Personal Learning: The Multiple Benefits of Guest Lecturing

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The Multiple Benefits of Guest Lecturing

Delivering a guest lecture can be a powerful tool for professional self-development, and for planning your future. Although it's common for people who are already college or graduate school professors to do guest lectures at other institutions, or even their own, you don’t necessarily have to be a teacher to do an effective one.

Guest Lecturing

The Benefits

Why would you want to do a guest lecture? A strong one can:

  • provide a meaningful way to give back/pay forward to your profession, or area of expertise
  • lead to further teaching opportunities
  • lead to future career changes or pivots
  • help you think about your topic of expertise, and approach it from different angles.

My familiarity with delivering guest lectures goes back to 1995, when I was given the opportunity to do one at The Catholic University of America, my Masters of Library and Information Science alma mater.

At the time, I was a corporate librarian for USA TODAY, and increasingly interested in teaching as a parallel career. My lecture was about my work at the newspaper and led to my becoming an adjunct professor at the school the following year.

I’ve taught there as an adjunct ever since. The course I teach is “The Special Library/Information Center,” covering multiple aspects of organizational/business libraries and information centers.

Over the years I’ve also delivered guest lectures in classes taught by others, at Catholic University and elsewhere. Because I believe so strongly in the concept, I've included a number of guest lecturers in most of my teaching semesters.

In recent years, these lecturers have come from a wide variety of institutions, including the Library of Congress, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Smithsonian Libraries, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and LexisNexis.

Planning and Preparing for Your Guest Lecture

Before the pandemic, you may have been limited to local schools for lecture opportunities. But now that so many classes are held online using Zoom and related technology, you can potentially do guest lectures anywhere in the world.

For your initial preparation, follow these steps, and see where it leads:

  • Consider where you might give the lecture, such as in an MBA finance or marketing class, or whatever your field is
  • Develop a topic, perhaps based on the work you do. What would students find particularly valuable and unique? Prepare your guest lecture in PowerPoint or some other organized form
  • Settle on a time frame; perhaps for 20 to 30 minutes, to speak on your topic

What information will you need to deliver a strong lecture? It might help to include a sample bibliography, which will help organize your thoughts and knowledge during your preparation. Anticipate questions you might receive from the students, during and after your lecture.

Prepare a concise handout of supplementary material that could be distributed by email.

Additionally,

  • Think about how you can add value to a class. What’s in it for the students and professor of the course, not just for you?
  • Check online for suitable schools. Reach out to someone who is teaching a subject that would be a good fit. It helps if you already know the person, but it’s not necessary
  • If they are open to having you as a guest lecturer, find out the requirements, be sure of the logistics and prepare in detail
  • If you will be lecturing online, be sure that you are as familiar as possible with the software and hardware requirements well ahead of your lecture day
  • Ask for a syllabus, so you can be sure that you’re adding unique material, and that you know what the professor has covered and will cover in the course
  • Make sure you are aware of the time requirements; what time you will start and end (knowing the right time zone), whether or not there will be questions and answers, and how much time will be allotted for them.

If your preparations eventually lead to a guest lecture, enjoy yourself, and convey your expertise and enthusiasm for what could be a life-changing experience.

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