Illinois Extension

2024 CHICAGO - Request a Speakers Bureau or Tabling Program

University of Illinois Extension provides speakers through the Chicago Cook County Master Gardener Program on a wide range of gardening and environmental topics. If you would like to request a speaker for Chicago please complete the form and specify your program preferences.  All groups requesting talks should have a minimum audience of 15 people.

Due to the high volume of requests for our programming, requests should be made at least 10 weeks in advance in order to coordinate our staff and volunteers' schedules. 

To better accomodate groups, we may limit each organization to two programs per calendar year.
 *** PLEASE NOTE April dates are very popular and book out months in advance.  Please consider a non-April date!

For in-person programs, if your organization is able, we request a cost recovery fee of $50 - $150 for each program in order to cover educational materials for hands-on activities, handouts, and travel expenses.  We are willing to work with you based on your available funding, donation not required. We greatly appreciate your support and can provide a W-9.   Donation checks should be made payable to University of Illinois Extension, the word "donation" on the memo line, and may be mailed to Illinois Extension 8753 S Greenwood Ave. Suite 100. Chicago, IL 60619.

Currently, University of Illinois Extension is not requiring our volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, nor will we be asking for proof of vaccination in any capacity. Rather, we ask those who volunteer at partner sites to follow the guidelines/mandates set by that partner. Continuing to volunteer with partner sites that are mandating vaccination is determined by the individual volunteer. We are aware of current vaccination mandates designated by some of our partners and those partners will be responsible for ensuring volunteers are compliant with their policies. When we share volunteer opportunities from our partners, we will be sure to share any partner requirements for serving in that role. It is the responsibility of the organization requesting programs and/or assistance to include any protocols/requirements they may have when the program request is submitted, so this information is included in volunteer recruiting efforts.

***Please note that Extension staff and volunteers are not permitted to sign contracts and do not deliver programs at private residences. Programs CANNOT be recorded.

This registration is for Chicago locations ONLY.

Program Types and Descriptions:

