Written by Robyn T. Braley
I have a passion for Rotary Club speaker programs. Strong programs engage, connect, and inspire club members.
The possibilities of speaker topics are endless. The bottom-line questions are: what value will the speaker’s content bring to members? What will members take away from the presentation? In other words, what’s in it for them?
In an earlier post I provided an overview of how to build a successful program strategy that will work for your club. I included sections on where to find speakers and how to contact them.
Get to the Yes
You’ve identified a potential speaker. You introduce yourself and float the idea of speaking at your club. The person expresses interest, and you exchange business cards.
The next step is to nail it down with an informational email that will make it easy for the speaker to say yes!
Booking Template
I have created an email template that I personalize for each speaker. It is designed to answer any questions the person may have. It is easy to cut and paste and adapt it for each new email.
Give each section a heading making it easy to read. (Read Master the Art of Writing for Online Audiences as a reference).
The template should include these essentials.
  1. Logistics Details (Who, What, Where, When)
Dear Ms ????
Would you consider speaking to the Greenvale Rotary Club on Friday, April 24th, or Friday, May 29th? We meet at noon at the Greenvale Hotel in the Mint room.
  1. Club Elevator Speech (Who We Are)
Greenvale Rotary club members are like-minded professionals who share a passion for making a difference in our community and around the world. We are leaders committed to the ideal of serving others. We also like to have fun as we serve together!
  1. Overview of service projects (What We Do)
We support numerous local humanitarian causes like youth at risk, youth literacy, the Food Bank, homelessness, youth leadership, children's rescue, reconciliation, and other causes.
Internationally, we support building homes for the poor in Mexico, installing clean water systems in Honduras, building schools in Guatemala, introducing microfinance projects in Nepal, fabricating 3-D prostheses for war victims in Africa, and other causes. We are active in the global crusade to eradicate polio.
  1. Confirmation of the topic. (What is the Topic)
As discussed, we would like you to speak about …
  1. Provide a list of notable past speakers – (Who Have Spoken)
There are two reasons to list previous speakers. One is to indicate the variety of topics, and two is to provide credibility for those unfamiliar with Rotary.
Recent speakers have included former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Dr. Ben Cecil, President Olds College, Luke Azevedo, Calgary Film Commissioner, Marlene Doherty, Polio Plus, Dr. Joy Johnston, Domestic Violence Expert, Barkerville High School 4 Way Test Speech competition for student speakers, Gary Mar, Politics Today, and Neil Sweeney, Vice President of Corporate Affairs, De Havilland Field.
  1. Rotary Links
Embed links to your website, social media channels, and Rotary International
The Big Get
When a speaker confirms the meeting, inform relevant club leaders so the date will be set in stone.

Provide the guest speaker with all of your contact info, meeting location and parking info, requested arrival time, the best door to enter the building through, and any other info that will be helpful for the day of the event.
Ironing out logistical and technical details before the event reduces the stress they may feel going to a place they may be unfamiliar with. It also makes you look like a pro. 
Some speakers like politicians, police or fire chiefs, or senior company executives may have aides or “handlers.” Because of their title, they feel they must “handle.” You may have 2-3 calls to reconfirm details in the days leading up to the meeting. Some may be annoying.
Master the Tech Check
There is nothing that aggravates audiences more than squealing mics; slide shows that refuse to play, or critical internet connections that won’t connect. If tech support is critical to their talk, ask them to arrive 15-20 minutes early to meet with your club technician and ensure everything works. A week before the meeting, contact them to determine their tech needs.
Do they need …
  • A podium, wireless, or handheld mic
  • Video or slide show playback
  • Internet access
  • A laptop. If no, will they bring a memory stick with their slide show
  • Ask about cable hookups needed if they bring their own laptop
Promo Kit
  • Ask for a bio and headshot for club promotion about three weeks before the event. If appropriate, distribute it to your club promotions team or the media.
  • Clarify the topic, length of the talk, and Q & A section
  • Arrange for an introducer and thanker. Inform your president who they are 2-3 days in advance.
  • Let authors know selling their books or musicians selling CDs is encouraged.
  • Determine whether the speaker will be accompanied by a spouse, an executive assistant, or another guest so you can assign a Rotarian to host them.
  • Ask about food allergies or menu limitations due to religious or dietary reasons.
Media Protocol
As Media Relations is part of what I do professionally, I’ve often generated media stories around special Rotary programs. If you feel your guest speaker's topic may be of interest to your local media, contact the speaker for permission to issue a news release inviting the media to hear them. It's an easy way to raise your club's profile in your community. 
Media Plan
Our speaker committee decided in the spring to invite the Chairpersons of the Calgary Public and Catholic Schools to join us in September. We knew there would be some kind of back-to-school issue so we planned to stage a panel discussion.
Two of us knew the Chairs personally, and they were comfortable scheduling the meeting without knowing exactly what the topic would be.
The meeting was a huge success. We had a big media turnout and the issue received news coverage thanks to Rotary. We later learned neither of the two Chairs had ever appeared together to speak at the same event before.
Out of the Loop
The media handlers of both leaders went nuts! Because the leaders knew us personally, they trusted us and chose not involve their people in the media plan. Their involvement would have complicated our strategy. Let’s say it was a great day for Rotary.
The End
What do you think? Do you have tips? I want to hear from you. Please comment below.  


Robyn T. Braley is a Rotarian in District 5360. He has served on numerous Club and District committees, including as the P.R. Chair in his District He has also produced major events in the community and in Rotary. He is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. You may contact him at robyn@robyntbraley.com