Selecting a Speaker

Predetermined speakers

In many cases, the faculty member(s) or group(s) requesting the appearance have already selected a speaker. It is important to know the requester's goals and expectations for the event. Arrange for one requester/sponsor to be the contact for the planner of the event. Obtain all personal contact information from the sponsor, as well as any available information about the speaker. If the sponsor hasn't made the initial contact, the planner should initiate the conversation with the speaker or the speaker's office assistant. Keep a record of all interactions with the speaker.

Amherst College Speakers 

Amherst faculty and staff do many talks and presentations here on campus. The organizer should use the same approach for each of these speakers: determine the goal of the talk and the expectations of the sponsor. Personal contact information is critical and should include cell phone numbers. Initiate contact with the speaker and/or his/her departmental assistant to find a person to serve as your primary contact. It is important to work consistently with this contact for all set-ups and permissions. Keep a record of all actions and responses.

Speaker Search

On occasion, a planner will be asked to suggest names of experts who could speak on a specific topic. Make sure that the request is clear and the topic well-defined. The Amherst College faculty is a good source for knowledgeable speakers; keep yourself informed as to each professor’s area of expertise, current research, classes and publications. Telephone calls to faculty and staff are more effective than e-mail for gathering information about speakers and for establishing contacts that might be helpful with future questions. Campus groups are also a good source for speakers. The final option is Internet research on the topic, following links to the names that are involved. Such a search will also lead you to a variety of speakers’ bureaus. Keep a record of all of your efforts to find a speaker.


Accommodating the Speaker


Communications with the speaker(s) can establish a good working pattern and make the arrangements much easier. Once the speaker’s appearance has been finalized, the initial planner contact can be by e-mail or U. S. Postal Service and should be brief: Include the date, time and place and ask for the name of the contact that will be arranging the details on the speaker's end. The correspondence could include an attachment that asks for the speaker contact details (name as desired, title, business address, home address, business telephone, home telephone, business and personal e-mails and business and personal cell phone numbers). This is also a good time to seek permission to audio-record or videotape the event, to discover whether the speaker will need audiovisual support for parts of the presentation and to get a W-9 form if payment or reimbursement is involved. If the speaker is using a PowerPoint presentation or other type of electronic media, ask if it can be transmitted ahead of the event so that it can be preloaded and tested by the AV department. Ask if there are any special or dietary needs, and incorporate them into your planning. The speaker may ask about audience composition and dress code, be prepared to answer both questions.

Don't Overcommunicate 

Do not over-communicate - try to do as much as possible in a few e-mails. It is a good idea to run any publicity by the speaker or his/her designated assistant (press release, poster image and words). Follow up with the speaker's office just before the event to verify that all details are in place.

Travel Arrangements

Travel arrangements in many cases, are made by the planner. Researching travel modes and routes and presenting them to the speaker's office enables the speaker to make choices. It also allows the speaker's office to make the arrangements and allows Amherst to reimburse immediately. On occasion, we actually book the travel using a corporate credit card or a travel agency. If the speaker is arriving by private plane, information about surrounding airports can be found in this document; we do not reimburse private air travel, but may pay an appropriate amount towards the trip. Transportation to and from the airport is usually arranged and paid by the planner. Book an Amherst College van by submitting a vehicle request (and then find a driver), or, if the event is associated with the Center for Community Engagement, book through the CCE. Commercial airport-transportation companies include the Valley Transporter and the Seemo Shuttle. Private car companies  include Royal Coach Limousines, and Exclusive Car Service.


Lodging can be handled two ways. Short stays can sometimes be arranged on the campus grounds; review options at our short term housing site. Most arrangements are made with local hotels within a mile of campus. Verify whether there is a discount rate available for Amherst College speakers. Make sure to arrange travel to and from the hotel for the event.Be familiar with check-in and check-out times and arrange for late check-out if necessary.

Econo Lodge 329 Russell Street, Route 9, Hadley, Mass. 413/582-7077 website  
Holiday Inn Express 400 Russell Street, Route 9, Hadley, Mass. 413/582-0002 website  
Howard Johnson's 401 Russell Street, Route 9, Hadley, Mass. 413/586-0114 website  
Marriott Courtyard 423 Russell Street, Route 9, Hadley, Mass. 413/256-5454 website

Welcome Packets

Welcome packets are an inexpensive and cordial way to welcome your guest during the hotel check-in. Prior to the arrival of the guest, drop off a hotel packet with a formal welcome letter or even a short handwritten note on Amherst stationery (or card), a campus map, a viewbook and a copy of the latest Amherst magazine. All are a great way to say, “Welcome to Amherst! We've been looking forward to your visit.” For a small fee, the hotel can also put together a small or medium welcome packet with snacks and drink.

Meals and Snacks

Meals and snacks during the event can be arranged with Valentine Catering (see Special Services section) or with an outside vendor. Consider your schedule, needs and the make-up of the group to determine your selection and call catering to go over the ideas with them. They have years of experience and helpful suggestions. Consider whether your guest will have dined en route or will need dining suggestions on arrival. Arrange a box lunch if the speaker will be leaving at an awkward time and will be unable to dine during the return trip.

Local Transportation

Local transportation from the hotel to campus and back can be handled by the planner doing the driving in a personal vehicle (make sure you have submitted a credentialing form to Campus Police), arranging for a van through the college or using the local taxi service.

Honorarium Payment

Honorarium payment can be arranged before the event, but should not be issued until the event has been completed. The controller’s website has the necessary form, which must be accompanied by a W-9. If the guest incurs expenses that need to be reimbursed, the expenses should be added to the honorarium expense form and the original receipts attached.

Personal Guides

A personal guide is an option when a guest is here for the day. Student ushers can be hired to guide the guest, or the planner may wish to do this. It is important that the guide know the campus, the event location and the locations of restrooms throughout the campus. If possible, a tour of the campus might be offered. Identify spots where the speaker might relax for a bit in between events (small rooms upstairs in Keefe Campus Center, the lobby of Converse, library spaces, etc).