Some adult programs can be done as tabling, 60 minute presentations, or 90 minute workshops.
  1. Tabling programs are best suited for events where participants can walk up to the table for a short period of time to learn and ask questions. 
  2. 60 minute presentations are best suited for captive audiences in a classroom-style setting with education, instruction, and time for questions.
  3. 90 minute demonstration/workshops are best suited for captive audiences in a classroom-style setting with education, instruction, time for questions, and then a possible demonstration/hands-on portion if materials are available. Workshops may also require extra tables to accommodate supplies. 
  • Ask a Master Gardener Information Table (tabling) - Illinois Extension Master Gardener Volunteers will provide seasonally relevant gardening handouts and information. Interact with volunteers and ask them your vegetable and ornamental gardening questions!
  • Backyard Composting (tabling or 60 minute) - Learn the basics of starting and maintaining a backyard compost bin.
  • BodySmart Gardening (60 minute) - Learn how to protect yourself from injury while gardening. BodySmart Gardening involves the tools we use and how we use those tools. It also addresses things within our control such as skin health and the prevention of muscle aches and strains.
  • Beneficial Insects: Garden Warriors (60 minute) - Gardeners tend to focus on insects that eat their plants without paying attention to insects that act as warriors in the garden by either eating the bad bugs or parasitizing them. Learn about the most common beneficial insects with and never accidentally kill a good bug again.
  • Bloomin' Bulbs (60 minute) - Spring bulbs are an important addition to any landscape or garden. Because of the wide variation in flowering time among different bulbs, they will add color to the landscape from January until June and beyond.
  • Conservation at Home Program Overview (tabling, 60 minute) - Conservation@Home Cook County recognizes and certifies properties that demonstrate environmentally sound landscape practices. Through the Conservation@Home certification program, residents of Cook County have the opportunity to shape their private and community landscapes in a conservation-minded way with guidance and criteria provided for them. The program will cover the basics of Conservation@Home concepts such as connecting wildlife habitat, increasing biodiversity, improving water quality, and promoting healthy soils.
  • Container Gardening (60 minute or 90 minute demonstration, pending plant availability) - Whether you live in an apartment, condo, town home or single family home, you probably have the space for the color and interest of container gardens, one of the hottest trends in gardening. Includes container selection, plant selection, simple design considerations, the proper planting and maintenance to help ensure success.
  • Cool Season Crops (60 minute) - Cool season crops, such as lettuce, carrots, and kale prefer the cooler temperatures and can be grown in spring or fall. Learn how to plant, care for, and harvest these quick-growing vegetables. 
  • Fall Garden Prep (60 minute) - Fall is a time of change, the plant and trees are preparing for winter and so can you by doing a few simple fall garden tasks. Come learn what your garden and lawn need in the fall to prepare for winter. Tips will include conventional and environmentally friendly gardening tips- both important for a happy and healthy landscape. This presentation is a part of the Cook County Conservation@Home program.
  • Growing Cacti & Succulents (60 minute) - How about adding plants to your garden or home that can thrive with little attention? We will review their basic needs including propagating, dividing, the best watering and light strategies, and offer a variety of garden and home design ideas.
  • Herb Gardening (tabling, 60 minute, 90 minute workshop, pending plant availability) - Participants will learn how to select, plant and maintain herb gardens so that they add beauty to the home landscape, while offering added culinary and other uses.
  • Healthy Houseplants (tabling, 60 minute, 90 minute demonstration, pending plant availability) - Houseplants add life and beauty to a home. Learn simple tips to select and care for houseplants. After this program, even those with “brown garden thumbs” will know how to have healthy houseplants throughout their home. 
  • Houseplant Propagation (60 minute, 90 minute workshop, pending plant availability) Are your houseplants overgrown and leggy? Would you like more of your favorites or does a friend want a start of one of your plants? This program will show you how to propagate houseplants using a number of different techniques including leaf or stem cuttings, division, and air layering.
  • How to Kill Your Tree: A guide of what NOT to do (60 minute) - Sometimes a tree's biggest pest is the homeowner. This presentation discusses common mistakes homeowners make when planting and maintaining their most valuable landscape investment, their trees.
  • Indoor Edible Gardens (60 minute) - Gardening is not limited to outside in the summer. The Edible Indoor Garden shows you how to grow your own fresh herbs, salad greens, and more anytime of the year. 
  • Monarch Butterflies (60 minute) - Learn about our State Insect's life stages, habitats, journeys, and the challenges facing their populations.
  • Native Pollinators (60 minute) - When it comes to pollination, honey bees get a majority of the attention. However, many insects play a role in pollination. This presentation will discuss different native pollinators and how to make your landscape attractive to them. 
  • Native Landscape Design (tabling, 60 minute) - When you incorporate native plants in your home landscape, you achieve beauty and provide habitat for native pollinators and wildlife. This presentation is a part of the Cook County Conservation@Home program.
  • Natural Lawn Care (60 minute, 90 minute workshop) - This program will focus on environmentally friendly lawn care practices. Participants will learn techniques for taking care of and understanding their lawn as well as receive the tools to create a sustainable lawn care action plan to apply what they learn in the workshop at home. This presentation is a part of the Cook County Conservation@Home program.
  • Pruning Trees and Shrubs (60 minute) - Correctly train young trees and shrubs when they are still small to prevent the need for more expensive, dangerous pruning on older and larger trees. Learn how to prune a tree away from your home or other obstructions without harming the tree. Even if you are planning on hiring someone to prune a large tree, you need to understand the basics of pruning to make sure you hire someone who knows what they are doing.
  • Seed Saving (tabling, 60 minute, 90 minute workshop)- Most gardeners wait until the fall to decide they want to save seeds. This results in lower quality seeds for next year. By planning your garden for seed saving, you can get high-quality seeds for the future! Learn important concepts and techniques for seed saving such as open pollination and variety isolation to get the best quality seeds for your garden! We will also discuss harvesting and seed storage. 
  • Tomato Troubles (60 minute) - Tomatoes are one of the most popular and commonly grown plants in home gardens. Learn about common problems that plague tomatoes as well as ways to address them. 
  • Vegetable Gardening (60 minute) - Vegetable gardening isn't complicated in raised beds or containers. We present tips to make your landscape work for you. Creating a partly edible, partly ornamental garden is an idea whose time has come. You can grow fresh wholesome food in a small space, with just a little time. 
  • Worm Composting (60 minute, 90 minute workshop) - Worm composting is a fun way to make fertilizer from food scraps! It is excellent for small spaces and kids love it. It is easy to do, but takes a little more effort than basic composting. We will demonstrate how it's done for your group.

Contact Information

Demonstration/workshop programs pending material availability
Descriptions of program types and the available programs are above. Please keep in mind the program type you chose.
Topic may not be available for presentation
Please include any special directions such as which door to enter, which side of building, parking, etc.

Civil Rights Compliance - Participant Info

As part of our commitment to providing equal opportunities in our programming, University of Illinois Extension is required to collect and report overall statistics about the race, ethnicity, and gender of program participants. Your responses are voluntary and appreciated.