Five Steps to Excellent Student Assemblies

Vol. 13 No. 7

divhead eletter Vol14 No7 assembly

Student assemblies change students’ lives—or they can be something akin to a waking nightmare. Finding the right “educational performers” or motivational speakers that do a wonderful job of inspiring and teaching your students within your budget and who mesh with your school’s mission can be a trial, though. This month, we’ve listed the five steps that should lead you to host the transformational student assemblies that will become wonderful memories your students treasure long after they leave your school.

Step 1: Decide what you want an assembly to achieve.

Ask yourself, “What do I want to see happen after the presentation?”

Perhaps you want to inspire students to think about a “dry” subject in a different way, or introduce them to a new career idea. Maybe you believe your students need to be inspired during a time of year where people often come down with the “blahs” and feel overwhelmed with testing. (“The SATs are coming! The ACTs are coming!”) Informing your school to relevant, popular topics—like sexual health, substance abuse, bullying, or politics—through a mission-appropriate lens is another common reason to invite speakers to campus.

All of these are great reasons to invite a presenter or educational performer to speak, and will better inform your selection of the “main event,” as it were.

Step 2: Determine a budget.

Presenters can become expensive quickly. However, when you pay speakers or performers, you’ll be paying for their:

  • expertise and experience;
  • travel time;
  • business overhead like marketing and accounting;
  • practice and refining; and
  • possibly lodging.

All things considered, a performer’s fees can quickly rack up into the thousands just to keep the business afloat—but there’s a greater guarantee of a transformational experience from these professionals.

Therefore, know how much you can afford to spend to bring in a speaker before you (metaphorically) fall in love with an educational program outside of your budget.

Step 3: Explore your community for possible presenters.

There’s much to be said for hiring a presenter who does these sorts of educational programs for a living. Expertise in integrating education with entertainment and experience adapting to snags are both worth paying for a professional speaker.

That said, your school community and local neighborhood is probably bursting with people who can offer your students engaging, interesting presentations.

  • Teachers may have connections to colleagues or family members who would be flattered to be called in to speak to classes.
  • Parents might have interesting careers and/or research to share that students—especially older students on the cusp of college—would find informative and different from the routine. Parents may also work at a typical “field trip” destination like a museum, art gallery, or zoo, which could present an interesting out-of-school learning opportunity.
  • You can involve alumni and donors in your school community by inviting them to speak to relevant classes about their jobs or personal experiences.
  • Local colleges and universities have professors whose careers revolve around staying up-to-date on the latest news and research in their fields of expertise, as well as teaching large numbers of students. Seeing if a local professor would like to have a talk at your school could be a great community building measure.

Step 4: Check your prospective speakers for suitability and expertise.

Not all speakers are created equal, even those who claim a similar expertise and program for the classroom. You can ask a variation of these questions to a prospective speaker to ensure a proper, mission-appropriate fit for your school.

  • “Where do you get your information for your presentation?”
    • This question serves to guarantee that your presenters will offer factually correct information to your students from mission-appropriate sources.
  • “May I get the contact information for schools at which you’ve recently run this program?”
  • “Is your fee all-inclusive, or will we need to pay separately for travel, hotel expenses, and set up?”
    • Don’t get nickel-and-dimed for presentation fees!
  • “Have you performed for this age group before?”
    • Some people feel comfortable speaking to older children, while others are better with a younger crowd. This question will help match the presenter to the most appropriate audience.
  • “What will you need from our school to help with the presentation?”
    • Presenters will need various things and assistance for their programs. Asking this question before signing on the dotted line avoids painting your school into a corner if it can’t provide the resources the presenter says he/she needs.

Step 5: Prepare your school for the assembly.

Hopefully, your teachers have been involved throughout this process of planning and vetting, providing input on assembly performance topics and how they can integrate the presentation into their curriculum. Even if teachers are not involved in the selection process, they should be aware of the assembly beforehand to plan accordingly.

Don’t forget about notifying your maintenance staff about the assembly, either! They’ll be called on to help set up and tear down the performance area, as well as clean up any inevitable mess that appears whenever a group of excited students descends.

Assemblies and speakers also provide a great marketing opportunity for your school, particularly if you tell your community about the event well in advance. So tell your families—current, past, and prospective—about the exciting educational programming you’ll be hosting.

Finally, consider the logistical side of any large-scale event, including timing and location. Performer and teaching artist Dave Ruch recommends smaller, more intimate spaces help generate energy and excitement for an assembly. If you have an open auditorium and stage area for a smaller number of students, Ruch suggests bringing the students up on stage. This setup allows for a more intimate experience than separating the speaker from the audience.

Have you invited a particularly engaging speaker or educational performer to your school recently? Share your recommendations below!

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for School Heads Vol. 11 No. 8 And Now for Something Completely Different...
The Source for Private School News Vol. 14 No. 2 Maasai Warriors, Live Poetry, and the Pursuit of Ignorance: TED Talks Truths and Dares

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 3 Summer Program: The Third Semester
I&P Vol. 41 No. 1 Facility Planning and Future Needs

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