Best Practices: Make the Most of Speakers on Campus

Top 12 Suggestions for Maximizing Speaker Visibility

These suggestions are intended to augment the Best Practices for Announcing Events posting.

  1. Post the event on the Duke Calendar ( in a timely manner

This may seem logical, but it can be difficult to get speaker talk abstracts and it's not uncommon for events to get posted at the last minute. Be aware that this can trip up people's regular routines for promoting events. Try to post events AT LEAST two weeks in advance. Provide an engaging abstract of the speaker's talk whenever possible. Be sure to identify co-sponsors so that the event shows up on other department/program websites as well. Note that the Duke Alumni Association and the Office of News & Communications regularly review the Duke calendar for events to promote or cover.

  1. Get Your Event Photo on Duke Calendar Page Banner

If you would like the Office of News and Communications (ONC) to consider highlighting your event on the Duke calendar, send an email message to Include a photo or other image to illustrate the event, along with the photographer's name and confirmation that you have rights to publish the photo on Duke's site. ONC prefers photos that are at least 300 dpi, but will accept smaller versions. Requests to feature an event should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the event. The event must be held on Duke's campus or in other Duke venues to be featured.

  1. Use a photo of the speaker and/or the research or work on YOUR websites whenever possible

In addition to using a photo to promote the talk BEFORE the event, consider whether the importance of the event itself and the venue would make for a compelling photograph or two. If you need to schedule professional photography, hire a Duke-approved photography freelancer. Provide as much information as possible to the photographer about what kinds of shots you are looking for and how you plan to use them (e.g. website, print brochure, etc.).

  1. Post interesting talks on community calendars

If your speaker's talk could be interesting to a broader audience, such as the public or faculty at UNC, for example, post your information to community calendars. See Durham Community Calendar, Greater Raleigh Calendar of Events, and Chapel Hill calendars.

  1. Invite faculty members directly

Identify faculty within and outside your department or program whose work intersects with the speaker and invite those individuals specifically (if the department does not already have a mechanism for announcing events). Do not assume that putting the talk on the calendar is good enough. Faculty surveys indicate that the preferred method of finding out about events is through email, and everyone appreciates information that is tailored to their interests.

  1. Invite the Chronicle Newspaper

For talks that have the potential to be interesting and understandable to a broad university audience, consider inviting the Duke student newspaper, The Chronicle, to cover the event. You'll have to make a judgment call here, because some talks will just be too technical, or too specialized in scope for a student reporter to cover well. And be aware that it is, on the whole, rare for a talk to be of interest to the professional news media such as the Durham Herald or NPR. If you feel that a speaker's talk has that kind of broad appeal, please contact the Office of News & Communications as early as possible so that they can work with you to cultivate coverage.

  1. Engage the Office of News & Communications (ONC) with content that will interest a broad range of people

ONC writes stories primarily for a news audience and for DukeToday, but is not an events promotion organization tasked with boosting attendance at campus events. That said, they are interested in the intellectual activity of the campus. When you have a significant speaker coming to campus for a conference or just an individual talk, consider the following strategy. Through email, ask your speaker three or four broad ranging questions that draw out the significance and application of the speaker's research or work. Craft that information into a tightly written Q&A with a photo of the speaker, and then ask if that set of content can be run on DukeToday in advance of the talk, with a reference to the logistics for the talk. In this way, ONC is able to provide an interesting "learning moment" to the Duke community that will be of benefit even to those who would not consider attending the talk itself. See an example of this approach in "On Terror and Torture: A Talk with Baher Azmy," published in DukeToday on February 19, 2013.

  1. Plan to use social media on the day of the talk/event

Task a student, staff member or faculty member--or a combination of all three--to tweet about the talk or post content/photos on Facebook or through Instagram. Include the Duke hastags #dukelive or #pictureduke to further leverage your social media impact. The Office of News & Communications has compiled some guidance for using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. If you need any assistance with this, or your organization does not have a Twitter or Facebook presence, please talk with Duke social media manager Sonja Foust in the Office of News & Communications

  1. Consider videotaping the talk/event or live webcast

Depending on the topic, it may make sense to videotape a particular talk or event, or to do a live webcast. See guidance from the Office of News & Communications about creating multimedia content and additional information on preparing for and publicizing a live webcast.  Post the event video on your website and facebook, and then tweet or post around an intriguing quote or discussion. Duke's social media manager Sonja Foust will retweet and repost such information on the Duke Twitter and Facebook accounts. This can be a great way to further leverage your speaker's presence on campus. Be sure to get permission from your speaker through a signed release form, and identify up front whether you need discuss a review process prior to posting.

  1. Tie the talk to a classroom discussion

Give students more motivation to attend a talk by planning a discussion in class. Attendance does not need to be required, but relevant subject matter from talks is a great way to extend classroom learning and intellectual curiosity. Be sure to follow through and actually have a discussion on the talk. Remind students that engaging with professionals in their field of study is a great way to develop networking skills--something everyone needs.

  1. Give faculty speakers an opportunity to cultivate future graduate students

Explicitly offer visiting faculty speakers an opportunity to meet with students who are considering graduate school in the speaker's field. The speaker can then talk about his or her university's graduate program, his or her personal research agenda, and students can learn about the culture and expectations of that university. This creates a win-win for the speaker and for our students. Advertise this opportunity to students to encourage them to attend the talk.

  1. Offer refreshments

If budget allows, refreshments do make a difference in event attendance, particularly for students.