Gain support for a new program or initiative? Celebrate success and honor excellence? Or brainstorm what’s needed and next? The speaker’s expertise and presentation style should support one or more of your identified goals. But please be realistic, as one speaker alone can nearly never accomplish everything on your wish list.
- What is something extra that this speaker can bring? Do you want a recognized expert who brings an outside voice and adds credibility? An everyday person who will share experiences about struggling to understand health information? A speaker similar to your audience who can talk convincingly about challenges and lessons learned? Or do you want someone to inspire the audience with a compelling story or dramatic flair? Beyond basic facts, find out what else the speaker can bring to this program that is useful, unique, and inspirational.
- How can you assess if the speaker will be a good match for your meeting? Find out if someone you know has heard this speaker in person. If so, what makes the speaker good? If not, does the speaker have a video you can watch or podcast to listen to? That’s a great way to sample his or her presentation style. Some conference planners find potential speakers by listening to my Health Literacy Out Loud podcasts.
- How can you collaborate with the speaker? While an outside speaker of course brings subject matter expertise, is he or she also willing to adapt information for your program? For instance, does your audience learn best by formal presentations, small group activities, or a facilitated discussion? In my many years as a health literacy speaker, I always plan presentations collaboratively with the person who invited me. Everyone benefits that way.
- What about fees, time, and other business basics? Admittedly, this can be the least fun and most awkward part of your conversation with a potential speaker. But it’s essential that you both understand and agree to business basics. Talk frankly about the speaker’s fee (if any), travel reimbursement, time commitments, and requests for additional services. Beyond the program itself, when onsite I always like getting together informally with the meeting planner and perhaps the committee. After all, we’ve worked hard to create a great health literacy program.