Work-Based Learning - Guest Speaker Activity Guide

  • Guest Speaker Fact Sheet
  • Coordinator Checklist
  • Virtual Options
blue icon of person behind a podium

Guest Speaker Fact Sheet

What Is a Guest Speaker presentation?

Using guest speakers to support learning is a structured Career Awareness activity in which students listen to a presentation to learn about the speaker’s career, business or organization and industry, and ask questions to help them consider whether they might like to pursue a career in the industry.


Designed to meet specific learning outcomes, guest speaker presentations are educationally rich, are tied to the curriculum, and help students connect what they’re learning in school with the workplace. Presentations are usually conducted at the school, but in some cases guest speakers may visit a classroom via Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams or some other technology; and the activity is conducted through the use of a virtual classroom. There are also virtual simulations available where a recording of a live guest speaker activity can be viewed online and serve as a foundation for an activity and/or discussion in a virtual classroom.

Guest Speaker presentations are designed to:

  • Provide exposure to potential careers and jobs.
  • Provide a realistic picture of the occupation,  business, its role in the community and the career paths and occupations of its workforce.
  • Help students make the connection between school and the workplace.
  • Inform career planning.

Guest Speaker presentations are structured to:

  • Allow students to listen, receive information and ask questions.
  • Enable students to begin identifying areas of career interest.
  • Build knowledge about the education and training needed for a particular job, career path and entry into the industry.

Guest Speaker presentations are supported by:

  • Classroom preparation, including research on the industry and participating businesses.
  • Employer orientation and support.
  • Opportunities to reflect upon the experience verbally and in writing.

Guest Speaker presentations are connected to:

  • Individual career development/training plans.
  • Future work-based learning activities.
  • The student’s next steps.

Guest speaker presentations are one activity in the continuum of authentic work-based experiences provided to all students engaged in career-related programs or course of study in New York City Public Schools.

Guest Speaker Activities are recognized as a “Zero Hour” Supporting WBL activity by NYSED and the New York City Public Schools.

blue icon of person behind a podium

Quick tips for Work-Based Learning Coordinators* to ensure a successful Guest Speaker Presentation


  • Identify all interested teachers and help them plan for their guest speaker presentations.
  • Make sure the speakers are good matches for the classes. What classroom topics can the speaker support?
  • Prepare teachers and encourage them to participate before, during and after the guest speaker presentation. Share the Teacher Tip Sheet.
  • Have teachers help create learning objectives and work with students to prepare for the day and create questions they can ask.
  • Share speaker bio with students, plus prompting questions.
  • Provide employers an information packet about the school, including the format of the presentation.
  • Confirm employer attendance and determine presentation needs. Let them know where to park and share any visitor procedures they need to follow.
  • Make sure the employer volunteers are supported and prepared. Share questions to expect and encourage them to create an engaging and interactive presentation—using visuals and props.
  • Arrange for someone to meet the speaker when they arrive, and escort them to the classroom, or meet them online prior to the presentation.
  • Ask for permission to record and share the presentation with others in the future.
  • If conducting the activity via the internet, test and practice with the interface prior to the presentation.


  • Document the guest speaker presentation. Review feedback from guest speakers and teachers and summarize results. Make recommendations for improvements.
  • Help students update their Employability Skills Profile and think about any next steps they would like to take to further their career goals.
  • Work with teachers to coordinate “go deeper” activities to connect the guest speaker presentation to the classroom.
  • Send thank-you notes to guest speakers.
  • Take pictures from the guest speaker presentations and provide them to the companies for their websites or newsletters. Ensure you have signed releases for all photos.
  • Confirm guest speaker’s company social media policy. Ask speaker to send URLs to social pages so students can properly tag them.
  • Publicize the guest speaker presentation and the businesses that participated by placing a story in the local newspaper or posting on the school or agency webpage.
  • Consider any other public relations benefits.
  • Post the Guest Speaker session recording on a shared drive or website and archive for future use.

