Providing thank-you letters for guest speakers' portfolios

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  • 54 Volume 25, Number 1

    Y our guest speaker has informed, illuminated, andinspired your staff/members. Afterward, thisspeaker will benefit most if you express your appreci-ation by:a. Telling the individual personally.b. Sending a handwritten informal note.c. Handing the person a generic, typed letter pre-

    pared beforehand.d. Creating a formal letter listing scores and/or

    anecdotal comments.Todays trend requires speakers to provide evi-

    dence of their skill beyond word-of-mouth or self-de-scription. Although etiquette in social circumstancesdemands a more personal touch, professional speak-ers need formal proof that they communicate effec-tively through the lectures listed on their curriculumvitae.

    You can help the speaker with this need by creat-ing a document (answer d) that provides objectivefeedback about the quality of the presentation. Modi-fy the following format to suit the information gath-ered by your sponsoring organization.

    Statement of involvementOn letterhead, start by thanking the person for partic-ipating in the course/offering. Include the name, date,and location of the course/offering. National associa-tions and hospitals stand on their own recognition,but for lesser-known entities, an annotation such asthe following lends credibility: The Compass MedicalEducation Network has offered quality, accreditednursing continuing education programs for 15 years.Then state the topic(s) of the persons presentationand indicate if it was a repeat invitation.

    Quantified scoresWhen evaluation forms are used, list objective scoresalong with the rating scale used. The scale needs to beincluded because of the lack of a consistent standardamong various organizations. Ranges vary from 4 to 6values. Some rating scales use the rating 1 as unac-ceptable, whereas others score it as excellent.

    A list of objective scores and the rating scaleused might be indicated as follows: Our participantswritten evaluations rank presenters from a 1 (poor)to 5 (outstanding). Your scores were: presentationskills (4.5), knowledge of topic (4.7), responsiveness toquestions (3.9), and quality of audiovisual/handouts(4.6). Whereas the results clearly communicate thatthe speaker was well received, it cues her or him to aweaker element (question answering) that can be afocus for future improvement.

    Consider noting the size of the audience, especial-ly if it is largesome planners specifically seek speak-ers experienced in speaking to large groups. You alsomay want to indicate if less than 70% of the attendeesturned in an evaluation form. Sometimes a more nega-tive bent surfaces when the response rate is low; onespeculation is that only persons with complaints both-er to complete an evaluation. Also, mention membersof any other professional disciplines in attendance toillustrate the versatility required of the speaker:These results are based on the 75 responses received

    Polly Gerber Zimmermann is ED per diem Staff Nurse, SwedishCovenant Hospital; Associate Nurse, American Airlines, OHare In-ternational Airport; and Adjunct Faculty, Harry S. Truman College,Chicago, Ill.For reprints, write: Polly Gerber Zimmermann, RN, MS, MBA, CEN,4200 N. Francisco, Chicago, IL 60618.J Emerg Nurs 1999;25:54-5.Copyright 1999 by the Emergency Nurses Association.0099-1767/99 $8.00 + 0 18/9/95119

    Nurse EducatorProviding thank-you letters for guestspeakers portfoliosAuthor: Polly Gerber Zimmermann, RN, MS, MBA, CEN, Chicago, Ill

    On letterhead, start bythanking the person forparticipating in thecourse/offering. Include thename, date, and location ofthe course/offering.

  • February 1999 55

    Zimmermann/JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY NURSING

    from our 200 registered nurse and physician residentparticipants.

    Subjective remarksWith or without quantified scores, the written-in orspoken comments often best capture the flavor of theaudiences reactions. List a few descriptors, indicat-ing the frequency with parentheses:

    Written remarks (or audience feedback) included: Excellent speaker (9) Beautiful slides (5) Well versed on topic Very practical I could have listened all day

    Most persons do not include negative commentsthat reflect a style preference or something beyondthe speakers control, such as This should be offeredearlier in the day or Dont take any questions untilthe end of the talk.

    Work characteristicsNote if the person was timely, thorough, or flexible.Such traits pop out to harried course planners whohave war stories about a presenters behavior or ex-pectations that created extra, behind-the-scene work.

    Repeater?Conclude with a statement about your intention to in-vite the speaker to return: We hope we will have theprivilege of hearing you speak again at one of our fu-ture offerings. This statement is the bottom line be-cause it indicates that, amidst all the details, some-thing went very right.

    The mediocre speakerLet the objective data speak for itself when the talkwas less than desired. A few bland remarks such asdisorganized, mumbles (4), or outdated informa-tion say it all to the experienced reviewer who typi-cally hears more complimentary phrases.

    Often mediocre speakers are aware of their weak-nesses. They probably will not use this experience fortheir self-promotion, but you have provided directionfor future growth.

    Conclusion: Its a giftWriting a reference appreciation letter takes time.However, your speaker probably gave you his/herpreparation and presentation time for minimal com-pensation. In addition to any verbal thanks or personalnote, I often indicate I hope you can use this to obtainadditional future engagements for your worthy talk.

    In the end, a summarizing letter is a way to showyour gratitude beyond the level of common courtesy.You will be providing a usable testimony toward thepersons future success.

    Contributions to this column are welcomed and encouraged. Submissions should be sent toGail Pisarcik Lenehan, EdD, RN, c/o Manag-ing Editor; ENA, 216 Higgins Rd, Park Ridge, IL60068-5736; phone (847) 698-9400; E-mail:khalm@ena.org.

    The written-in or spokencomments often bestcapture the flavor of theaudiences reactions. List afew descriptors, indicatingthe frequency withparentheses.

    Journal Theme Issue

    The Journal of Emergency Nursing invites submissions for its theme issue.The December 1999 theme issue of the Journal will be dedicated toEmergency Nursing: Past, Present, and Future. Submit articles to KarenHalm, Managing Editor, Journal of Emergency Nursing, 216 Higgins Rd,Park Ridge, IL 60068-5736. Call (800) 900-9659, ext. 325, for deadline andsubmission information.