How to be successful as a guest speaker

Your job as a guest speaker is simple …

To make people think.

You are there to fire up people’s minds to think, to reflect, to care, to challenge, to be angry, to be impatient … but never be comfortable.

The audience don’t need to like you, agree with your or your conclusions, but you should engage them in a way that forces them to think about their views of the world.

The one mark of failure is to leave the mind of the listener unchallenged.

You job is to rattle comfortable mindsets until what you are left with is a brain and body fizzing to change the world – or seething to respond to challenge what you are saying.

A way to be more successful is always to find the human connection in what you are talking about. Not just the human connection to your subject, but your audience.

Why does this matter to them? Why should they care?

Of course, this connection can sometimes be clearer in some subjects than in others, but education is its best when the student themselves understands and can articulate, “why does this matter in the real world?”. Whether this is geometry to design a bridge, computational fluid dynamics to design a more fuel efficient car, or composite plastics to make a longer lasting replacement heart value.  The connection to reality, to people, to lives is always paramount in the best speakers.

If you are good, you will spark discussion in the Q&A.

If you are great, you will inspire reflection in the days and weeks after.

If you are exceptional, you may, just once or twice inspire someone to do something positive with their lives …

And it is this last possibility that means that an opportunity to speak should always be accepted.

And also why you should always attend guest lectures when you can, even if you know you disagree with what they may be saying. Expand your intelligence by allowing it to be challenged.


2 thoughts on “How to be successful as a guest speaker

  1. Michael Vermeersch

    Hi Gary, can I publish a reference to this on LinkedIn? I very much liked the content 🙂


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