A formal invitation to a guest speaker should follow certain protocols. Professional life dictates that you know how to properly format a request appropriate to your target and to do so within accepted guidelines. Formal correspondence is an integral part of business, personal or social functions such as a college graduation address, business conference or charity function.

Formatting the Letter

Format the invitation as you would a formal business letter. If your organization is offering a stipend in the form of an honorarium or funds to cover travel and other expenses, mention that also. While events vary, generally format the letter as follows:

Start with the salutation, such as "Dear Speaker:" -- or Mr./Miss/Mrs./Ms./Dr. if appropriate. Include your company, institution or organization information, name of the event, date, location, purpose of the event, reasons why you are making the request, stipend or honorarium if applicable and closing, including contact information. Insert information regarding a question-and-answer period, if any, before the closing.

Providing a Rationale

Explain why you are hosting the event and why you wish the invitee to participate. Depending on the type of event, examples might include:

  • Business - "Your vast experience in widget sales would be an inspiration to the employees in our marketing department."

  • Charity - "Rainforest preservation is at the heart of our cause. Your recent expedition to the Amazon could provide important insight for our volunteers."

  • College - "As a speaker at the 2015 graduating class of our university, your expertise in heart transplants would surely benefit our graduates, particularly those who are in the process of selecting a medical specialty."

Sending the Invitation

Traditional mail is still the most appropriate way to contact your speaker. Email, while acceptable for many purposes, is too informal for a proper business letter. It is acceptable to send a follow up via email. If an address is not readily available for a particular speaker, call the speaker’s company, college or organization to learn if there is an address that you can use to send the invitation. If there is no physical address, you may be forced to send the invitation via email. If so, maintain the same business format as described previously. For emails or traditional letters, create the format yourself, or use free online templates, such as one from JustLetterTemplates.com.

Following Up

Regardless of whether the person accepts or declines the invitation, follow up the invitation with a brief letter or email. Acknowledge the invitee's response and thank her for her time. For example, for a positive response, you might state: "Company XYZ is pleased that you have chosen to accept the invitation to be the guest speaker at our event. Our company is looking forward to your presentation on May 23, 2015. Please find attached information on travel and accommodations." For a negative response, you might reply: "Thank you for your response to our invitation to the Spring Gala on June 23, 2015. We understand that scheduling conflicts cannot always be avoided. Please keep us in mind for future opportunities."