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Practical Tips for Knowing When You Need a Guest Speaker

How do you know when your team could benefit from the help of a professional guest speaker? Studies have shown that employees tend to respond more favorably to information given to them from outsiders, than from familiar in-house faces. Why is that? It could be that familiarity breeds contempt. No, actually, people tend to respect a person more, who is declared an ‘out of town’ expert, than a local person, who is known to them.

One example of this phenomenon is in court trials. Have you ever noticed that the experts who testify in court are usually from out of state, or at least out of town? Somehow, the employees I have spoken to are like jurors. They too, place more weight on what I have to say as a guest speaker than on someone within the company. Go figure.

So now that you know the value of an outsider, how do you determine when your team needs the wisdom of a guest speaker? Let me tell you what I have discovered. Employees need to hear from a guest speaker when:

  • the team needs to be informed about upcoming ‘change’ in the organization
  • the employees are grieving a loss i.e. the loss of a leader, corporate downsizing, or corporate restructuring which leads to the consolidation of, or elimination of, existing staff positions
  • the topic involves the implementation of a new project or employee perk, i.e. corporate merger, new employee medical benefits, or changes in pension/retirement benefits
  • the staff needs to get a new vision, or have a renewed sense of energy and commitment to the company, after a period of struggle or defeat

In these situations, it is better for employees to receive difficult news from a stranger, so that they will be less likely to associate negative or difficult news with upper management. Also, outsiders can answer detailed and specialized questions in their areas of expertise from employees better than an insider, for whom the benefit or issue may also be foreign and a relative ‘unknown.’ Finally, sometimes it’s just more fun and engaging, to hear from a new voice, and to get a new perspective on the direction of the company. Does your team need some encouragement? Consider bringing in an outside guest speaker.