Tips for Conducting an Online Guest Speaker Activity

  • Select and personally practice using the selected technology.
  • Make sure all students have access to appropriate technology.
  • Decide how you will have students pose questions – Verbally or by entering on their device.
  • Do a test run with your students as well as the guest speaker.
  • Preload any slides or presentations from the speaker.
  • Decide how you want to manage the session. Sometimes it takes one person to moderate and another to monitor the technology and address any questions.
  • Decide which student reflection activities will take place and how you will support them.
  • Remember, it’s possible that parents or guardians will be around and would be a good resource for potential future speakers,
  • Make sure you get feedback on the activity from the speaker and the students.
  • Record and post the presentation for others to view and use in their classrooms.

In New York State, this includes certified work-based learning coordinators and others who facilitate, arrange and support work-based learning activities for students.

Sample Timeline

  • Beginning of the School Year: Identify interested teachers and appropriate speakers. Brainstorm business partners who could participate.
  • Two months in advance: Invite business partners to participate. Secure date, time and location.
  • One month in advance: Confirm participation of speakers. Have students research the industry or company.
  • One week in advance: Send speakers logistics for the day and questions to expect. Confirm any presentation needs.
  • On Presentation Day: Ensure that guest speakers are welcomed and escorted to classroom. If online, test systems and launch interface prior to the activity.
  • After Presentation Day: Send thank-you notes to all guest speakers and ensure student reflection activities take place.

Tips for Success

  • Engage in proper planning and preparation.
  • Address logistical details.
  • Communicate with all parties.
  • Maximize learning potential.
  • Focus on building awareness.
  • Connect to the classroom.
  • Provide support for students and supervisors.
  • Promote student reflection.
blue icon of person behind a podium

Guest Speaker Virtual Options


Translating a Guest Speaker Activity to  virtual settings is perhaps the most straightforward of all the Work-Based Learning activities. While presentations are usually conducted at the school, in some cases guest speakers may visit a classroom via Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams or some other technology; and the activity is conducted through the use of a virtual classroom. There are also virtual simulations available where a recording of a live guest speaker activity can be viewed on-line and serve as a foundation for an activity and/or discussion in the classroom

Virtual Activity Options

Remember, virtual activities either promote “live” student contact with adult professionals and front-line workers via the use of technology, or are simulations and provide students with employer exposures through recordings, online research and related classroom activities.

Virtual Guest Speaker Options

Virtual Classroom

An industry or employer partner visits a Virtual classroom as a guest speaker and provides a presentation on the speaker’s career, business or organization and industry. Students ask questions to help them consider whether they might like to pursue a career in the industry.

Steps to Success

  • 1. Review the Guest Speaker Guide. Distribute and review checklists and tip sheets to all parties
  • 2. WBL Coordinator and/or Teachers recruit and schedule Industry Partner(s)
  • 3. WBL Coordinator and/or Teachers select and test platform
  • 4. Industry Partner visits virtual classroom.
  • 5. Industry Partner introduces self, provides presentation
  • 6. Students ask questions and interact with the speaker, moderated by WBL Coordinator or Teacher
  • 7. Teacher Supports reflection activities and helps students update their employability skills profile.

Guest Speaker Foundational Activity

Identify and select a recorded guest speaker to use as a foundation for an activity and discussion in the classroom.

Have students search the web for recordings of guest speakers and provide a presentation to the class where they show the video and then lead a discussion about the speaker’s career.

  • What did they learn?
  • What else would they like to know?
  • How can they gather more information

Go Hybrid

In some cases it may be possible to arrange for a guest speaker to return to the virtual classroom for a short amount of time to answer specific questions from a new group of students participating in a virtual Guest Speaker activity. If you have recorded the session and are able to have the speaker return set up a convenient time, have students view the Guest Speaker session, start a discussion and then bring the speaker in to answer questions and engage in a dialogue with the students.

Special Considerations

  • Get employer permission to record and reuse the session.
  • Select and test appropriate technology with all parties.
  • Decide how students will pose questions (raise hand, chat box etc.)
  • Decide who will moderate and who will provide tech support during the session.
  • Conduct a practice run with students.

Resources & Links