Making the Most of Executive Guest Speakers

A nine-step process to ensure every guest speaker makes a successful appearance in your classroom.

HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT every guest speaker makes a successful appearance in your classroom? At Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business in Atlanta, J.P. Shim uses a nine-step process (see graphic below) for interacting with executives he brings to class. Before they arrive, Shim provides them with information about class size and students’ majors and work experience, as well as instructions for using classroom technology. And he finds that one hour of class time is just right for these visits—it doesn’t place too high a burden on the speaker, but still allows 45 minutes for the talk and 15 minutes for questions.

After each guest’s presentation, Shim asks his students to write one-page takeaways to make sure they reflect on what they’ve learned and get the most out of each speaker’s message. He posts their responses in the class’s online Dropbox file within 48 hours and includes some of those comments in his thank-you letters to speakers to reinforce the impact they’ve made.


>Click to view full-sized PDF

Shim, a professor of computer information systems, chooses speakers who will give students fresh perspectives. Michael Anaya, a supervisory special agent with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, explained to students that cybersecurity might seem to be about only computers and data, but its most powerful element is the human force controlling the computers. Chris Jeffs, vice president of Verint Systems, detailed how his company uses speech analytics to design accurate transcription tools for recorded conversations.

“The more effort and time we spend bringing speakers to class, the more we sustain the dialogue between our students and the world of practitioners,” says Shim. “Considering that a limited number of business faculty have real-world business and consulting experiences, the role of a qualified guest speaker is crucial to business education.”