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Monday, June 01, 2020

Hosting a Speaking Event

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Hosting a Journey of Hope speaker is a great way to educate and activate individuals in your community. Our speakers travel at events in all parts of the United States and world wide. If you would like to host a speaker, please contact us as soon as possible with your interest.

Once commitments are made by local groups, we will help you select a speaker (or speakers) and coordinate a schedule for each speaker.

The program for a speaking event generally includes a talk followed by a question and answer session. Some speakers may also wish to be involved in local radio shows, rallies or demonstrations, book signings, or discussion groups. Many local hosts give a reception for the speaker before or after the event. We will work with you to make sure that the event best meets the needs of your organization.  

Generally, for each speaking event, we ask event organizers to

  • Provide venue arrangements (time, location, and equipment for the event).
  • Provide hospitality for our speaker, including food, lodging if an overnight stay is necessary (home stay is often okay) and transportation to and from the airport or other events.
  • Publicize events within your community and to the local media.
  • Provide honorarium and travel expenses for the speaker. We understand that some groups can provide more support than others. Our experience has shown that seeking co-sponsors (e.g., among campus departments or similar groups) helps to share the costs and responsibilities of an event. As we do not want cost to be a deciding factor in bringing such an important event to your community, we will work with you on ideas and alternative resources.        

Things to Consider When Thinking of Hosting a Journey Speaker

  • What is your budget? Can you offer an honorarium - if so, how much? Can you pay travel, housing, food, or other costs?
  • When do you want to hold the event? How would the event coincide with your community schedule?
  • Where are you going to hold the presentation? Are you expecting a small or large turn-out?  Who do you contact to gain permission to use the space?
  • What topic do you want the speaker to address? Do you want just one speaker, several speakers in a row, or a panel of speakers? How will these speakers complement each other?
  • How long do you want the presentation to be/ how much time do you want to allow for questions and follow-up discussion? Who is your target audience - your class, an entire campus, a community group, etc?
  • How will you draw attention to this event? Should you invite the media? What activities will you arrange either before or after the presentation - i.e. a letter writing campaign, a lobby day, a visual display on the lawn, op-ed to local newspapers, etc?
  • What audio/visual needs does the speaker have - a microphone, slide or crystal projector, VCR/TV, podium - etc? How do you go about getting this equipment? Are there any costs involved?
  • Will you have a reception before or after the presentation for individuals to talk with the speaker?  

Before the event:

  • Publicize, publicize, publicize - everywhere you can - via email, posters, distributing flyers, getting info posted in the school, local newspaper, invite the media, etc.
  • Confirm with the speaker the length of the speech, directions and any agreed upon reimbursements or honorarium.
  • Make sure to have clear signs directing participants to the event.
  • Make sure that all of your equipment works - microphones, projectors, lights - and double check that no one is using the space that you reserved.
  • Organize an information table - with articles, brochures, newsletters, fact sheets, and flyers describing your next event/how to contact your organization leader.
  • Have a clearly marked sign-in sheet at the entrance to the event to gather name and contact information of your guests.

At the event, remember to

  • Distribute event feedback forms as participants leave the event, that allow for comments on the presentation and encourage suggestions for future events - include on this sheet the leader's contact information.
  • Welcome the audience and thank them for their participation.
  • Introduce your speaker.
  • Have someone moderate the time leaving time at the end for questions and follow-up. With some speakers, it may be good to leave half an hour or more for a question and answer period - sometimes the discussion after the speech can be as informative as the speech itself.
  • Have someone take pictures - of the speaker and the audience. Send copies of the pictures for the Journey website if possible (

After the event

  • Clean up!. You will want to get volunteers before hand.
  • Return any equipment including videos and presentation materials to their appropriate owners.
  • Follow-up with your speaker.  Make sure they have transportation to the airport or next event, and square away all re-imbursements or honoraria.
  • Follow-up with individuals who attended the event. Thank them for their attendance, tell them the date, time and location of your next event, and ask if they have any questions or suggestions for future events.
  • Send thank you notes to everyone who helped the event happen.

