Tips for Finding and Preparing COVID-19 Expert Speakers

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Bringing in outside public health and medical experts can help educate your employees about the safety, efficacy and importance of COVID-19 vaccines and encourage vaccination. Here are some tips and ideas for how you might identify and prepare an outside speaker to address an employee and worker audience.

1 Think about your employees’ needs and the goal for the presentation.

  • Is it to educate employees about vaccination? A physician or local public health leader might be the right choice. Try your local public health department’s immunization program, your state public health association, your state medical association or state nursing association if you need a recommendation.
  • Is it to address the specific concerns of employees and encourage them to get vaccinated?  An opinion leader within your community might be a motivating speaker. Think here of a well-known physician, pharmacist or a community leader respected by your employees. People who are positively and accurately discussing vaccination in news or social media might be good candidates. Your employee resource group or informal employee networks may have suggestions.

2 Consider the background and dynamics of your audience.

  • Do they have general questions about vaccination or are they more inclined to have specific concerns? What is the general level of education of the group, and what information have they already received, if any? Who do they most trust and most want to hear from?
  • Recruiting a science expert who talks in great detail about vaccination won’t be a good fit for audiences who are just beginning to learn about health and vaccines; someone friendly and approachable may be more reassuring.

3 Make it accessible.

  • Be sure you’re offering the presentation at a time and in a format accessible to all employees and workers. Determine whether you’ll make it a mandatory (paid) session, or a voluntary offering. Offer translation services if needed.

4 Choose a speaker aligned with your company’s mission and values.

  • After you’ve identified a potential speaker, start with a quick Google search. Does this speaker have any history that might impair their credibility, and/or any history that is at odds with your company values? Ask your speaker for references from other speaking engagements.

5 Prepare your speaker to address your employees and workers.

  • The more detail you can give the speaker about your audience, the better. Share some background on your business and your workforce. How has COVID-19 affected your team? What is their general level of knowledge and attitudes about vaccines? What information have you already shared? What is your company’s COVID-19 vaccination policy? Do staff members have specific questions or concerns that you know about? Should the speaker expect mostly curiosity and concern, or skepticism and fear?
  • What information is the speaker prepared to share? Talk through the presentation content together to be sure the facts are consistent with CDC, FDA and other trusted sources.
  • What will be the format for presentations? If you’re using web video conferencing, how will you handle Q&A, chat and other functions? Do you need to send out any handouts in advance? If you’re gathering onsite, what are the COVID-19 safety protocols?
  • Think through challenges ahead of time. Discuss how the speaker will handle questions they cannot answer, how they will avoid getting into debates, and the need to be both empathetic and fact-oriented.

6 Will the presentation be made available after the event online or through other channels?

  • For example, if you plan to record the session and post it publicly, be sure to get the speaker’s permission.

7 Compensate your speaker if you can.

  • Speakers are being generous with their time and expertise, and are receiving many requests like this. If you can, offer to compensate your speaker. If they refuse direct compensation, you may also consider making a donation to their organization or a non-profit of their choosing, or ask if there is a way your business can support their mission.

8 Plan for next steps.

  • Employees may have questions they weren’t comfortable asking during the session. Create opportunities for follow-up in staff or department meetings, in conversations with supervisors, through anonymous question channels, or other means.
  • Listen for feedback and reactions, through a formal survey or informally. Did the speaker say anything that concerned or confused people? Is there anything you need to clarify or correct?
  • Thank your speaker, and consider whether there may be opportunities to bring them back for an update or otherwise build an ongoing relationship.
  • Make any handouts or a summary of the presentation available to employees who missed it. Or record and post the session—just be sure you have permission before you hit record.