AAAS Workshop on Planning Outreach Events

One of the afternoon sessions on the first day was a workshop on how to plan a public outreach event. It was organized by people working with the Science Festivals Alliance,  a group coordinating the different science festivals around the country, including the local Life Science Weekend that was held last November

The workshop started off by presenting the variety of different formats possible, from the typical lecture exemplified by that part of the workshop being described as “[the speaker] wearing a blazer up above you and have powerpoint” to more unique presentations like a professor standing on the street talking about his work at a fair in China.

We then went through the steps they had found to be necessary to organize whatever form of outreach someone wants to do and finished by actually walking through the process with a volunteer from the audience using a worksheet that was handed out and should probably be made available at the Science Festivals website at some point:

Step 1: Define Goals and Objectives – The goal portion refers to the general ideas that you want to focus on, while objectives are the specific things you hope to accomplish.

Step 2: Identify your target(s)

Step 3 Create your message

This two I find to be somewhat linked, since you want your message to be tailored for your audience. Knowing as much as possible as what specific groups to appeal to is key for being successful. The speaker described how when he was getting an event started in Boston similar to Science on Tap here is Seattle he spent time talking to the people that were in the bar to figure out the best ways to appeal to the people that were already in the bar, and not necessarily interested in science events usually. This led to changes in descriptions for the events, and using the fact that it was common place to watch Celtics games to have a speaker incorporate basketball into a talk that would start immediately after a game.

Step 4 Package your Message – The process of actually planning what you want to do, making sure it’s understandable for target audiences, meets objectives and possible with available resources.

Step 5 Distribute your message – The way of getting people to know about the event and carrying it out. We didn’t really get into this too much in the workshop, though one point made earlier was designing flyers to match where they’ll be posted – with the Science Cafes Ben was planning meant to appeal to the same audience that would look at concert flyers that were posted in the same locations.

Step 6: Evaluate your plan – Determine how well it met goals and objectives and what worked and didn’t work. As part of this Ben mentioned surveys of visitors to two different science fairs showed the two things that seemed to have the most appeal after controlling for other factors were the chance for hands on activities and even more so was the chance to have face to face interactions.

Another reference that they suggested be worth watching was this video below for a webinar by Tim Miller from University of Wisconsin (though I have been a bit distracted to be able to watch)

Mastering Science and Public Presentations from UW MRSEC on Vimeo.

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