Finding and keeping diverse, high-quality speakers for your CE program can be a challenge for any organization. You’ve likely learned that that your continuing education (CE) program needs innovative content to succeed, but investing resources in dynamic presenters can take your CE program to the next level and help you stand out from the competition in the CE space. Check out these four best practice tips on working with Continuing-Education speakers to level-up your program.

Four tips for working with CE program speakers


1. Identify experts in your industry

The best way to find quality speakers for your CE program is to develop speaker personas. Speaker personas will help your association staff better understand the type of speakers you’d like to teach your CE courses. To create your speaker personas, you’ll want to think about how much experience you’re looking for in a speaker. Consider their area of industry expertise and if their professional background is relevant to your members.

After you’ve developed your speaker personas, you can begin the process of finding speakers for your CE program. “I can’t overemphasize the importance of building relationships when working with speakers,” says Terry Burnett of the South Carolina Bar Association. “Sometimes it’s difficult to find great speakers outside of [one’s local area] but you can work within your network to find qualified speakers.”

Begin by looking for qualified speakers within your association and your larger industry network. You can also ask your board and long-term members for recommendations within their professional and personal networks. To streamline the speaker sign-up process, try creating a form where speakers can register to speak at future events. Share the form at all events to increase awareness that your association is looking for speakers.  

CALL OUT: “We’ve had great success with implementing a volunteer speaker form. We provide the link on all our programs so any attendee can fill it in if they want to speak at a future event,” says Alexandra Wong of the Law Society of Ontario. “Word-of-mouth recommendations have also been quite successful for our organization. We’ve worked with many good speakers because of our board chairs and members.”

2. Represent diverse perspectives

It’s crucial to find speakers who represent all your members. Offering diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) voices in your CE program is vital for your attendees to feel seen and heard in your association. When you prioritize DEI speaker voices, you’ll nurture a welcoming environment in your CE program. 

To recruit a diverse body of speakers for your CE program, begin by sending out a general ask for speakers within your industry. Be sure to state your DEI policies. You can also find speakers on LinkedIn by joining professional networking groups. Observe how an individual conducts themself in thought leadership conversations to find a good fit for a potential speaker. Finally, invite them to speak at your next event.

CALL OUT: “Working with a variety of speakers who provide a diverse perspective and a different voice really helps to bring quality content to all our members,” says Wong.

3. How to handle speaker challenges

A common challenge many associations face with their CE speakers occurs within the process of content creation. “Sometimes great speakers don’t create great materials,” says Burnett. “But you can work with your speakers to encourage excellent materials.”

Alleviate this problem by working with your speakers to vary their CE content material offerings. Start by encouraging your speakers to use PowerPoint for presentation purposes only. Moving away from PowerPoint as a content medium will help your speakers create fresh resources for your members. You can additionally help your CE speakers by giving them a list of deadlines they’ll need to submit their course content to ensure all resources are available well before the CE course begins.

Sometimes you might have a speaker who drops out from their CE engagement at the last minute. In your speaking agreement, consider including a statement that encourages speakers to find a replacement to cover their CE course if they can no longer teach due to an illness or family emergency. For situations like these, it’s also wise for your association to have a list of backup speakers available so you can cover any last-minute absence.   

CALL OUT: “One of our biggest challenges is getting quality materials to our members on time,” says Wong. “Our speakers will say ‘well, I don’t want to write, I just want to speak.’ But the key thing we’ll say to our speakers is—it’s not about the quantity of what you write, it’s about the quality of what you provide in the presentation and the resources you give to our members. We want to give our attendees something they can take away and apply in their practice later.”

4. Protocols for success

Adopting advanced technology solutions like learning management software (LMS) can help take your association’s CE program to the next level. When you leverage an LMS you can offer engaging and interactive features in your CE program, helping your speakers successfully present their content, connect with attendees, and elevate member learning.

Look for dynamic technology solutions that improve both the speaker and member experience, such as:  

  • Q&A. Members can ask a speaker questions during a live webinar or event, helping to increase real-time comprehension of a topic
  • Polling. A speaker can poll the class, displaying the results to all attendees. Polling increases member engagement and course comprehension
  • Surveys. A speaker can invite an attendee to provide feedback to see if they should make any course adjustments.

Discover more tips to work with speakers in your CE program
Looking for more best practice tips on how to work with speakers in your CE program? Check out on-demand webinar: CLE Expert Series Webinar: Best Practices for Delivering Multi-Modal Learning