In a Nutshell
How to find and schedule speakers who add a level of complexity and understanding to your itinerary
Speakers add a deeper level of understanding of Israel. After all, they live there and can speak from personal experiences which can often be quite powerful.
Think about which speakers or types of speakers best complement your trip’s ongoing narrative. They could be politicians, journalists, academics, experts on the Middle East, writers, artists, or security personnel.
Put together a diverse mix of potential speakers that includes women and men. Reach out to them—or seek connections to people who can make an introduction—and ask them to address your group.
Build a balanced narrative
You are bringing your peers and colleagues to the country you love; you have a commitment to show them Israel through several lenses. So, as you put together a roster of speakers, keep in mind the goal of presenting a wholistic picture of Israel in all its diversity and complexity.
For example, if you have a left wing speaker, you should also hear from a right wing speaker. If you are taking the group to the West bank to hear from a Palestinian, they should also hear from a West Bank settler. If one day the group hears from a religious Jew, on another they should hear from a secular Jew. Consider having a panel format if you have several speakers who can represent different viewpoints on the same topic.
Fee or no fee? Arrange in advance?
Some speakers will charge a fee; others will not either because of their jobs (public servants are not allowed to get paid) or because of a personal connection.
Be aware that public servants often have volatile schedules; they may not be able to commit to speaking until weeks or even days beforehand, and their schedules are prone to changes at the last minute.
Israel & Co. has developed relationships with many speakers and may have negotiated fixed fees; consult with them if a speaker fee sounds exorbitant.
Categories of speakers
- Government officials (members of the Knesset, ministers, justices, mayors)
These officials are not allowed to accept speaking fees. Often you must coordinate through their offices. They are most likely to cancel because their schedules are subject to last-minute change
- Content speakers (journalists, academics, previous military, analysts, etc.) These are experts who can address specific topics. Typically they are paid $300-500 per session.
- Recognized names (authors, Nobel prize laureates, former leaders etc.)
These individuals usually charge more to speak but may do so gratis if they have a personal connection with someone in your group.
- NGO activists
These speakers are not usually expensive and are easier to connect with since it is their job to communicate their group’s message.
- Alums (prominent graduates who have reached leadership positions in their fields)
These individuals often won’t charge a fee.
- Professional with a mutual interest
A speaker might be a professional who is knowledgeable in the group’s field of study – a top Israeli lawyer speaking to a law school delegation, for example. Some will charge to speak; others will not.
Inviting speakers: Doing due diligence
Be aware that many student groups are going to Israel so there is competition for the top echelon of speakers. It is beneficial to create a mix of known high-profile speakers who contribute the prestige and lower-rank speakers who may bring more depth and be more receptive to addressing questions posed by students. Often speakers with lower public profiles are more attuned to your group’s interests than media stars.
To put together the richest array of speakers cast a wide net. Get together with your co-leaders and brainstorm:
- What is the narrative you want to support with speakers?
- Who do you want?
- Who do any of you know?
- Who do your partnering organizations know?
Other resources for helping you find speakers:
- Web sites
- University faculty
- Israel and Co.
Before reaching out to a speaker, check to be sure that this is someone who will contribute to the trip experience. Look for YouTube clips showing the speaker in action. Seek out others who may have heard the person speak. Talk to the speaker yourself to be sure this is the right person to speak to your group. Make sure their English is strong.
To invite a speaker, put it in writing with a formal letter that spells out all the details – when, where, the topic, and the fee if any.
Orient the speaker in advance
Be sure to provide information and guidelines to each speaker, including:
- A description of the student group: how many, from where, and special interests, why they will be interested in hearing from this speaker
- The format: time allocated for the presentation and time for Q&A
- The subjects to be discussed
Gifts for speakers
All speakers, paid and unpaid, should be given a small token of appreciation for speaking. This should be something that the trip leaders pack and bring with them, such as a picture or booklet or pen.
TIP: When scheduling speakers, think about format. Some speakers will be more lecture-oriented while others prefer to spend more time on Q&A. As you design your itinerary think about this balance, and try to vary the format to keep participants engaged. For example, if you have three speakers in a row, you might ask one of them to do just a brief introduction with more time spent on Q&A. ALL speakers should build in time for Q&A. Make this clear ahead of time and keep your eye on the clock in real-time to ensure that it happens.
TIP: Most trip leaders don’t realize that you can invite a Holocaust survivor to speak to your group at Yad Vashem. The experience of hearing a single individual’s story is very moving for participants and sometimes even more powerful than the museum tour. Consider asking your tour company to arrange a survivor meeting before or after the museum tour—just make sure to budget 3 hours for the total visit, plus time after to process in small groups.
TIP: A personal request often pays off! If you approach fee-charging speakers personally or through a mutual acquaintance, they will often agree to speak for a lower fee than they would charge if approached by the tour company.
A diverse array of speakers strengthens a rich itinerary. The list provided here includes speakers who have been suggested by experienced trip leaders. Your roster of speakers should present a wholistic picture of Israel in all its diversity and complexity.
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