Conferences and Speakers: A Partial Primer

Oct 16, 2004

11. Speaker’s Work-related Needs

Your guest may need such things as:

  1. Paper, pencil, pen, etc.

  2. A copy of the Qur'an with translation – Yusuf Ali, for example – if he needs it.

  3. I myself like Ibn Katheer, the Arabic Tafsir, if possible.

  4. I also like a copy of the Arabic Al Mu'jam Al Mufahras handy. It is a most marvelous index to the Aayaat of the Qur’an. They are Aayaat, which means signs, marvels and miracles – not verses. Please do not call them verses. Also, it is Qur’an, not “Holy” Qur’an.

    I wish I were a Haafiz, but I am not. So my best means of locating an Aayah (not verse, mind you, Aayah) of the Qur’an in a hurry often is the Mu’jam, may Allah bless its compiler. I also think it is a good idea for Muslims in general to start connecting to the Mu'jam.

    Muslims need to move away from dependence on asking people for their opinions about Islam and things Islamic. They need to start recreating and relearning a new culture of reading, research and reflection.

    As Muslims, we are required to seek, pursue and acquire knowledge and not blindly follow other knowledge and opinion holders like a flock of sheep. According to the Hadith, we are shepherds – not sheep – every one of us.

    What a glorious place did Islam carve out for us! It made our place at A’ala 'Illiyyeen – at the highest of the high, as the best of the best! And how we chose to put ourselves at the lowest of the low – at Asfalus Saafileen. Islam made us all shepherds. We turned ourselves into a flock of sheep. What a world of difference separates the two!

    And yet we complain how things went wrong with us! Muslims must know that Islam does not depend on the opinion of individuals. And that people’s opinions are binding on no one but themselves. So, let us put an end to this sorry state of affairs. Let us all begin following the first commandment of the Qur’an: Read! Iqra’!

  5. A computer and printer if your guest can use those gadgets.

  6. Help with someone who can type and use the computer, if your guest cannot.

  7. And a host of other things of that nature.

12. Other Assistance and a Serious Taboo

Then there needs to be someone in charge of reminding the speaker about the program and about the next session. In other words, we need to have someone act as a temporary secretary for the speaker. My programs often run the whole day. And, Mashallah, I give several speeches in one day.

Given the hustle and bustle of Muslim conferences and conventions, tiredness of travel, pressures from people speaking to the guest speaker and seeking attention continually, it may be difficult to stay on top of everything. So it is important to remind and help the guest in moving from one part of the program to the other.

If there are any changes in the program, it is important that you inform the speaker promptly and properly, and apologize to him for the inconvenience. If you want him to do something extra, such as give a public lecture for example, talk to him in advance, and do so properly and make all the necessary arrangements to the best of your abilities and resources – and to the satisfaction of your guest.

There is one very clear taboo in all this: Never tell the speaker what to say in his speech, or how to approach or treat a certain topic. It is rude. It is unprofessional, as some would call it. It is terrible. It is uncivilized. It is arrogant. It is the height of ignorance and foolishness.

He is the expert, not you. Besides, if you already know what he should be saying, why did you ask him to come over in the first place? And why don’t you do it yourself? Get up there, give your own speeches and don’t invite anyone to come and give a speech from your platform.

Part of this problem is the selection of themes and topics for conferences and lectures. It is often done by people who lack the expertise and the proper perspective and insights. The manager-type people often pick the topics – often without much understanding – and then go on a hunt for likely speakers. That is partly the reason why we have the type of conferences we do – not too many of them have anything to do with the real issues that face Muslims either here in the West or in the old Muslim world.

13. How to Treat the Audience

The participants! How are you going to treat them? These people have come at our invitation. They have responded to our advertisement. They are here because they have been told certain things. What now?

The most important thing we owe the audience is to give them the best program possible. Make sure they get a copy of the program, a pen or pencil and enough paper to take notes. If you can, divide them into small groups and put them under group leaders.

Call for audience participation and feedback at every opportunity. This will teach them to think and ask questions in a meaningful and proper manner. Learn to control those individuals who sometimes try to dominate and monopolize the conversation. But do so with respectful firmness and a great deal of tact.

There are always some who tend to do that – drag the program or the speech or the discussion in an entirely different direction. Such people need to be carefully managed. Encourage informal discussions among audience members. Encourage them to discuss and talk about the points raised in the speeches and other parts of the program.

Other than all this, we must be continually solicitous of the welfare and comfort of our participants in every way. We must do everything in our power to make sure, all the time, that they receive the fullest benefit of the program. Program participants, every single one of them, are our most respected guests. They must leave our programs as our trusted friends and enthusiastic supporters.

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