If you are thinking about organising a Science CafÃ© in your area, perhaps you are wondering what might be involved.Science Cafes are usually held monthly and many have run successfully for several years. You might find interested people in organisations such as local science centres or 'science bus' initiatives, Adult Education, the science or 'culture' promotion units of local councils or educational establishments, the media etc. It depends what works in your local circumstances. To organise a cafe, you should be prepared to: approach a venue and establish a relationship with them, approach and book speakers, chair the events yourself or arrange for someone else to and publicise events in advance. Once a Science CafÃ© is established it can be relatively easy to maintain.
Science CafÃ© is all about conversation, so it is important that your venue allows the audience to see and hear the speaker and each other. The venue needs to strike a balance between being large enough to accommodate the audience (usually from 30 to 50 people) and small enough to allow them to hear each other and interact successfully. It is important that the venue is relaxed and informal and that drinks (and perhaps food) are available. Noise should be kept to a minimum while the cafe is running, especially during the opening talk from the speaker. A cafe or bar is the best type of venue but this does depend on your local situation.
Once you have found a suitable venue, you need to book some speakers. (Cafes usually have a single speaker for each event, so that the dialogue with the audience is maintained. If you have a 'panel' of speakers, the audience can become viewers of, rather than participants in, the debate). If you are interested in starting a Science CafÃ© you are probably already interested in science. If you have your own networks in science and technology then it makes it relatively easy to find speakers. Science CafÃ© organisers find speakers either through their own networks or by following up articles they read in newspapers, magazines or in the popular science press. All cafes welcome suggestions for speakers and topics - many leave slips of paper on tables during the event so that people can write down their suggestions. We can also give some help with finding speakers.
Each Science CafÃ© event is open to the public and is run on the principles of free speech and respect for the individual. It is important the chairperson maintains so that these principles and that everyone feels able to ask questions.
Once a cafe is established, many organisers set up email lists for circulating details of forthcoming events. However, the first few events must generally be publicised using a wide range of means, so that you can build up an audience. Most start off using a mix of posters, leaflets, inserts in local 'What's On' publications, Adult Education contact lists, local newspapers and local radio and television. Again, it very much depends on the situation in your own city or town.