Costs: There are various costs in hosting an event, which include

  • Publicity - You need to advertise your event so that people know that it is happening. This includes flyers, posters, brochures, and newsletters. Set aside an overall printing budget, which includes photocopying costs.
  • Location - Renting a hall, room, etc. Ask permission to hold the event at a public place (i.e., a class room). Keep in mind the estimated attendance when booking a place.
  • Food - Food is a must at all events. If you are holding a dinner, include the price of dinner in the ticket. Search for a caterer who is willing to donate food for your event. You might want to sell snacks and beverages or provide free refreshments.
  • Speaker, Musician, etc. - The cost for the speaker should include travel, lodging and meals, and an honorarium.
  • Equipment and Decorations- Reserve and confirm audiovisual equipment such as microphones, VCR, projectors, and all other necessary equipment. Don't forget tables and chairs, and people to operate the equipment.
  • Miscellaneous - i.e. thank you notes to people who helped organize the event, speakers, performers and donators of supplies for the event.

General Considerations When Hosting a Speaker

  • Assign someone to act as a "host" for the guest, and arrange for the two to be able to contact each as soon as possible so they can get acquainted ahead of time.
  • Arrange to meet the guest when they arrive, and take them to the place where they will either speak or spend the night.
  • Plan to spend time with the speaker to prepare them for the event, but do not feel the need to plan every minute of your speaker’s time. The speaker will need to know information about the type of audience, and questions they may be asked, and it is helpful for you to give them an itinerary.
  • If food is to be served at the event, schedule plenty of time for the guest to eat either before or after their talk.
  • If you are planning more than one event in the same day, allow plenty of time for breaks between speaking engagements and/or interviews.  Speakers are sharing very personal stories, and this can be emotionally draining without breaks.
  • Suggest things the speaker can do in your hometown during their free time if there is an extended stay, or connect the speaker to other campus or community groups of interest.
  • When in doubt, imagine how you would like to be treated if you were invited to speak at an event, and don't hesitate to ask the speaker if you have any questions or need additional information.

Note that when working with technical equipment, Murphy’s law applies:  If something can go wrong, it will.  Be sure someone who knows how to run any equipment used is standing by.

  • Hosting a Journey speaker (or speakers) can be one of the most direct and comprehensive ways to increase awareness about the death penalty in your community. By having an individual with first-hand knowledge of the death penalty share their story, a group can develop a much more thorough understanding of the issue and the urgency of a related action.
  • Journey speakers are versatile, and you can help "prep" a speaker by giving the individual background or supplemental information to help the speaker familiarize himself/herself with your specific interests. For example, you may be looking for a religious or legal focus.
  • As the old saying goes, "Think Globally, Act Locally." Realize that your community event has the potential to have global results. Inviting local decision makers (i.e. the Mayor or City Council) to your events may influence the decision makers at the county, state, and national levels. For example, getting a letter of support from the Mayor in support of a death penalty moratorium could help sway a member of Congress.

The Press Advisory

The purpose of a press advisory is to notify the media in advance about an event or activity. The press advisory should explain the "who, what, where, when and why" of the event and should provide just enough information to entice reporters to cover your story. It is important to remember that press advisories are different than press releases. Advisories are meant to persuade the media to cover an event before it happens. You want the reporters to attend your event so you gain exposure and the reporters get the whole story.  

How to Effectively Use a Press Advisory

  • If time allows, send the press advisory to your media list twice; two weeks before the event, and again, two days before the event. Re-sending the advisory ensures that it stays on the "radar screen" of the reporter and the assignment desk.
  • If you do not have the specific reporter to send the advisory to, make them deliverable to "Assignment Editor" at television stations, the "News Director" at radio stations and to the "City Editor" at newspapers.
  • Send the advisory to the state and local wire services (such as Associated Press or Reuters) for inclusion in their "daybook" listing of events scheduled that day.
  • Even if you know a reporter or news outlet will likely not attend your event, send them an advisory anyway. They may want to schedule a one-on-one interview or contact a wire service to cover the event for them. This is particularly true for radio stations, which are usually short staffed and have a significant amount of airtime to fill.  


A media advisory should follow the following standard format:

  • Have a brief headline describing the event.
  • Have the words "MEDIA ADVISORY" in the top corner of the page.
  • Provide contact names, phone numbers and e-mail.
  • Have the date, time and place highlighted.
  • Give a brief description of the purpose of the event and what will take place, who will be speaking, and if there will be photo opportunities.
  • Be no longer than one page. Indicate the end of the page by placing a "###" which is a universal "end" symbol used by news outlets.

And don’t forget to send original copies of your activities that are reported in the media to Bill Pelke at JOURNEY OF HOPE...FROM VIOLENCE TO HEALING,  PO BOX 210390, ANCHORAGE, AK  99521-0390,  or BILL Ät send an emailJOURNEYOFHOPEPuenktchenORG.