Inviting an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer (DL) to South Africa

A step-by-step guide for inviting and hosting an IEEE Distinguished Lecturer


Under construction: last update 25 Sep 2018

There is usually a series of steps one needs / can take to bring an IEEE DL for a series of lectures:

  1. Identify the lecturer you need, from the appropriate web pages of the Society

  2. Inform the Chair of the respective local Chapter.

    • This is required to ensure support from the Chapter (which is in most cases obligatory, before one can apply to the IEEE Society's DL programme)
    • Chapter Chairs are listed on the section website at (e.g. Dr Tinus Stander for AP/MTT/EMC)
    • If you are unsure who the Chair is for the Chapter, you may want to ask this from the Chair of the entire South African Section (in 2018: Dr Albert Lysko, lysko AT, as a Chapter is a part of the Section.
  3. Contact the lecturer and negotiate when he/she wants to come, and draft a provisional schedule.

    • For example:
      • 2 lectures in Gauteng on May 3-4, travel on May 5, and 2 lectures in Northern Cape on May 6-7).
      • Sample email may be found here (example of ComSoc). 
    • It is important to keep the Chapter Chair informed (e.g. by CC-ing) on the initial contact and final arrangements (as a DL comes from a Society and a Chapter represents the Society and so the event needs to have an approval from the Chapter Chair and will also benefit from his/her support).
    • Typically, the lecturer will travel have to far to get to South Africa. Thus, to get the most value out of the event, it is the best to try to arrange more than one event at a number of organisations at different locations. In addition, having the DL present at several different places will increase the probability of the funding approval from the Society.
    • NB:
    • In the communications, it is important to give right impressions and to stay with the appropriate IEEE policies: Typically, the IEEE Society covers the flights and visas (only some Societies can cover local expenses, too). The local Chapter usually covers the rest of expenses (local things: accomodation, transport, meals, etc). The DLs should know these rules, so there is normally no need to discuss this in the first invitation explicitly. In the comms, it is good to refer to DL programme and Chapter covering the costs. If you know of an external sponsor wanting to sponsor, it is good to mention that, as it also increases the prestige for the DL. 
      Some speakers may be afraid to come this far or to devote too many days to such a long travel. This is why it is important to always try to make it their time in South Africa worthwhile, and use all of the advantages our beautiful country has to offer.  One could phrase the invitation highlighting the positive aspects of coming to RSA, e.g a beautiful country, possibility to visit nature reserves and see animals, a trip to Cape Town (if planned... it is always good to include,  if funding permits). 
      Another aspect is what universities will be visited and what the DL may expect or want. It is often good to include at least one large, well known university (as some DLs may want to set up collaborations, e.g. to be able to come again) and add visits to new/smaller universities on top of that. This way a DL does not get scared to come "to the middle of nowhere", and he/she would be guaranteed to be at a place like UCT (which gives access to well know beautiful tourist attraction of Cape Town and a well established university with typically strong researchers) or UP/WITS (which are closer to the well known Kruger National Part). This can make it easier to add arbitrary other locations required by the invitee/host. Just a thought... 

    • If the lecturer wants a reasonable (fitting to cover daily meals) amount of "honorarium", this should be interpreted as "daily subsistance allowance" and only the latter term should be used in the official correspondance and budgets (not "honorarium"). 

  4. Contact the people (local organizers) who would be providing local support/arrangements at the places where the DL is to give lectures, and find if the local organizers can support you and how.

    • Unless you can take the DL around all the time, or can organize every aspect of the stay yourself, the local support and arrangements are critical for success. This includes booking rooms, organizing tea/coffee/snacks for the lectures, printing and collecting attendance forms, and, often, picking up/dropping off the DL at the airport, delivering him/her from/to the hotel etc.
    • It usually helps the best if the local organizer is also interested in the topics of the lectures, even if remotely.
    • The Chapter Chair is usually able to assist to make the initial contacts with appropriate potential local organizer(s), if you do not know whom to ask.
    • It is beneficial to get in touch with SAIEE and offer them to co-host the event. They are usually happy to co-host and even co-fund the event(s), as long as the arrangements are done well in advance (at least 2-3 months in advance).

  5. Prepare and send a letter to the person in the IEEE Society responsible for the DL program.

    • The appropriate contact at the IEEE Society may usually be found under "Distinguished Lecturer Programme" or similar title
    • This letter may be prepared by you but must be sent by the Chapter Chair. The letter needs to state the name of the DL, show the provisional trip/lectures schedule, indicate where the lectures are to be given (universities, organizations etc.), and how much money you require (NB: A motivation and a breakdown of the budget and even quotations may be required, if you want to ask for more money than the limit defined by the specific Society).
    • Example of such a letter (specific to the requirements of ComSoc) may be found here with the ComSoc-specifc example attachment for the same in here.
  6. The Chair and/or you will receive a response from the person in the Society responsible for the DL program (these people are usually fairly busy so their response may often take a week or, sometimes, even two). Hopefully, the response is positive.

  7. Please note that if your approved budget is lower than the trip will require, you may want to look for additional funding:

    • Possible options include your own organization, commercial sponsors, NRF KIC programme, Department of Science and Technology (DST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), IEEE South Africa Section, and the Chapter (the latter usually does not have much money, though).
    • As mentioned earlier, if your event is of interest to SAIEE, they could also co-sponsor a reasonable amount (R5k-R10k) besides offering co-hosting the event.

    • If you get sponsorship, it is vital to
      • ensure you acknowlenge and thank the sponsor for their contribution at each event, and that
      • you state them in the vTools meeting registration form (if possible, it is also nice to add logos).
    • The sponsorship may range from money to providing a venue and/or catering for the event. All type of contributions are important.
  8. Now, you need a real commitment from the DL. He/she needs to purchase flight tickets and tell you the details of arrival/departure.

