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Local UNA events: sourcing public speakers

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Local UNA events: sourcing public speakers

Local UNAs told us that the success of an event often depends on how engaging the speaker is.  Ideally, whoever you find should have an academic or personal experience of the subject, enabling them to speak with authority.  UNAs, across the country have given us a plenty of tips on where they have found speakers.  We have listed these below, along with a few ideas of our own. Do let us know your own suggestions so that we can share them with others.  

Local university or colleges  

Establish links or contacts with local higher education establishments, especially political, international or environmental science departments where you may find lecturers willing to give a talk on an area of interest. You may find a more favourable response if you have an existing relationship, so  consider introducing yourself, your group and your interests at an early stage. Other than a lecturer, some local UNAs told us that PhD students can provide some very interesting talks in their area of research and that they often welcome opportunities to talk publicly about their subject.  

Constituency MP/ MEP

Many local UNAs invite their constituency MP or MEP, to speak at, or at least attend, their events. This can provide an important opportunity to hear what your local representative has to say on controversial or current concerns, ask important questions and foster lively debate. 

Local government councillors

Local government councillors are often eager to demonstrate their own activism within the community especially if this involves issues that resonate locally - the environment and equality, for example . Be aware that, as with MPs and MEPs, it's likely that a speaker who is a member of a political party will have their own bias.  

Local government officers

Your local council will have a broad range of officers, serving particular departments, some of whom may have an international link.  These officers are often willing to talk with local communities on matters relating to their work and interests.  Look for opportunities to connect with these and others at your local council, it will also provide links to other opportunities for involving them in what you do.

Other NGOs

Other NGOs may be willing to provide a speaker on their own specialist area.  Partnerships with other NGO’s can be very helpful - by providing a joint approach on important issues you will be able to share information, resources and an audience.  You may find it helpful to establish links and a working relationship before asking them to talk at, or participate in an event. The Institute of development Studies and the Directory of UK NGO’s, provide two of several online directories of NGOs and Organisations that you might find useful, others can be found by searching the internet.

Networking with other local UNAs

Many of our local UNAs have their own network of contacts or members with extensive knowledge and experience across a broad range of topics - from lecturers and government experts to past or present UN staff.  Other local UNAs should be willing to help you find, or provide, a speaker for your event. Think about contacting surrounding branches or your UNA region/nation and ask if they have or know of a good speaker who might come and talk at your event.   

Contact information for Regions, Branches and the UNA Women’s Advisory Council are available from the Members area.

Briefing public speakers

We have found that properly briefing a speaker is a very important part of organising this kind of event. If done well, a briefing sets the scene, highlights expectations, deals with uncertainties and helps you maintain direction and control while fostering professionalism and a healthy raport between yourself and those you invite to speak.  Questions you should consider answering in a speaker brief might include: 

  • When and where is the meeting is to take place?
  • How will the speaker get there?  Will they be met and if so where when and by who?
  • Who their point of contact is and how they can be reached?
  • What is the topic of the talk and are there any specific points you would like them to address?  
  • How long will they be speaking for?
  • Will questions will be taken from the audience and the kinds of questions to expect (pre submitted questions are often helpful)?
  • How will the questions be invited?
  • What is the kind of audience they are likely to be addressing (public, accademic, business, interest groups, etc)?
  • What are the arrangements for meeting any expenses incured (train, taxi and other such travel costs)?