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Engagement Matters: Preparing for Table Top Science: tips on what info you will need to consider

In this Engagement Matters post Sheena shares her top tops for the logistics of preparing to deliver table top science activities at public facing events.

We are just in the throes of preparing to do a festival event in which we will have a table top* activity to try and excite a mixed audience of festival visitors with our research into allergy, pollution and infection in our citizen science project called Britain Breathing. We are in the fortunate position of having trialled this activity before so this blog and the one that follows will be focused on not how you create a table top activity but instead the logistics of what you need to prepare to run a table top activity.

  • Ahead of the event you may need to write a summary which can be used to advertise the activity to the public. This needs to be short and without jargon and should indicate what visitors may learn about, see as well as what they will do!
  • Consider whether you need to provide public liability insurance documentation. Often your institution will have this so you are just providing a copy or the link. Perhaps the event has this covered but it’s worth checking. The University of Manchester documentation is here: http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=1739
  • Consider child protection policy – do you or your volunteers have DBS (disclosure and barring service) accreditation? If not all helpers do then ensure that no one is left alone with children and please make sure that no one is by themselves with a child/student at any point and avoid touching any child/student (within reason). If there are any lost children on the stand, then let the organisers know.
  • Most places will require health and safety information about the activity so get your risk assessment ready!
  • Make a kit list for your activity and check stocks in advance so you know what extra things you may need for the event according to expected numbers at the event. There is nothing worse than being mid-event and running out of stuff! Although don’t panic if that happens – just be flexible and adapt the activity until you can replace the kit.
  • Arrange volunteers to help with the stand and consider length of time the stand will run for and break provision with cover for breaks! Provide helpers with an information pack which should contain the following:
  • Details of the event: Date, times of activity, including set up and take down of the activity
  • Venue: Where it is and how to get there Meals and Refreshments; Where food is available and what you will provide if you are
  • Contact details: Of the people in charge of the activity e.g. who to contact if they have issues getting there. It’s also a good idea to get everyone’s contact details just in case!
  • Activity briefing: what the activities are and purpose of them
  • FAQs: more on this later!
  • Organise a volunteer briefing session ahead of the event to answer any queries and/or demo the activities. Assess their level of experience and confidence and advise and reassure accordingly.
  • You are almost ready to go! The final thing is allow plenty of time for packing up your kit to get there, time for setting up the stall and then taking down the stall at the end of the event. This always takes longer than you think and involves a great deal more lugging of equipment than I ever thought possible!
  • Do quick team debriefs before and after the event – has anything changed that your helpers need to know about and take time afterwards to reflect on what worked well and what did not and how you may change things for e.g the next day.
  • Organise a volunteer briefing session ahead of the event to answer any queries and/or demo the activities. Assess their level of experience and confidence and advise and reassure accordingly.
  • You are almost ready to go! The final thing is allow plenty of time for packing up your kit to get there, time for setting up the stall and then taking down the stall at the end of the event. This always takes longer than you think and involves a great deal more lugging of equipment than I ever thought possible!
  • Do quick team debriefs before and after the event – has anything changed that your helpers need to know about and take time afterwards to reflect on what worked well and what did not and how you may change things for e.g the next day.

Follow these tips to help set up your activity for a hassle free event.

*Table top activity is a term used to require a set of interactive activities on a theme that are portable. It may or may not involve a table or tables but that is often the space constraint you will have.

Dr Sheena Cruickshank, Academic Lead for Public Engagement, The University of Manchester

Twitter: @UoMEngage | @sheencr  | #EngageMatters

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