So you see your next “big event” on the calendar and wonder what you’re going to do about a special presentation for the kids. Last year you brought in that guy who blows bubbles from his ears while standing in a cage with tigers but some of your parents of little ones thought it was a bit scary and you thought the guy was, well, creepy.
Here is some advice on how to have a great “guest speaker experience” from start to finish:
1. Define the Goals of the Event: Who is your target audience and what is your intended message? Some events are more or less evangelistic than others. Some events cater to the toddler/preschool families while other events focus on the tweens crowd.
2. Do Your Homework: Research children’s speakers and entertainers. Start with your colleagues who can share names with you by word-of-mouth. Many speakers can also be found in kid’s ministry magazines, conferences, and websites. Study their websites and any videos you can find of their presentation. Call references listed on their websites. E-mail or call them and ask for more information about their programs, fees, and requirements. If you want a program with a Gospel message, make sure the speaker is a Christian who does so and not just a secular entertainer. How far are they willing to travel? I would recommend researching and comparing at least 3 candidates for the program (more if you have time). If you find someone you like but they are already booked, ask them for referrals because chances are, you will also like that individual’s referrals.
3. Plan the Event: So you have booked your speaker, but you’re not finished. You want to capitalize on this opportunity to spread the Gospel in your community. So do all the necessary promotions and announcements. Sometimes you can call local schools and mention that you would like to sponsor a character-building assembly (with your speaker as the guest). Then you can use that assembly to invite kids to the evening event at the church (check with your local school to make sure they’re OK with that). Call the local radio and news outlets. If you are bringing in some special talent from out of town, most newspapers are interested in those types of stories.
4. Working With The Speaker: Make sure you read through any contracts the speaker has. Don’t worry, most are not going to ask you to remove the green M&M’s from their candy jar. These contracts usually have things like making sure someone picks them up at the airport, setting up their audio-visual needs, and making sure they have a hotel or host family for the night. It is also important to communicate clearly with the speaker about the goals of the event. If you’re doing an invitation, do you want the speaker to give an invitation at the end or do you want your senior pastor to do that? These kinds of questions need to be clearly understood ahead of time so that everybody is working on the same page.
5. After the Speaker: It is courteous to fill out an evaluation for the speaker, even if it is just a simple follow-up e-mail of phone call. Some speakers will send you something to fill out after the event. Whatever feedback you can give will help the speaker whether it is positive or constructive criticism.