Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Instructional Methods > Guest Speakers

Guest Speakers

Man using computer for video conference

In College Made Whole: Integrative Learning for a Divided World (2019), Chris W. Gallagher argues it’s the responsibility of instructors and institutions to regularly incorporate opportunities for students to connect and synthesize their learning. As Gallagher describes, one way to help students connect and synthesize their knowledge is by inviting professionals to discuss the application of concepts and skills in the course or program (69-70, 118-119). 

In Zoom+ and Trimodal classrooms, you can easily invite guest speakers by sharing your class Zoom meeting link and inviting your guest speaker to give a presentation, engage with students in a Q&A session, or facilitate other learning activities. The strategies below will help students feel connected with guest speakers and prepare guest speakers for interaction with students.

Preparing for a Guest Speaker

To prevent possible misunderstandings and ensure your guest speaker shows up at the right place and time, consider the following tips:

  • Make sure to specify the time zone for the meeting when sharing the meeting link.  
  • Consider creating a calendar appointment and sending it to your guest speaker to ensure their schedule is blocked and they receive automated reminders as they would with other appointments.
  • Resend the meeting link the morning of the session so it's easily accessible.
  • Make sure your guest speaker has permission to screen share during the meeting if needed. 

To make the best possible use of your guest speaker's time, you'll want to identify specific goals and activities in advance. Examples include

  • Discussing how concepts from the course apply to the guest speaker's day-to-day work to help students make connections between theory and practice.
  • Presenting case studies and helping students develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Discussing a specific role or event from their career history and helping students reflect on their own career goals and concerns.

Sharing this type of information with students and your guest speaker will help ensure everyone is better prepared to make the most of the meeting. You may also find it helpful to share a a copy of your course syllabus with the speaker so they better understand the focus of your course as they prepare for the meeting. 

Provide background information on the guest speaker. 

Provide a biography statement or samples of work/information on the guest speaker so students are more familiar with their work or stance on the concepts at hand. This could include

  • Articles written by or about the guest speaker
  • Links to prior talks/interviews
  • A link to their employer's website
  • A link to their LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed, or other social media accounts.

Have students prepare questions ahead of time.

Allow students to post questions in D2L prior to the speaking date. Work with students to refine their questions for clarity or to highlight course concepts. There are several tools you can use to help students share their questions. 

  • Create a Google Doc and share the link with students. (Make sure the link has Editor permissions enabled.) One advantage to using a Google Doc to gather questions is that you can easily share a link to the document with your guest speaker so they can review the questions in advance and post comments if they wish.
  • Create a D2L Discussion Topic for speaker questions. Keeping questions in D2L can simplify things if you'd rather not introduce students to yet another tool/space for class activities. However, keep in mind that if you'd like your guest speaker to be able to view your students' discussion posts, you'll need to enroll the guest speaker in your D2L course, which requires advanced planning. If you use a D2L discussion board to solicit questions, consider enabling anonymous posts if you think this might encourage students to ask questions they might feel intimidated to ask publicly or bring up topics they might be embarrassed to admit they don't fully understand.
  • Create a poll using Poll Everywhere to post questions. One advantage of this approach is that students can easily "upvote" the questions they like best. While this is also possible in D2L, some students may not find the process as intuitive as it is in Poll Everywhere. 

Involving Students in the Discussion

Make sure to be intentional about the way you involve students in guest speaker discussions. If it isn’t clear how or when students should participate, they will likely be more passive. Outline how to participate and, if possible, share a tentative schedule with students and indicate where you might break for questions. If you don't plan to address questions as they arise, encourage students to keep notes or write their questions down so that they can refer to specific concepts the speaker has addressed during a Q&A break. 

You might also use live polls​ during the guest speaker's presentation or Q&A to make it more engaging and interactive. 

Asynchronous Options 

There are also approaches and technologies that will allow you to capture insights from outside experts and share them asynchronously with students.

Video or Audio-Only Interview

For this approach, you would meet one-on-one with the guest speaker via Zoom. When you record your Zoom meeting, Zoom will save both a video version of the recording and an audio-only version. (The file name for the audio-only version will end in .m4a.) You can then share the video or audio recording with students in your D2L course. Consider asking students to complete a follow-up reflection exercise to engage with what they heard. 

Multi-Day Discussion with Guest Speaker

These are some tools that would allow students to engage in an asynchronous discussion with a guest speaker: