What is a Guest Speaker?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The guest speaker is a person who is asked to speak at an event. The person is usually not deeply connected with the event or running it in any way. Instead the guest speaker may add to the event by sharing knowledge, indicating support, entertaining others, or dong a little bit of all of these things. Speakers may expound at dinners, give a special address at commencement, praise the efforts of community workers, or engage children or college students in an educational or informative endeavor. In each case, they are defined by the fact that they will speak or otherwise communicate, and they have been invited to do so.

The success of a guest speaker depends on how their topic matches the theme of the event.
The success of a guest speaker depends on how their topic matches the theme of the event.

Even in the smallest events, the guest speaker can be well worth hearing. Coming from outside of the shared perspective of those organizing or attending an event, they often bring something new to it and provide great fodder for future conversations. Typically, their success depends upon how well matched their message or speech may be to the event in question, and also on how well they can deliver a speech or set forth a compelling message.

Guest speakers are asked to speak at special events.
Guest speakers are asked to speak at special events.

Obviously the successful guest speaker must be able to craft a speech that will be enjoyed and well received by an audience. Some preparation is necessary to this, and some speakers fully write speeches or memorize them. It helps very much if the guest speaker is given information on how long he or she should speak, and perhaps what topics would be of most interest to the audience. Though the persons hosting an event usually don’t have full control over what the guest speaker says, they might be able to ask the speaker to touch on something they’ve heard him or her discuss in the past or at another speaking event.

Almost equal in importance is introduction of the guest speaker, which should also be well prepared and delivered. Especially in large event settings, the person making the introduction should give a little information about the background of the speaker, name some of his or her accomplishments, and then perhaps suggest why the speaker is present. One of the reasons these intros can fail sometimes is if the person doing the introduction isn’t really aware of who the speaker is, which is why introductions take some preparation. It may be necessary to do a little reading on the history or background of the speaker to make certain that the introduction is flattering and accurate.

Intros and actual speeches may be a little less formal, especially when they take place on the Internet. There are lots chat rooms that host guests at various time, who discuss something or answer questions from their area of expertise. Clearly lengthy introductions would take away from the time the guest speaker has, so things may be a little shorter and to the point, though the usual forms should be observed, if in brief.

Some people are lecturers who make their livings appearing at speaking events, and these may occasionally be the guest speakers at different functions. The term can get a little confusing here, because though an invited guest, the speaker may also be a paid guest. Through some small to large offer of payment, even small organizations may be able to attract high profile speakers, with whom an audience is familiar.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I work with event management and I'm the one responsible for getting guest speakers for events, booking their flights and hotels. I basically deal with all the arrangements and I have to say that it's a lot of work and a lot of money is involved.

Many guest speakers don't come for free and we have to pay them something in addition to booking their flights and hotels. Sometimes we also take them out for dinner the night of the event or show them around town the next day.


@donasmrs-- You guys are lucky! Our guest speakers are always professors from different programs in the same college. It's not very exciting!

I wonder if celebrities ever go to campuses as guest speakers? Has anyone been to an event with a celebrity guest speaker?


Several different organizations at my university regularly bring keynote guest speakers to campus events. This is one of the main reasons why I love being a student here. I've had the opportunity to listen to so many speakers talk about different topics. I usually go for ones that are politics and international relations related. But I've also been to some other random ones about music and sports.

The best part is that the speakers are all prominent people who are experts and are well know in their field. Many of them are teaching in other universities in other parts of the country. Sometimes we get international guest speakers from European universities. We've even had an African politician come all the way from Africa!

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