    • If the DL is not comfortable with spending his/her own money on the ticket (the IEEE normally reimburses him/her after completion of the trip), it is sometimes possible that IEEE would buy the tickets for him/her.
  9. The flight tickets confirm the dates/time of the visit.

  10. Once this is in place, all the local arrangements must be confirmed, too.

    • For each lecture, the following minimum arrangements are usually required:
    1. It is good to organize how the DL will come from airport to the hotel;
    2. It is very important to organize how the DL will come from the hotel to the venue of the lecture;
    3. The venue must be booked/secured;
    4. There must be a person responsible for the handling of the event at this venue;
    5. If possible, tea/coffee/snacks may be organized for the lecture. It may help to keep people by offering them for after the lecture rather than before;
    6. There should be sufficient time to get between the airport, hotel, and lecture venues.
    7. The event must be registered in vTools, namely in (you need to be logged in, and then you can see the link “Schedule a Meeting” in there). It is recommended to register each lecture as a separate event (although it is possible to register them in one go and use the option “Menu Selections”, people are usually confused about this).
      • For each vTools registration, it is recommended to send the links for the events to the respective local organizers and ask them to check if everything is correct (and, if the local organizer does the vTools page, it is good to review it).

      • It is nice to organize meetings for DL with South African parties (e.g. industry or specialists) who might be interested or whom he/she might be interested in - this can build/expand the relationships. It is even better if this is combined with a lunch or dinner (subject to availability of sufficient funding).

      • NB A DL may be invited to give lectures. However, if the trip is for bringing him/her to speak at your local conference, this would not be supported by DL programme directly. It is possible to avoid this challenge by ensuring that DL’s program includes a sufficient number of lectures in different places, e.g. Gauteng and Cape, besides speaking at the conference.

  11. You may want to organize the ECSA Continuous Professional Development (CPD) registration for the activities.

  12. Advertising the event.

    • As soon as the arrangements are made and confirmed, it is crucial to advertise the event - this way people will know about the event and will be able to attend, giving the true meaning to an IEEE event. There are various ways to advertise:
      1. The IEEE systems in have e-Notices to send the advertising mass mails to all the relevant IEEE members (normally to all the members of the specific Chapter);
      2. It is very critical that the local organizers advertise the event to his/her colleagues using his own channels;

      3. You may also want to advertise the event using your own mailing list(s);

      4. If the time between the advertising and the event is very long (e.g. two months), you may want to repeat the advertisement once again, closer to the event (e.g. 1-2 weeks before each event)

        • Ideally, but not necessary, you may want to prepare an A4-format flier which people could put on their notice boards, and attach it to the advertising messages.

  13. Before the arrival of the lecturer, you may want to ask him/her about his/her health and dietary preferences, allergies, and cultural programme.

    • If the lecture(s) are to be held in areas with potential for malaria or such, you will need to inform the DL about the need for vaccination etc.
    • You may want to tell him/her about the “top ten” attractions in the area(s) he/she is to visit.
    • If possible, it is always nice if you are then able to offer him/her some cultural programme, e.g. take him/her out or organize a trip for him/her.
      • From personal experience, one of the best destinations in Gauteng is the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve ( It takes half a day to a full day to visit. The best days to visit there are Sat, Sun and Wed (feeding of predators at 1pm).
      • For Western Cape (Cape Town) area, here is a brief travel advisory.
  14. Before the event, it is important to prepare the attendance and evaluation forms

    • Samples of such forms are shown in at .
    • The forms are usually prepared by you.
    • You will need to provide copies to your trusted local organizers and let them know that they need to ask the event attendees to complete the forms and send the completed forms to you after the event.
    • Please also let the local organizers know that for every IEEE event there should be an evacuation plan ready, in case of any troubles
    • It is also very useful to send out the reminder notice about the event in the morning before the event - you can easily double the attendance by this simple step
    • It is also good to print out and put up the notices about the event and directions within the building. 
  15. During the event,

    • It is appropriate to introduce the DL (e.g. read his/her short biography)
    • It is necessary to acknowlenge and thank the sponsors
    • It is possible to give a short introductory talk related to IEEE or the topic of the DL lecture etc. (e.g. about the local activities related to the DL lecture or Chapter)
    • it is useful to have the attendance and evaluation forms completed.
      • NB! The attendance forms must then be signed off by the DL right after the lecture.
    • During the event, it is also useful to take pictures of the lecturer and audience.
      • This is good to be able to make publicity about the event
        • The pictures can later be used to publish short reports in media, the section website,  at the location of the lecture (e.g. university/organizational newspaper) and/or in IEEE Region 8 Newsletter at
        • Panoramic pictures (e.g. most Android phones can do them) proved highly beneficial as they can show both the lecturer and the audience.
      • Sometimes, it is the picture may be useful to be able to count the number of attendees (only for IEEE, not for CPD).
  16. After the event, you or the local organizer will need to complete the reporting the Event in vTools for each of the events (based on the attendance forms).

    1. If you made provisions for CPD, you will also need to submit the copies of the attendance and evaluation forms to the Section Chair (currently: Shaun Kaplan).
    2. You may now want to write a short article to report on the event in local media (at your institution, or for EE Publishers ) and in IEEE Region 8 Newsletter (e.g. An article for the section website is always appreciated, else a link to an article published elsewhere.


Social activities / enterteinment / nature views for DLs

It is important to mention that it is a good habbit to offer the traveller some social programme, which may be a supper together, and/or showing somethings local. Some recommendations are here.