Before You Start

Here are some simple tips to help get you started.

Know your audience.

Understanding your audience will help make your café a success. In the beginning, you might want to gather a few likely attendees together to talk about what topics, scientists, venues, etc. they would find interesting. Or, if you have an ongoing series of cafés, convene an informal “focus group” now and then for feedback and fresh ideas.

But how do you find your target audience?  In targeting an audience, consider parameters such as age, ability level, location, and even other interests and hobbies.  Your target audience may be very broad and include people who are not already science enthusiasts, or you may want to reach out to a specific audience, such as 21- to 35-year-olds who live in a certain neighborhood or seniors who are lifelong learners. Of course, cafés are open to all. Choosing a target audience is not about whom you will let in, it’s about whom you are trying to attract.

Certain topics may help you reach out to groups that may not be science oriented or be tailored to resonate more with your target audience. For instance, a Science Café on fuel cells may be an opportunity to partner with a group of driving enthusiasts. A café on food security may be interesting to local gardeners, farmers, and locavores.  Incorporating hands-on demonstrations into your café is another way to engage all types of people who want to learn about how things work.

Create a budget.

Science Cafés are inexpensive to plan and run. The most common café expenses are related to promotion, such as copying flyers. Some cafés charge a fee or ask for donations to cover their costs, but most are free.

Cafés in the United States typically do not pay an honorarium or fee for speakers or for the venue. Some cafés have successfully negotiated with the venue for a revenue-sharing arrangement or in-kind donation of free appetizers for the audience. Point out to the venue owner or manager that the science café will introduce the venue to many new people as well as bring in additional revenue.  Click here for more ideas about how to do a Science Café on a limited budget.

Consider funder, partners and/or sponsors.

You may want to join forces with a community group that can support the Science Café or a series of cafés via volunteers, funding, or venues. Choose partners that will help you reach your audience, such as the local public library, cooking club, bowling league, or supermarket chain.

Reference sample materials

If you are looking for more direction you may find a sample timeline or sample schedule of a Science Café very helpful.