Tips for Planning 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.
Libraries, political organizations, service clubs, or religious groups – there are a number of venues in your community that might welcome a speaker with your particular expertise in chemistry.
Reaching out to schedule an event
If you are a member of the organization, you likely already know who organizes programming. If you aren't, ask friends and colleagues if they or someone they know belongs to the organizations where you’d like to speak. Reach out and offer your service. Be pepared to wait to get a date scheduled, since many organizations plan their programs several months in advance.
- Make contact early. Malls, libraries, and museums generally book events months in advance. In some cases, these locations and events are booked up to a year in advance.
- Introduce yourself and your credentials, and confirm that the contact is the person who arranges for speakers.
- 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.
- Ask specific questions about the organization’s goals and interests. Find out if the organization has special projects or interests that relate to chemistry. For some organizations the relationship might not be obvious so be prepared to illustrate some potential connections.
- Find out what sorts of presentations their members enjoy. Do they prefer interactive presentations? Or formal speeches?
- Send a follow-up letter confirming your interest and ask to schedule programming.
- 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.
Making the most of an opportunity
- 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).
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., 'water quality,' 'climate science,' or '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.
- 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 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.