Tips for Events in Public Venues
Partnering with public venues – such as malls, libraries, or museums – is a great way for you to gain exposure for your events. If you would like to plan an event in a public venue, consider the following tips for a successful event:
Make contact early.
- Malls, libraries, and museums generally book events many months in advance. In some cases, these locations and events are booked up to a year in advance.
- Make these contacts as early as possible, at least four (4) months in advance.
Identify a primary contact at your site.
- Visit the contact in person and give him or her an overview of the event plan. This will build an interest and enthusiasm that may not come from a phone call or an email.
- For libraries and museums, contact the head librarian or curator. Museums and libraries generally plan their program calendars a year in advance.
- For shopping centers, contact the mall manager or the leader of the merchants association. Once permission is given to conduct a program in a mall, make contacts with individual merchants for support or collaborative ideas.
- Visit the location to see if it meets all of your needs. Think about the size of the room or area you need for tables and booths.
- Find out if the facility will provide adequate tables, chairs, trash barrels, and other materials. If the parking lot is far from the event area, arrange for hand trucks to be available for transporting supplies.
- Find out when the facility will be open and available for you so that you will have adequate set-up and take-down time.
- Create a safety plan: check on fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, escape routes, air ventilation, sources of running water, and local fire regulations.
- Ask, don’t assume, whether audio/visual equipment, tables, etc. will be provided.
Consider coordinating with an activity already planned for the location.
- If the museum features a special or popular exhibit, relate your community outreach event to the subject of that exhibit.
- Library staff may want to promote children’s science books on a table near a community outreach activity.
- Consider seasonal tie-ins. Several local sections have emphasized local events such as notable football games or the holiday season during their events.
- Time your library visit to coincide with the release of a popular book or movie that has a relationship to chemistry.
Investigate possible funding sources.
- Local merchants may assume the extra cost of conducting a public display. It is an opportunity for them to make a favorable public impression by helping your local section do something to increase appreciation of science.
- Local businesses are more likely to support your efforts if you publicly acknowledge their contributions to the event.
- Use giveaways to help draw a crowd. Brochures, publications, buttons, stickers, balloons, and other items can also persuade visitors and their families to search out your exhibit. Relate any giveaway to the event theme so that it becomes part of the overall learning experience. “Clear” your giveaway plans with your on-site contact person. Some malls and museums will not allow a giveaway that they view as competition for a retail store, or one that causes litter or potential damage (e.g., shops may already sell helium balloons, or there may be concern about children placing stickers on mall property).
Timeline for public facilities events
Here is a general timeline for planning your community outreach event. You’ll probably adjust this timeline to accommodate the scope of your event and volunteer schedules.
5-6 months before the event(s)
- Contact the head librarian at libraries, curator at museums, mall manager at shopping centers, and/or leader of the merchants association at a mall to schedule a date for your event.
2 months before the event(s)
- Plan demonstrations and/or activities.
- Prepare handouts and giveaways.
- Make a list of all materials and supplies needed for demonstrations and hands-on activities.
- Review general safety guidelines for presentations at non-scientifically equipped facilities and more detailed instructions from the National Chemistry Week and Community Activities Safety Guidelines.
After your event
- Send thank you notes to volunteers and anyone at the event site that you worked with.
Share information, materials and photos from your event.
Additional tips for organizing events in public venues:
- You will reach more people conducting events in places where people have come for another reason. You will probably reach a greater number and a wider cross-section of the public in shopping centers than in any other location.
- Select activities that go together to present a coherent program. Identify a theme to entice involvement (e.g., green chemistry).
- Find out if you need insurance coverage. Some venues may require a certificate of insurance from your local section to relieve them of liability. Review the ACS Office of Community Activities Community Outreach Manual for details.
- Consider the expenses of the program. Many public spaces charge rental fees. Find out the amount of the charge, the items and services included, and the advance deposit required.
- Don’t forget to advertise. Advertise in area newspapers and on radio and television stations. The purpose of the advertising is to be sure that the people who are already going to the shopping mall or museum have heard about your event. Review the American Chemical Society PR Guidebook [Link to PR Guidebook] for advice on how to get free coverage of your event.
- Put a human face on chemistry. Your demonstration will illustrate to the public that chemists are real people in their community. Be fun, approachable and genuine, and you will break stereotypes too.