Tips for Planning and Running a Successful Speakers Event
Contact the Speaker First:
You must contact the Speaker before applying for funding.
Browse our Speakers Bureau for a lecture topic that suits your programming plans and
your audience's tastes. To schedule a lecture, contact the Speaker directly via their
contact information provided online. Be sure to describe your organizations' past public
programming efforts, your the typical audience, and their probable level of knowledge
about the proposed topic to give the Speaker an idea of what they might expect.
Schedule the event for the convenience of all involved.
Choose an appropriate date for the lecture based on the Speaker’s schedule and your
calendar. Also take into consideration the weather, the community calendar, religious
affairs, major events like the Super Bowl, and all holidays. These factors affect
attendance beyond the scope of your publicity.
Start your publicity efforts early.
Developing audiences, both in terms of quantity and quality, takes a great deal of work.
Begin at least two months in advance of the event date to give people time to hear about
and plan to attend the program. Some of the steps you can take to promote your event
1. Writing a good press release. Be sure to use the press release for your Speaker
available on their contact information webpage. (We also include a printed
version in your award packet.)
2. Compiling a list of local and regional press contacts. This will be handy for
publicizing your Speakers event, as well as other programming, in the community
at large. Include local papers, NPR radio station contacts, community journals
and event centers, online discussion forums and journals, as well as larger
newspapers that cover your area.
3. Creating publicity materials geared towards the general public that are bold and
informative. Posters can be duplicated and put up in grocery stores or community
centers around town. Use an unusual color for your flyers or postcards so they
4. Contacting your Speaker, or the Council at firstname.lastname@example.org, for
images related to the Speaker and/or their lecture topic to make your flyer attracts
attention. These can also be used with press releases for better coverage.
5. Finding the right audience for your programming. Tailor your publicity efforts to
reach members of the community for whom the lecture topic is of interest. Look
for local interest groups that can relate to your chosen lecture topic; churches will
sometimes place announcements in newsletters or bulletins; service clubs,
educational and teachers groups, AAUW, Rotary, Kiwanis, and other groups can
provide audience members and often are willing to promote the event their
newsletter. Extend publicity to your neighboring SUNY, CUNY, university
and/or college, where there is bound to be interest.
6. Go beyond the publicity materials supplied in your award packet. Postcards,
brochures, and bookmarks are all good ways to publicize your event.
7. Radio stations often look for local stories and would welcome the opportunity to
promote the program in public service announcements, and/or through interviews
with you and/or your Speaker on a talk show.
8. Be sure to credit the lecture in every publicity effort and publication as
"sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities, Speakers in the
Tips for publicizing your Speakers event online:
An email blast or e-newsletter is a quick and effective means of spreading the
word about your upcoming event. Make sure to include all pertinent event
information, such as date, time, venue and a brief lecture description.
Provide a link on your organization’s website to your Speakers event listing on
the Council’s webpage, visit: www.nyhumanities.org/events.
Post Speakers event information to online sources that relate to the lecture content
via blogs, discussion forums, e-bulletin boards, and local online publications. To
share information, explore websites such as: www.meet-up.com,
Ask the Speaker if they have a personal website they would like to advertise the
event on or even provide a link to their webpage through your outreach efforts.
Visit our tips page on the Council’s website:
Often the most effective publicity is word of mouth.
Successful program coordinators say that personal invitations and word of mouth are the
most effective ways to attract and retain audience members. Your personal touch is
perhaps even more important than press; these are some ways to personalize your
1. Personally encourage and invite people, from a variety of age groups and
occupations, to join the lecture and post-discussion. Invite new people in the
community to attend and tell others; this is an excellent way to get acquainted and
draw a crowd.
2. Try to attract people who represent a wide range of viewpoints. Encourage
segments of your community and the surrounding areas who might not otherwise
come. These efforts will make discussions more dynamic!
3. Local coordinator duties can be rotated, like calling participants or making
refreshments. Volunteers often enjoy tasks that can make them feel a greater
ownership to the program.
Ironing out the details.
After your initial contact with the Speaker, it is good to get in touch with them at least
once more before the event. Take this opportunity to discuss the following:
1. Ensure the venue’s features and technology, such as the size of the room,
podiums, microphones, etc. meet the Speakers expectations.
2. Offer additional travel advice or directions. Be sure the Speaker is confident
about their plans and how to get to your organization.
3. Discuss what information you can use to briefly introduce the Speaker at the
4. Create a timeline of the event; note your introduction, the duration of the lecture
and the Q & A. Be sure to discuss how the Speaker prefers facilitation of the
discussion to take place. One way to get the discussion moving is to prepare at
least one question beforehand to pose to your Speaker, and foster audience
participation in the discussion.
5. Be sure to let the Speaker know the kind of audience to expect and the level of
knowledge the audience may have about the topic to be presented.
Refreshments are crowd-pleasers.
Providing food at your event will be an extra draw. In some cases, recipes related to the
topic can be incorporated; inquire with local restaurants and caterers about sponsoring
and/or donating the refreshments for your event. This gesture could then be highlighted in
your publicity materials.
On the day of your event
Here are several things to keep in mind:
1. Arrive early enough to check the site. Have the Speaker arrive early enough for a
last minute briefing.
2. Check the sound equipment to make sure it works properly and everyone can
3. Make sure the room is ready with chairs and/or a refreshment center with
beverages, food & napkins.
4. Greet people as they come to the program.
5. Prominently display a New York Council for the Humanities poster and announce
Council support when you introduce the Speaker (this is required!).
6. Arrange to have photographs taken of the event—a good photo image can help
your future publicity efforts.
7. Begin and end on time. Leave the participants wanting more, but not feeling
cheated. Encourage them to attend future programs.
Help participants make use of what they learn from the Speaker by encouraging attendees
to ask questions after the presentation. Be sure to end by thanking both the Speaker and
the audience members for their participation.
Be sure to take note of audience reactions to the lecture and participation in the post-
lecture discussion. Better still, record their comments formally by providing evaluation
forms at the venue for them to fill out. Be sure to include a section on how they heard
about the event to see which of your publicity methods worked best. These comments are
invaluable to our Speakers, and for your future programming.
Submit a host evaluation form to the Council.
We require you to submit a Sponsor Evaluation Form for each awarded Speakers event
within three weeks from the event date. Use this as an opportunity to review and record
your reactions to the lecture topic, the Speaker, your venue, and the audience's reactions
to help gauge the success of the event. These evaluations are a great resource for the
Council, and your organization.