Whether it’s a celebrity, a globally-respected researcher or a local luminary, university guest speakers share the common goal of inspiring student communities with their presentations, speeches and thoughtful words of advice.
Depending on the size of the campus event, speakers receive a fee for their services or compensation in the form of free publicity, food and beverages, or the chance to increase their social media following.
But what value do they bring to international students, and are they worth the university’s investment?
The benefits of university guest speakers
Typically, guest speakers are invited to talk about specific topics that will benefit both your studies and your mindset.
Providing an alternative perspective on topics, you’ll benefit from their independent thinking and immersive discussions.
For instance, if a top-notch marketing professional makes their way to your campus and introduces you to the latest trends that aren’t yet being practised in industry, you’ll gain the upper-hand by having that behind-the-scenes know-how.
Or, if you already have your mind made up about a global political issue and a guest speaker comes to town with an out-of-the-box opinion, your entire thought pattern could be swayed in a positive and open-minded direction.
University guest speakers also have the platform to address important issues that affect your campus; for instance, the growing debate surrounding diversity in STEM. Gathering everyone together in one lecture theatre to the discuss gender imbalance in the world of STEM widens the space for deliberation and interaction.
You may start to make new friends on campus through shared opinions or seek new opportunities to work towards an equal system.
Guest speakers plant the seeds and students successfully sow them.
The drawbacks of university guest speakers
For guest speakers and event organisers, there’s always the fear that the speaker’s stage will face an empty room.
If there isn’t enough student engagement, the university’s time and effort into planning the event could be wasted, along with the speaker’s time.
There’s also the threat of repetitive jargon.
What if a guest speaker is regurgitating information that lecturers have already taught?
With aims to challenge students’ thinking and boost their academic potential, a guest speaker talk could turn from engaging to boring in a matter of minutes.
Additionally, there are always going to be educators who are concerned about what the speaker will discuss on the day, in case it conflicts with their students’ studies.
That’s why speakers are expected to submit a brief transcript of their talk or to outline key points that will be mentioned on the day.
Plus, there may be apprehension about speakers using the platform for political expression, rather than inspirational words of advice.
Of course, not every guest speaker is going to spark a students’ interests, or willingness to watch.
And there will always be a varying balance of benefits and drawbacks.
But surely a few guest speakers on campus each year are better than none – don’t you think?