I absolutely love being a guest speaker in STEM classrooms. As The Drone Girl, my mission is to get the world excited about drones and all the benefits they offer — whether it’s solving world problems (for example, drones make agriculture more efficient which can reduce food insecurity) — or inspiring young people to pursue a high-paying career in a technical field whether or not they work in drones or some other related field.
That said, I get dozens of requests per year from organizations like public schools, Girl Scout troops and after-school STEM programs to come in as a guest speaker. Understandably given the state of education today (and more specifically the lack of funding and resources in educational areas), most of those guest speaking engagements are done for free.
As much as I’d love to take every one of these requests for guest speakers, I can’t do every one for free. Thus, I have to be discerning about which ones I do (though I do paid gigs which you can book via my Intro). As far as my pro bono speaking gigs go, I generally prioritize requests that are closer to my own personal heart (e.g. my own alma mater or schools nearby) or that come from educators whom I already have a longstanding relationship with (e.g. they’ve long given me Instagram likes, which are a surprisingly valuable currency!).
So how can YOU bring a guest speaker into your own classroom? Here’s a step-by-step guide to securing a drone expert for your classroom:
1. Hone in on a guest speaker you already have a relationship with
Career day tends to draw in parents of students because, well, they’re already invested in that classroom for obvious reasons! The best speakers are the ones who are invested in that group of students already. While a parent of a student might be the closest connection, other good options might include guests from local businesses.
Another great way to find a pro bono speaker is to look for someone who is trying to grow their public speaking business. Someone looking for experience ahead of a speaking at a major conference might be willing to use a classroom of less-judgmental grade school kids (who haven’t paid them anyway) as a testing ground for their presentation. If they’re trying to get booked as a drone conference speaker, they might use your classroom as a resume builder.
And speaking of relationship-building, it’s entirely possible to build that relationship from afar. I notice the people who always comment on my YouTube videos, or who consistently retweet my tweets. For content creators like me, likes/comments/shares are an incredibly valuable form of currency, and I notice the folks who constantly support me in that regard. In return for all the social media support, I’m willing to support their classroom, too.
2. Share what you can offer the guest speaker in your request for pro bono work
It’s brutal being a teacher — particularly a public school educator. While speakers likely wouldn’t expect actual dollars in exchange for presenting to a public school, what can you offer them?
I mentioned social media follows, likes and shares — and those are certainly something you can offer. When I spoke to the kids at Kammerer Middle School, dozens of them ended up following me on Instagram — which is valuable to me!
Get creative in what else you can offer. For example, a drone expert coming in as a guest lecturer at a university might find value in the opportunity to scout qualified interns.
3. Make the request for guests speakers easy and straightforward
Busy individuals appreciate efficiency. Propose flexible volunteering options that they can easily make fit their schedule, whether it’s offering a few choices of specific days or times, or perhaps offering the speaker to provide a recorded video clip.
Clearly outline what work you’d want done, plus the time commitment involved — and be reasonable in the request. I’ve been asked to participate throughout a two-hour lecture which I just couldn’t justify (though I would have accepted had I been asked to pop in for, say, 20 minutes of the class).
4. Hire professionals
And of course, if you do have a budget, there are some businesses and organizations who sell services to speak to STEM classrooms. One example of that is Georgia-based STEAM thru Drones, which is part of the Focusing On Me, Inc. 501(c)(3) STE(A)M initiative.
STEAM Thru Drones offers 45-minute interactive programs either in-person or through Zoom for grades 4 and above. The company’s founder , Dr. La’Quata Sumter, said she does some for a fee and some pro bono (she said the number she does for free is based on donations made to the non-profit).
For something a little more involved, you might consider an in-person flight training course designed for schools, such as Drone Cadets Flight School. Available in the greater NY area, the Drone Cadets program can be taught as a 10 to 30-hour course for groups of 10 or more.
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