Speaking program

The speaking program is often an integral part of the event. Below are resources and more information to best organize this component.

Choosing speakers

Determine your speakers early to ensure their availability and to give them time to prepare. When choosing speakers for your event, consider:

  • Who can best support the story or message being delivered
  • Who can best engage with your target audience
  • Who the funders, sponsors and beneficiaries are
  • Whether a student or researcher would be appropriate

When choosing speakers, it is also important to keep in mind balancing gender equality.

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Inviting speakers

Indigenous Elder

At ceremonies and larger events, it is recommended that an indigenous elder, preferably a member of SFU’s Elders Program is invited to provide a welcome to open the event. To book an Elder, submit a completed Elder Request Form at least two weeks before your event date.

SFU President and Chancellor

As Canada’s engaged university, the president values the opportunity to attend both internal and external events. If you would like to request the president to attend an event, submit a completed President’s Event Attendance Form. If you would like the chancellor to attend or speak at your event, please contact the Director, Ceremonies and Events at open@sfu.ca or 778-782-4643.

Government speakers 

If you would like to invite a government official to speak at your event, please contact Government Relations at govrel@sfu.ca or 778-782-9841. 

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Length of program

The length of a speaking program will vary depending on the type of event that is being produced. Guidelines for speaking programs: 

  • If guests are standing, the formal speeches should be no more than 20 minutes
  • If the speaking program is longer than 30 minutes, ensure that there are chairs for your guests, and that the speeches are broken up with an action like a gift presentation or unveiling, a performance or short video clip
  • If your event is shorter in length or a cocktail reception, consider having your speaking program take place at one time
  • If your event is a dinner, you could have two natural speaking sections - before the dinner begins and after the main meal is cleared and dessert begins

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Book of Words

The Book of Words (also referred to as the script) includes the timing of the event, stage directions and speaking points. It is important to know your audience and keep it simple:

  • Share relevant SFU updates and link key messages to SFU's vision
  • Incorporate emotions and storytelling
  • Encourage audience participation
  • Incorporate visuals to accompany the script
  • Develop key messaging, themes and objectives throughout the Book of Words to make sure you keep on track during the speaking program 
  • Add timing, AV and staging cues so your speakers will know exactly what is happening at what time

Remember to brief your speakers in advance:

  • Make sure that your speakers’ language is conversational in tone
  • Encourage honest, contagious emotions – wonder, optimism, anger, surprise, etc.
  • Suggest infusing personal anecdotes and storytelling to help the speaker make an emotional connection with the audience 


* Event-BoW-Template.docx
Download a sample Book of Words
* Virtual-BoW-Template.pdf
Download a sample Virtual Book of Words

Order of speakers

  1. Traditional Welcome by Elder (optional)
  2. Emcee (e.g. president, chancellor, senior university official or department head), welcome and acknowledgement of special guests, as well as territorial acknowledgement (see University Event Protocol for more information) 
  3. SFU chancellor/president, introductory remarks and/or introduction of government official, special speaker
  4. Other speakers – student, keynote, faculty, government representative, donor, alumni
  5. Emcee, concluding remarks

If elected government representatives speak at an event, the general order of speaking is the federal speaker first, then the provincial speaker and then the municipal representative. However, a number of exceptions also exist, so if you have multiple speakers or members of the opposition attending, please consult with SFU Government Relations at govrel@sfu.ca or 778-782-9841 or the Director, Ceremonies and Events at open@sfu.ca or 778-782-4643.

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If the following guests attend your event, they should be recognized by the emcee or event host in the Book of Words:

  • Chancellor/president
  • Indigenous Elder
  • Significant sponsors, donors and funders
  • Elected representatives (both government and opposition)
  • President/chancellor emeritus (e.g. past presidents and chancellors)
  • Board of Governors members, as well as any past board chairs (emeritus)
  • SFU honorary degree recipients
  • Other past award recipients (e.g. Outstanding Alumni Award recipients, President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award recipients, etc.)  
  • Alumni Association Board president

Others to consider:

  • Organizing committees, board members, advisory council
  • Student ambassadors/volunteers
  • Alumni ambassadors/volunteers
  • SFU Pipe Band or Piper(s)
  • SFU vice-presidents/deans (if it’s an external event)
  • Charter alumni
  • Partners
  • Special entertainment (e.g. musicians, performers)
  • Speaking program (continued)
  • Recognitions (continued) 

If there is a long list of recognitions, consider recognizing some as groups (e.g. "also joining us are several members of the Alumni Board and the SFU Pipe Band").

For external events, other than the president and chancellor, the SFU internal staff and administrators are seldom recognized by name unless they are speakers at the event.

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Indigenous Land Acknowledgements

To honour and pay respect to the Indigenous Peoples whose lands that SFU is situated, the university community is encouraged to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples and their traditional lands whenever possible at the beginning of ceremonies and events. These guidelines have been compiled by SFU Ceremonies and Events in collaboration with SFU’s Office for Aboriginal Peoples. Additional information on Indigenous Protcol can be found here.

Please note: These guidelines will be regularly reviewed and updated.

General guidelines on acknowledgements 

Acknowledgement of the traditional lands is typically made by the very first speaker at the beginning of a ceremony or event program (if subsequent speakers also wish to make this acknowledgement, this would be appropriate, but is not required).

At ceremonies and larger events, it is recommended that an Indigenous Elder, preferably a member of SFU’s Elders Program is invited to provide a welcome to open the event. The Elder would be the very first speaker on the program (ahead of the MC, senior members of the university and any members of government). Each Elder will have their own preference on what they would like to say to welcome guests. So, if the following speakers note that the traditional lands were not recognized, they should include the acknowledgement at the beginning of their remarks.

The following are the acknowledgements for each of the SFU campuses: 

Pronunciation guide: Squamish (squa-mish), Tsleil-Waututh (tslay-wa-tooth), Musqueam (mus-kwee-um), Katzie (kate-zee), Kwantlen (kwant-len), Kwikwetlem (kwee-kwet-lum), Qayqayt (kee-kite), and Stó:lō (staw-low).

SFU's Burnaby campus

"Let me begin by acknowledging that we are privileged to gather today on the unceded, traditional territories of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Kwikwetlem and Musqueam peoples."

SFU's Vancouver campus

"I want to respectfully acknowledge the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples on whose sacred, unceded and ancestral territories we are gathering today."

SFU's Surrey campus

"I am grateful to be able to gather today on the unceded, traditional territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen Nations."

If an Elder opens the event, the MC should follow their welcoming remarks by thanking and acknowledging the Elder (and if applicaple, as a member of the SFU Elders Program)

"Thank you to Elder [xxxx] from the [xxxx] Nation and a member of the SFU Elders program, for sharing your words of welcome with us today. Let me start by acknowledging the …" (See above acknowledgements for each SFU campus).

Additional resources

For more information

Gloria Chu, Director, Ceremonies, Events and Protocol
778-782-4643 | gloria_s_chu@sfu.ca

Ron Johnston, Director, Office for Aboriginal Peoples
778-782-8924 | ronald_johnston@sfu.ca