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One advantage of online classes is the wider, richer network of guest speakers who can be invited to speak to students. Speakers no longer need to travel to campus, taking several hours out of their busy work schedules, and can instead sign into a Zoom call for however long they have available. Speakers no longer need to be local and can instead be located anywhere in the country or even the world. Many professors are finding that the lessened constraints on guest speakers are allowing them to invite a wider range of guests, benefiting students. 

To help students get as much as possible out of the guest speaker’s experience, circulate speaker bios ahead of the class period, and ask students to read works by the speaker when possible. Encourage students to come to class prepared with a question to ask the speaker. “In one class, we were required to have a question ready for each guest speaker – this helped hold us accountable for moving the conversation forward, and made the speaker’s time feel valued,” says one student. 

Technology and Security for Guest Speakers

See the full article from the GSE with tips and screenshots on Zoom settings for guest speakers. Generally speaking, you only need to worry about changing Zoom settings if you have "Only authenticated users can join" turned on in your settings. Most speakers will be able to access Zoom if you send them the Zoom link and password.

Communication with the Guest

Ask the guest speaker to limit their comments, as attention spans are much shorter on Zoom. Rather than have the speaker deliver a long talk, ask the speaker to keep their comments short, and open up to questions early. 

In an email to your guest speaker, apart from the Zoom link, Meeting ID and Password, you may want to include recommendations for what to do before and during a meeting. For example, you can copy suggestions from the following draft.

Before the meeting:

  1. If you plan to share any materials with students, please send me the links in advance, so I can add them to the agenda. Students are more engaged when they have thought about the topic ahead of time and prepared questions. 
  2. Find a comfortable place with a good Internet connection, low noise level, nice background and lighting
  3. For better sound quality, consider using headphones with a microphone
  4. Make sure that your laptop is charged 
  5. If you plan to share a presentation, consider closing all personal browser tabs and applications
  6. If you don’t have a Zoom account, create it at http://zoom.com/ [Your guest will need login and password if “Only authenticated users can join” is turned on for the meeting]

Open the provided Zoom link on your laptop 

  1. If prompted, download and install a Zoom app (you can also do it here)
  2. Use your email address and password to sign into the Zoom app

If the guest is joining partway through class, give them a specific time to enter the class, or let them know what you will be doing beforehand so they can decide whether they’d like to sit in on the earlier parts of the class.

During the Class

After the guest has joined, ask them to check their audio and video and see whether they can share their screen. If they cannot, make them a co-host or click the up arrow to the right to the Share Screen button > open Advanced Sharing Options > change the “Who can share?” setting to “All participants.” 

After introducing the guest, ask them to give specific instructions about communication. How would they like students to signal for attention – hand raising, via the chat, asking out loud. Inform students that if they need technical help, they should reach out to the TA or you through the private chat function.  

From Stanford GSE's Teaching Resources, used with permission.