Paul Kei Matsuda

Please read if you are planning to invite a speaker for an academic event.

If you are thinking about organizing an academic event--such as an invited talk or a conference--that involves one or more invited speaker, here are a few things to consider. (This information is based on my years of experience as a conference organizer and invited speaker.) 

To avoid miscommunication (which can be expensive for you or for your organization), designate one person as the invited speaker contact, if possible. That person should work with others to coordinate  transportation, introductions, escorts, dinners, receptions, hotel and travel arrangements, honorarium payments, reimbursements, etc. Don't make the invited speaker play the organizer role. Coordination is your job. The speaker's job is to show up and deliver the talk and/or workshop.

Before inviting the speaker, be sure that the event does not conflict with major religious holidays or other important events locally or elsewhere. Also make sure that the venue is going to be available for the invited talk and for the whole event. (Reserve rooms before contacting the invited speakers.) Also reserve hotel rooms for the speaker(s) and for out-of-town participants. Think of the speaker invitation as the point of no return. Once you invite, you gotta make the event happen.

When you contact the invited speaker, be very clear and upfront about what you expect them to do and what compensations you are able to provide. Here are some questions to consider when you invite a speaker. 

What would you like the speaker to do?
  • What is the status of the speaker at the conference? The keynote speaker? One of the plenary, featured, or invited speakers? Invited workshop leader? 
  • In addition to giving a talk, what other roles do you expect the person to play? An additional workshop? Session chair? (If there are additional speaking roles, mention that upfront, not as an additional request later.) 
  • When do you need the title, abstract and biographical statement? (Make the request sooner than later and provide reasonable time.)
  • Do you need a promotion photo for publicity materials? If so, what are the specifications? (Format, size, etc.) How do you plan to use it?
  • Do you expect the invited speaker to attend sessions? (I would attend sessions and interact with participants anyway, but some people don't.) 
  • Do you expect the invited speaker to be at certain occasions (opening and closing ceremonies, photo ops, dinners, receptions, informal gatherings with graduate students, etc.). (I usually try to show up for these events as much as possible, but it helps to know what to expect.) 
  • Will you be requesting a manuscript for proceedings? If so, how many words? By what date? Is it required or optional? What publisher will publish it? How widely will it be circulated? (I prefer not to write for proceedings with a limited circulation.)
  • Will you be requesting a copy of the script, handouts, PowerPoint slides or other materials? If so, what do you plan to do? How do you plan to protect the speaker's intellectual property rights? 
  • Will you be audio- or video-recording the presentation? If so, what do you plan to do with it? How widely will it be distributed? 
What do you plan to provide for the speaker?
  • Will you be providing an honorarium? How much? (Note that some speakers have a standard speaking fee. Be prepared to find additional funding sources, if necessary.) In what form (e.g., check, cash, wire transfer)? In what currency? When will you be making the payment? (It's usually after the conference, but it helps to know the time frame.)
  • Will you be providing transportation? Up to what amount? Are there any restrictions (e.g., discount economy, upgradable full fare, first class, airline restrictions etc.)? Who will make the arrangements? (I prefer to book my own flights and be reimbursed.) 
  • Will you be picking up the speaker? If not, will you arrange and pay for a ride? If the speaker is to take a cab or shuttle, will you be reimbursing the speaker?
  • Will you be providing lodging? Where? For how many nights? Be prepared to provide lodging for the night before the conference and on the last day of the conference. If the funding is limited, mention how many nights you will be able to cover upfront. (Or consider reducing the number of invited speakers so you can provide full funding.) 
  • Will you be providing meals? For meals that are not provided, will you reimburse for meals? Or will you provide per diems? If so, at what rate?
  • What kind of documentation and receipts do you require for processing honoraria and reimbursement? A copy of passport? A tax form (W-2 in the U.S.)? Receipt? Boarding passes? 
Here are some additional questions to consider that might help the speaker provide the best service: 
  • What is the theme of the event? 
  • Is there a website? There should be a professionally designed website with the title, date, location, description of the event, list of speakers, schedule of events, local information, registration information, etc. 
  • Why are you inviting this particular speaker? Are there a particular issue, question or topic you would like to see addressed? 
  • What is the format of the event? How many people are going to attend?
  • What is the itinerary for the speaker? 
  • Who is in the audience? Researchers in the field? Faculty members? Graduate students? Undergraduate students? People in the community? (Don't require people to attend just to avoid the embarrassment of not having enough people in the audience. It's better to have a small group of committed people in the audience than to have a large number of people who are not interested.) 
  • When will the talk be scheduled? Will it be the opening or closing plenary? Luncheon talk? (A good speaker can sometimes tailor the talk depending on the occasion.) 
  • What kind of equipment will be available? Projector for PowerPoint? Sound? Internet connection? Document projector? Microphone? If so, what kind? (It's OK to ask the speaker what they need; be prepared for last minute requests, however.) 
  • Who are the sources of funding? What are their interests in providing the funding? 
Book the hotel room for the invited speakers before or shortly after sending out the invitation. The standard check-in time should be the night before the first day of the event and the check-out time should be the day after the last day of the event. It's easy to modify or cancel the reservation later; it can be difficult to find appropriate rooms if you wait too long. Use the institutional credit card, if available, or use your own credit card. Don't make the speakers call the hotel to give their credit cards. It is OK, however, for the hotel to ask the speakers for their credit cards for incidentals.

