This post reviews the duties of the members of the Welcome Committee for speakers visiting Gov 1005. Follow instructions closely. Contact me with questions. Below, where the instructions require you to cc me, you should also cc Alice (email@example.com).
Welcome Committee Duties
There are 5 students on the Welcome Committee. Student 1 is in charge, contacts the speaker, and offers the use of her laptop. Student 2 does the introduction and stays after class to ensure that the speaker is escorted out nicely. Student 3 prepares 5 questions and asks the first question. Student 4 handles Piazza and asks the second question. Student 5 handles lunch arrangements and asks the third question. (Assign these roles amongst yourselves. If you lose a committee member, re-assign the responsibilities.)
Have lunch or dinner together at least one week before the visit. Get to know each other. Student 4 posts a picture of the group to Piazza.
Spend at least 30 minutes learning about the speaker and using Google to learn about their recent work or that which might be relevant to the talk. This can done during your team meal meeting.
Ten minutes before they are scheduled to arrive, the entire Welcome Committee should leave class and go wait for the speaker. Find the speaker. (Maybe they forgot where the classroom is located. Maybe they are waiting in the lobby or at the building entrance.) Introduce yourselves. Chat them up. Thank them for coming. Offer them water. (I have water bottles which you should get from me before the start of class.)
In general, we do NOT want the speaker to start early. I have material that I need to cover in the class. So, it is best if you keep them outside the classroom until their scheduled start time, which is almost always 12:45. Of course, if they really want to see my genius lectures, then, by all means, invite them in. But (surprisingly!) they usually don’t care. They will be happy to chat with you until the start time.
Sit down during Student 2’s introduction of the speaker.
Each student (individually) sends a thank-you email to speaker on the evening of the talk, cc’ing me alone. Hand-written notes in addition to the email are encouraged but not required.
Student 1 Duties
Sends email to speaker 48 hours before talk, cc’ing just me. (If they fail to respond or something weird happens, contact me.)
Thank them again for agreeing to visit. Include a link to the syllabus and to our speaker information file. (Make sure everything you say is consistent with that speaker information. Check with me about any confusions.)
Provide them with your e-mail and phone number so that they can e-mail/text you (whichever is easiest for them) in case something comes up before class. (I, obviously, turn off my phone during class.)
Even though this information is in the speakers link (which they might not read), remind them that we expect them at roughly 12:45 and give them our address and classroom location. Do not ask them to arrive early!
Do not ask them for anything! (They are already doing enough to visit us.) In particular, do not ask them for links and/or details about their work. It is the Welcome Committee’s job to find that information.
Quote (politely!) the advice from the Speakers document about the two types of talks that are most successful. Do not portray this as your own advice. That would be rude! Instead, frame this as a comment from your professor.
If they are planning to use their own laptop, help them get connected to Harvard Wifi as soon as they arrive, presumably as a guest. If they are using your laptop with some of their slides installed, make sure your settings work for them. Work out the kinks before coming into the room. You might want to clean up your laptop so that nothing embarrassing comes up . . .
At the start time (almost always 12:45), come in the room and signal me. Then, even if I don’t see you, come down to the lecture stand. I will unplug, move to the side and keep on lecturing. You (Student 1) bring the speaker to the lectern and help them get set up. (Nothing wrong with you checking out the lectern set up ahead of time!) Students 3, 4 and 5 sit down. In general, it should be easy for them to plug in their laptop and have their screen appear. (Or for you to plug in your laptop.) Once it does, tell me. I will wrap up and turn the floor over to you.
Student 2 Duties
Provide a three sentence introduction for the speaker. Make sure you pronounce their name correctly! No matter how famous they are, three sentences is enough. Write out your introduction ahead of time. Memorize it. Do not read it from your phone like an Eli. Sit down near the front when you are done.
Wait until the end to escort the speaker out, either to lunch with other students or just to their ride. Help to ensure that they don’t forget anything. You do not have to attend the lunch. If there is lunch, guard the speaker’s stuff at the table while they select their lunch.
Student 3 Duties
Create questions that you might use during the lecture. E-mail them to me at least 24 hours before the visit. Ideally, the other students in the class will have lots of questions and you won’t need them all. But if the other students are asleep, the Welcome Committee must engage with the visitor. The worst outcome is to have me ask the questions.
Remind me via email one hour before class to bring water for the speaker.
Ask one question within the first two minutes of the talk. (And, yes, I will be timing this.) The exact question almost (!) does not matter. A technical question — “Sorry for interrupting, but, I was just wondering: What programming tools did you use in this project?” — is often good.
Student 4 Duties
Post picture taken with other students on Piazza.
Ceate a Piazza post the evening before the talk which tells the class about the speaker. You don’t need more than a few sentences of text and some links.
Create a Piazza post on the evening of the talk, offering to provide contact information for the speaker. You would never just post someone’s e-mail in a semi-public location. Instead, you are offering to provide that info to any student who wants to contact you for it. If the speaker volunteered to you that they would be interested in providing data for final projects or meeting with students, you should obviously mention that.
Ask one question within the first five minutes of the talk. We just want to break the ice, make the talk more interactive, encourage other students to chime in.
Student 5 Duties
Ask one question within the first ten minutes of the talk.
- Most of our speakers want to join us for a lunch in the Fisher Family Commons in CGIS Knafel across the street after the talk. You are responsible for organizing this. You must also attend. (If no student on the Welcoming Committee is free for lunch, contact me.)
- Set up a Google sheet for lunch sign up. Make the sheet maximally open. That is, do not restrict it to Harvard Google accounts. It should have 7 slots plus a waiting list. You and the other members of the Welcome Committee may sign up first. (Attendance is not required, except for you.) Once Welcome Committee members have had a chance to sign up, post the list to Piazza. Do this at least one week before the talk.
- Before class, reserve two tables in the Cafe. Pull the tables together, arrange 6-8 chairs around them (depending on how many people signed up for lunch), and leave two signs on the tables informing people that they are reserved from 1:15 to 2:30 for Gov 1005. (This allows people to use them before you show up after class.) Get the signs from me at the previous class.
- When class is over, go ahead of everyone else and claim the table. (Student 2 will ensure that the speaker is escorted to the lunch.) If someone is using the table, ask them (politely!) to leave. If there is trouble, use common sense.
- When the speaker arrives with Student 2, encourage them to place their stuff at the table. (Student 2 will keep an eye on everyone’s stuff. This is probably overkill, but the speaker will not know how safe Fischer Commons is.) Escort the speaker through the cafe. Offer to pay for the speaker’s lunch. They probably won’t accept. (If they do accept, give me the receipt and I will reimburse you for the speaker’s lunch, not for yours.)
- Make sure I get back the signs.