Guest Speakers

Written by Mishiara Baker
October 7, 2020 • 2 minute read

Bringing in a guest speaker as an outside expert with real world experience to engage students can give them insight into how course content can be practically applied.

Experts give students inside information that they could not obtain on their own from a first-person experience. Experts can answer specific questions about different industries or contextualize current events and it can be expedient to do this over Zoom.

  • Ease of scheduling: Busy professionals can more easily spare 30 minutes over Zoom than they can a site visit with travel time.
  • Options: bringing in experts remotely opens up possibilities not limited by geography
  • Making course content relevant: When seeing course concepts in action from a knowledgeable and experienced first-person source, students can more easily see the connection between what they do in class and it can deepen their interest and commitment to the course.
  • Provides an industry contact: students can often make connections with guest speakers and follow up with them after their visit, or take part in outreach and make connections that way.

Download our how-to guide for introducing guest speakers in remote/online teaching from Google Docs.

Synchronous Applications

Inviting a guest speaker to a synchronous Zoom class session provides students with an active experience where they can listen for relevant information and ask questions. Additionally, post-visit, students can discuss and formulate responses to guiding questions in break out rooms.

  • Introduce the project: Define the objectives and a framework for the expert interview and connect it to course content
  • Provide choices and give students agency: Provide and solicit suggestions (if possible) for appropriate guests as well as develop questions to pose to the chosen/potential guest speakers.
  • Active interview process: Allow students to take part in the interview and ask the questions in a pre-planned manner. And, if time allows, permit students to ask a few ad hoc questions in a post-interview Q&A.
  • Debrief with students: After the guest speaker session, discuss the experience in live session, and/or, ask them to post to a discussion board on the value of the experience and what they learned or if anything surprised them

Asynchronous Applications

Students can form groups and schedule their own Zoom interviews with experts outside of class and/or in lieu of a class session and report back to the group on the information they gathered. Students take agency over the process here and work with one another as they interact in a professional manner with individuals and groups outside of the University.

  • Define the objectives: for the expert interview and provide and solicit suggestions for appropriate guests
  • Create student groups: Task students to establish specific roles for each member
  • Step out a guided process: Have students meet together to develop questions, outreach to different experts, format an email request for interview, etc.
  • Review their questions:Ask students to submit their questions to you before they do their expert interview and provide feedback and suggestions
  • Students conduct their interviews: Students schedule and conduct their interviews over Zoom, and take notes.
  • Share back: Students can share their findings in a Canvas discussion board group post and respond to one another’s posts with questions or comments and then discuss in a live class session as well (if preferred).

Preparation Tips

  • Outreach to potential guest speakers: Make contact with your guest speaker candidates and let them know what specific topics you would like them to address and your scheduling limitations for a synchronous class session. For the asynchronous application
  • Prepare your guest: Prior to their class visit. If you can provide questions, that will help them to focus their comments.
  • Determine a format: Will the speaker present on a general topic of interest, will students ask specific guiding questions and allow a certain amount of time for each? Will there be an open Q&A and how will students ask questions? Will there be a moderator?

Facilitation Tips

  • Move the interview along, and interject that they have some other questions they want to make sure they get to.

Are you or someone you know finding success with introducing guest speakers? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email

  • Zoom for live class sessions
  • Zoom sessions and break out rooms for group work
  • Canvas for posting instructions and materials
  • Shared Google spreadsheets for aggregating questions

Not sure where to start? We are here to help! To learn how to implement the jigsaw method effectively in your course, contact Instructional Design to request a consultation.

Contact Instructional Technology & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials.