After your three major decisions have been made regarding your retreat (speaker, date and location), communication can then begin with your guest speaker. Your guest speaker needs to know what she is to speak about, how many times she will be speaking, how long she will be speaking at each session. Provide this information to your speaker as early as you can–months before your event. This way she can prayerfully prepare her teachings to fit your theme and schedule.
At some of our retreats, we use a theme that the guest speaker has done before at retreats. At our 2015 retreat, our speaker was an experienced retreat speaker who had done previous retreats with the theme “Deeper Still.” We gave her our schedule and let her run with it.
However, if you are providing the theme to the speaker, try to communicate as clearly as possible what your vision for the theme may be. Just giving her a title for the retreat is not enough if God has clearly given you a vision. Communicate with the speaker to let her know if you have a particular emphasis or theme scripture for your retreat. Sometimes your theme scripture will provide an outline for the teaching sessions.
For instance, our 2016 retreat theme was “SHINE!” We are using as the theme scripture Philippians 2:15-16a. We suggested a general outline and other relevant scriptures to give her direction. By doing this, as much as possible we insure that we are on the same page as our speaker as we prepare for the retreat (with decorations, giveaway, quiet time study, etc.).
I believe that we all receive more from a speaker when we feel a personal connection with her.
For instance, last year our guest speaker was a fairly well-known retreat speaker. The whole circumstance of her being here was a miracle in many ways, because we, as a small church, normally couldn’t afford a more well-known speaker. However, because she had been a personal friend of our late pastor’s wife, she offered to do this retreat, knowing that it would be our first without our beloved pastor’s wife at the helm. The majority of our ladies had never met the speaker, but I believe that all of us felt a deeper connection to her and her message because we knew that she understood and had suffered the same loss. In addition, as she shared some difficulties that her family had faced in the previous year, more connections were made with ladies in similar situations.
Yes, that was a very unique year. However, the same holds true with every guest speaker. If they share from their personal life or highlights of their testimony at the beginning of our retreat, often these moments will provide that personal connection for our ladies. That connection will be a conduit for the message and application of the truths she shares.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with a popular retreat speaker and ask her some frank questions. I believe her answers will help us serve our guest speakers. I am going to bullet point her comments below. Remember, I am speaking from a small church perspective!
- Questions to ask prior to the event:
- What drink or snacks do you prefer?
- Do you have any allergies?
- What equipment do you need?
- Do you like to have breakfast served in your room so you can prepare for the day?
- Assign someone to be the speaker’s helper–someone she can call upon for any problem or need. Give the speaker a number to text to get this person’s help.
- Do a sound check with the speaker, as well as confirming that she knows how to use any other equipment she needs (for instance, if she is using a pointer or projecting slides). Microphones and other equipment differ from place to place.
- We don’t do this, but apparently some churches will decorate the speaker’s room, even to the point of leaving her a cozy robe. But the question arises: Do they mean for me to take these things home? If you do decorate her room, be sure she knows what is hers to take.
- Announcements directly after a speaker’s session can distract from what God is doing. Give God time to work. A time of reflection after a teaching session can be helpful.
- Give the honorarium check discreetly, after the retreat, and enclose a specific thank-you written after the event. Giving your women an opportunity to contribute their comments and thank-yous to this is an added blessing.
- If you leave a gift basket for your guest speaker in her room:
- Remember: if she is flying, a basket may be difficult to carry on an airplane.
- Hotel or camp water may not be to her liking; include bottled water if it is not provided.
- Eating prior to a session may be hard for her; include some snacks in her gift basket (healthy protein snacks, trail mix, bananas).
- Socks are nice.
- It is nice to have a coffee pot (or tea, if preferred) in the speaker’s room.
Have you ever had an event with more than one guest speaker? How can it work?
We have…and, in fact, our most recent retreat had four different speakers. Actually, it was a decision borne out of much prayer. There were four teaching sessions at the retreat, each a different aspect of our main theme. Each was taught by a different pastor’s wife. We asked three pastor’s wives, whose women have joined us at our past retreats, to assist our pastor’s wife with the speaking responsibilities.
Probably the biggest challenge in having more than one guest speaker was communicating with each one regarding the topic she would be speaking on. How do we make sure that they are all on the same page as to the theme of the event and that the sessions flow together, while at the same time trying to keep them from stepping on one another’s toes in their teachings?
Our solution was to make up a very general outline of the four sessions of the retreat, being very specific about how the sessions were differentiated. The outline included each topic, its title, a few short sentences about each topic and suggested scriptures. This way, as they prayerfully considered their individual topic, they also had before them an outline of all topics and a short summary of the direction given to the other speakers. We did not tell them what to say; we just gave them a guide to make sure that they were aware of the parameters given to each speaker. And, of course, we kept our speakers in prayer as they prepared for the retreat.
Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who brought unity and directed each teaching tocontribute to the overall theme of the retreat.
Are you bringing in a guest speaker? Honorariums are necessary and important. That cost should be an non-negotiable item on your event budget. Many speakers depend on them for their livelihood. But today I want to consider additional ways that you can show your appreciation and bless your speaker, over and above any cash payment:
- Communicate with your guest speaker so that there are as few as possible “surprises” awaiting her. She should know as much as you can tell her about the event theme, the schedule for the event and time frame for her speaking, suggested dress for the event, available technology, who will meet her and get her to the venue and any overnight accommodations. If she has hand-outs, get them ahead of time so that they are copied and ready for her.
- Have a welcome basket in the speaker’s room awaiting her arrival. This welcome basket could include: bottles of water or her special drink, healthy snacks, mints, throat lozenges, small plaque with theme verse and even a small gift. (Keep in mind that if the speaker is traveling by airplane, any gifts should be small and transportable.)
- Assign a “hostess” to the speaker who will sit by her and be available to her during the entire event to help with anything she may need. This could range from working with the hotel if her room is not satisfactory, to bringing her water, or a sweater or anything else she might find herself needing.
- Different speakers will have different levels of expertise with microphones and other technology. As much as possible, make sure that your speaker is comfortable with the set up prior to your event. Do the microphone test prior to the start of the event and make sure she is comfortable with it and any other technology she may want to use (overheads, timer, etc.).
- Provide cards (even index cards) that your women may use to write a “thank you” note expressing how the speaker’s ministry has blessed them. These can be put in a basket or collected at the end of the retreat and included with the speaker’s honorarium.
Can you add to this list?? How have you blessed your guest speaker?