What Is a Guest Lecturer?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 23 December 2019
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A guest lecturer is an individual who possesses advanced knowledge of a particular subject area, and who speaks about that subject area to a group or organization with which she is normally not involved. Beyond this basic definition, the exact nature of guest lecturing can vary widely. In the university context, a guest lecturer is often a faculty member who is invited to speak to a class she does not normally teach. Guest lecturers are also commonly invited to address professional and social organizations as well as elementary and secondary school groups. Finally, a guest lecturer may speak to groups of travelers, particularly on cruise ships, as part of a tourism experience.

Within the university, a guest lecturer is often a faculty member invited to deliver a lecture to a class she does not normally teach. Generally, the purpose of this arrangement is to enrich a course through the inclusion of relevant, specialized knowledge which that course’s normal lecturer does not possess. For instance, a professor teaching a course in modernist literature may invite a colleague from the university’s architecture department to deliver a guest lecture on early 20th century urban landscapes. By adding context, the information contained in the guest lecture may then broaden students’ understanding of literary texts from this period.


It is also common for professional organizations, social clubs, and elementary and secondary school groups to invite a guest lecturer to speak to them on some relevant topic. A hiking club, for instance, may ask an ecologist to deliver a lecture on minimizing environmental impact during hiking trips. Elementary or secondary schools often invite local municipal figures such as police officers and firefighters to give lectures on educational topics, like how to behave around strangers or how to minimize the chance of fire in one’s home.

Finally, a guest lecturer may speak to groups of travelers, especially on cruise ships, as part of a tourism experience. Often, these lecturers are contracted as part of a themed cruise. For example, a cruise designed for culinary enthusiasts may feature a guest lecture by a celebrity chef, while a cruise which revolves around diving may feature an address by a marine biologist. Some guest lecturers of this type may be working professionals who are simply taking a break from their normal jobs, while others may be retired professionals or may even work full time on a guest lecture circuit.


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Post 3

I have lived a long and I think very interesting life filled with a variety of experiences and adventures. I have been in important places at big moments in history, shaken the hands of world leaders, been in a few jails and won and lost a fortune several times over.

I think that my experiences might be a benefit to a number of college courses. How would I go about offering my services as a guest speaker? I don't know many people in academia and I have no idea how to get a guest lecture invitation.

Post 2

I was recently asked to give a guest lecture at my undergraduate college. After I graduated from there I went on to grad school to get an MFA in printmaking and now I am working full time as a print maker with a little bit of exposure and favorable press.

I was asked to come back and speak to students about my experience in grad school and making a go of it as a professional artists. They gave me a full hour and gave me an open invitation to talk about whatever I wanted.

I was nervous going in but once I got into the swing of it it went pretty well. The students seemed to enjoy it and I know I wish they would have had a speaker like that when I was an undergrad. I could have avoided making a few mistakes.

Post 1

I feel like when I was in college my professors made pretty liberal use of guest lecturers.But that was not a problem for me. In fact, the guests usually gave the most interesting lectures.

It is a mark of a good professor when they can have the modesty and self awareness to defer to someone else's expertise. But there are many courses that are too broadly focused for anyone to claim to be a total authority. It is good to call on others to provide their subject specialty. It makes the conversation deeper.

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