Double check hotel rooms for the speakers. Sometimes hotels lose reservations. Don't let that happen. 

Some organizers try to simplify things by adding a lump-sum payment to the honorarium amount and asking the invited speakers to make their own arrangements for transportation, accommodation and even meals. That's fine if the lump-sum amount is clearly larger than the expected expenses. But keep in mind that the speaker will have to do additional work of finding a hotel room in an unfamiliar area. They would also have to claim unreimbursed expenses on their tax returns. I don't recommend this approach because it is not the best way to treat your guest. It reflects poorly on the organizer, the event, and the hosting institution. (As an invited speaker, I only suggest this when I sense that the organizers don't have their acts together.)

A few weeks before the event, provide a complete (and finalized) itinerary with cell phone numbers and email addresses for all the key people (e.g., pick up, escort, meal hosts, organizers, etc.). Photos of these people, if available, will also be useful (though not necessary if they arrive on time and introduce themselves to the speaker right away). 

And whatever you do, never, ever disinvite a speaker. (Unless the event itself is canceled.) That reflects poorly on you and your organization. 

I know this is a lot. If you can't handle all these details yourself, find someone else who is dependable enough to handle them responsibly. If not, you might want to think twice about organizing an event that involves invited speakers.

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Position Announcement: Coordinator of Multilingual Writing

From: Hillard, Van <>
Date: Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 4:37 PM
Subject: Position Announcement: Coordinator of Multilingual Writing


I would much appreciate your assistance in disseminating this job announcement for a Coordinator of ESL and Multilingual Writing at Davidson College:

Davidson College is searching for a Coordinator of ESL and Multilingual Writing to create innovative and effective programming for students, tutors, and faculty. This individual will regularly assess the needs of our diverse student body, paying special attention to international students' academic acculturation. She or he will develop curricular supports, engage in faculty development, and work with students in classroom and consultative settings. In addition, each year, he or she will teach two first-year writing courses designed for native and non-native writers. Graduate coursework in such fields as Applied Linguistics, Second Language Studies, Cross-Cultural Rhetorics, Rhetorical Theory, Writing Studies, or Literacy Studies preferred. Master's degree required; PhD preferred. At least one year's experience in teaching multilingual students at the college level required.  Interested applicants may visit to apply.  Davidson College is strongly committed to achieving excellence and cultural diversity, and welcomes applications from women, members of minority groups, and others who would bring additional dimensions to the college's mission. 

Thanks for your help.


Van E. Hillard, PhD | Director, College Writing Program
Associate Professor of Rhetoric
Davidson College
mail  Box 7052 Davidson, NC 28036
packages  200 Ridge Road  |  Davidson, NC 28035
o 704-894-2974    h 704-892-8318    919-599-7875
College Writing Program

MTESOL Courses in the Ideal World?

Someone who is doing a review of a master's program in TESOL at his institution asked me to come up with a list of 10 courses that should be required in the "ideal world." Here is what I came up with:

  • Principles and Practices of TESOL (with a post-method emphasis)
  • Research Methods (with an emphasis on classroom research and action research)
  • SLA Theory (with an emphasis on theories and issues that are relevant to language teachers and learners)
  • Pedagogical Grammar (English Grammar, including some of the useful materials covered in introduction to linguistics and sociolinguistics)
  • Curriculum Design and Materials Development
  • Classroom Language Assessment
  • Technology and Language Teaching
  • Teaching Oral Communication
  • Teaching Written Communication
  • English as an International Language/World Englishes (including some discussion of sociolinguistics relevant to English teaches)
After getting feedback from people (teachers and teacher educators) from around the world on Facebook, I've revised the list--this time including some electives: 
  • Principles and Practices of TESOL (with a post-method emphasis)
  • Research Methods for TESOL (with an emphasis on classroom research and action research as well as understanding research)
  • SLA Theory for TESOL (with an emphasis on theories and issues that are relevant to English language teachers and learners)
  • Pedagogical Grammar (English Grammar, including some of the useful materials covered in introduction to linguistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, genre studies)
  • Curriculum Design and Materials Development
  • Classroom Language Assessment
  • Teaching Oral Communication (including some insights from phonetics, phonology, sociolinguistics, pragmatics,  intercultural communication but with a greater emphasis on developing communicative competence and teaching strategies)
  • Teaching Written Communication (including some insights from composition studies, genre studies, corpus analysis and intercultural communication but with a greater emphasis on developing communicative competence and teaching strategies)
  • Practicum in TESOL (with internship opportunities in intensive language programs, first-year writing programs, community language programs, writing centers, etc.)
  • Linguistics/Applied Linguistics/TESOL Electives
    • Introduction to Language for Language Teachers
    • Introduction to Applied Linguistics for Language Teachers
    • Research Methods in Applied Linguistics
    • Phonetics and Phonology for Language Teachers
    • Sociolinguistics and Pragmatics for Language Teachers
    • Systemic-Functional Linguistics for Language Teachers
    • English as an International Language
    • Technology and Language Teaching
    • Corpus Analysis
    • Language Program Administration
    • Second Language Writing
This list will likely continue to evolve. 

Kat Daily Receives Teaching Award

Katherine Daily has received the 2011-2012 Teaching Excellence Award from the Graduate and Professional Student Association at Arizona State University. Congratulations, Kat! Well deserved!

Last update: January 6, 2008