Booking a speaker requires careful planning and effective timing, but the job isn’t done when the speaker has stopped speaking. You still have one final task: to thank your guest speaker. (And bring them to the airport, of course!) Thanking a speaker isn’t the same as paying them or organizing their travel and/or accommodations—although those are important things to do, too. Instead, thanking a speaker is an intentional response to the work that they did and the message they delivered.
It might seem like an insignificant task, but there are a lot of good reasons to thank your guest speaker. First, it’s a great way to show your appreciation for their work. Yes, paying them can communicate that as well—but an intentional thank you adds a personal touch to the exchange. Second, saying thank you will encourage future collaboration. If a speaker—or anyone who works with you—feels appreciated, they are more likely to work with you again and recommend you to others. A simple gesture can bring a lot of long-term success.
And finally, thanking a speaker will reflect well on both you and your company. Your audience may be full of your customers, but they aren’t the only ones who pay attention to your brand. Establishing a friendly but professional rapport with speakers and other collaborators will build the part of your brand that speaks to fellow competitors and colleagues.
Who knew a simple thank you could mean so much! Now it’s time to get to the good stuff—how to thank your guest speaker. Here are five simple, but impactful, ways to show your appreciation.
A Public Thank You
Always thank your guest speaker in front of the audience once they have finished. Usually, after a guest speaker is done, the host will close the event or transition the audience into the next phase of the event. That is the perfect time to thank your guest speaker! The speakers’ words will still be on everyone’s mind, and the speaker will still be nearby to hear your appreciation.
You don’t have to write a long, formal thank you, either. Instead, take some time to write a thoughtful sentence or three, and with room to add your reflection or thoughts on their speech. That will show that you listened to their words—which is what every speaker wants! Then, of course, you can lead the audience into another round of applause. (If you’re hosting a virtual event, you can skip the applause and ask viewers to react on screen, if allowed by your platform.)
While there’s nothing wrong with giving a public thank you, it is expected. But you can take your gratitude one step further and thank your guest speaker in person. Chances are, you’ll see them before they leave, and you should use that time to thank them for everything—not just their speech. When a guest speaker (or any type of guest!) attends your event, they are traveling away from home just to come see you and your audience. That’s awesome! And an in-person thank you will reflect just how much you appreciate their committment.
If time and budget allows, you can even bring your guest speaker out for dinner or drinks to chat with them more and thank them in a practical way. They may have to go right to the airport or to another meeting—and that’s OK! Even offering to buy them a meal is a nice gesture, and it won’t go unnoticed.
A Follow-up Note
The evening after your event, or even the next day, consider sending a follow-up thank you note to your speaker. The note can reiterate some of the points from your public thank you, but your follow-up note is a chance to be a little bit more personal. What did you take away from spending time with them? What did you enjoy about meeting them? How do you hope to work together in the future? Take a little time and reflect on the whole experience—not just their speech.
If possible, we recommend sending your note in the mail. It will take a little longer to get there, but it will be a pleasant surprise when it arrives. Plus, it’s a more formal way of saying thank you—much like formal thank you cards after a wedding. Of course, if you don’t have an address for them, or you don’t feel comfortable asking, an email will suffice. But start with a clean, fresh draft; don’t just reply to an old email conversation with your gratitude.
A Special Gift
For an exclusive speaker, or one who went above and beyond, send them a special gift, outside of the agreed-upon payment. You can choose something related to their area of expertise, or just something you know they would enjoy. For example, if they are presenting on the fair trade standards for coffee beans, consider some fair trade chocolate or other ethically sourced goodies. But if you know they they prefer to take notes by hand, you could send them a nice fountain pen.
Bonus Tip: If you’re sending a gift, include your follow-up note in the package.
The gift that you choose, along with their mode of transportation, will determine how you present the item. For example, if they are flying, they may not have room in their carry on for an assortment of chocolates. However, they would have room for a gift card or small book. On the other hand, if they’re driving, you shouldn’t send them home with a bouquet or fruit basket—it will probably go bad before they arrive. Once you’ve chosen their gift, then you can choose how to give it to them.
Share on Social
Maybe you’re entire event is virtual, and you can’t take them out for dinner or hand them a thank you note before they board the plane. That’s OK! You can still thank them publicly and send them a thank you note. And then you can hop on social media and share their work! They may have a new project they’re working on, or perhaps they just published a book related to their speech at your event. Share those resources with your followers!
Find the platforms that your speaker uses the most—if you asked them to your event, you probably already know where they hang out. Some common platforms include Twitter and LinkedIn, but you may also find them on YouTube, Facebook, or even Instagram. And if you’re not sure what to share, then read a recent article or blog post written by your speaker. If you resonate with the topic, share the content with your favorite point.
There are many different ways to thank your guest speaker. Some of them are quick and simple—like a public post-speech thank you—while others require more planning, like a gift or hand-written note. Try to pick two or three thank you methods off of this list, or add some of your own! After all, the best way to thank your guest speaker is more than once.
What method(s) will choose from this list? What method(s) would you add to this list?