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How to Be a Better Host

A few weeks ago I traveled to another state for a half-day workshop. Well in advance of my visit, I was promised reimbursement for all of my travel expenses. I received no guidance about where to stay or how I might make my way from the hotel to the campus, but I’m pretty resourceful, so I found a hotel and a cab, and everything went as planned. Until, that is, I submitted my receipts.

Apparently, the hotel that I selected charged more than the approved rate. Funny thing, though. No one ever mentioned an approved rate. Had they done so, I would have inquired about where I might stay for that amount of money. In the scheme of things, being out $62 is not the end of the world, and the executive assistant who delivered the bad news could not have been nicer. But it’s been a few days since I received the news, and I am still highly annoyed.

I know I am not alone in being misled by a host institution. For example, it’s not uncommon for guest speakers from outside the United States to be denied promised honoraria because they tacked on a talk to a Disneyland visit and entered the country without appropriate visas. I’ve also heard about situations in which inviters thought they had department support for a speaker’s travel reimbursement, only to learn later that there was a cap on the amount—and the plane ticket alone exceeded what was authorized.

Whether we are inviting guest speakers or job candidates, it’s important to be explicit about terms and conditions. Is a work-related visa required to pay an international speaker? Let them know. Is there a per diem for breakfast? Spell it out. Are original receipts required? Be sure to mention that. Is there a limit on airfare? Write it down. Will your speaker have to find his or her own transportation to the venue? Recommend a reputable cab company. Is there no taxi service in town? (This actually happened to me once.) Consider how your visitor might make the trip to your campus.

It takes only $62 (or less!) to buy $1,000 of ill will—and that is not the kind of return on investment most of us want to realize.

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.]

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