Inviting experts you admire to visit your institution and share their expertise is an exciting time. You get to show off your facility and learn something from them. However, being responsible for others, whether for a few hours or a few days, often takes more time than you might anticipate. There are many details to manage, and lots of opportunities for misunderstandings. Here are a few things to consider as you plan to host your guest.
Start early. Start planning the visit as early as possible. Getting a date or dates on the calendar forces you to think about how long the visit should be and what you want to accomplish. Picking a date early allows you to start detailing the purpose of the visit, advertising any presentations, and planning follow-up activities. Ideally, one person will serve as host, coordinating all arrangements and managing interactions between the guest and your institution. If multiple people are involved, introduce them to your guest, explaining their roles in the institution and with the visit.
Make travel arrangements. Different organizations have different policies. Who decides the method of travel? Do visitors book and pay for their own travel, or is that done by your travel department? What about hotel reservations? How will local transportation be handled? Will someone pick them up at the airport or at the hotel? Do they need to rent a car, or is there a reliable ride-share system in your town?
Send your visitors maps of your campus and the local area, especially if they will be finding their own way around.
Get to know your guests’ preferences. Do they prefer to do things themselves or to have everything arranged for them? Do they have other obligations while in town that you need to schedule around?
Plan the food. Your guests will probably want to eat. Inquire in advance about dietary restrictions and preferences, and factor that into your choice of venues. Will you be taking them out for every meal, or would they prefer some time to themselves? If you plan working lunches, allow extra time so your guests actually have time to eat and so any delays don’t disrupt the itinerary.
Send a schedule. Send your guests a preliminary schedule as early as possible so you have time to adjust if necessary. Include time to set up for any presentations; technology often takes longer to connect than you might think, and most speakers need time before the presentation to get ready. You want to make the best use of their time, usually with a balance of formal meetings and more relaxed interactions. Include breaks for checking messages and other necessities. Don’t pack the schedule so tight that your visitors have no time to use the restroom!
Organize the finances. The hosting organization should cover expenses. When you issue the invitation, be clear about whether there is an honorarium, and if so, how much it is; what expenses are covered; and if reimbursements are per diem or saving receipts is required. Sending forms to be completed in advance can avoid delays in reimbursements.
Being a good host is a big responsibility that comes with many little details. But learning from experts brings rewards all its own.
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