Get Set

Once you’ve settled on the who-what-when-where of your café, it’s time to make sure lots of people know about it and the moderator and scientist are prepared.

Promote your café.

  • Here are some ways to get the word out:
  • Register your café so people can find it on the map .
  • Make generous and constant use of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, craigslist, Meet-Up, Blogspot, and so on.
  • Set up a listserv, either as you begin your café or after your first meeting, so that you can send notices about upcoming and related events.
  • Send notices to online and print local calendar listings. Many newspapers and TV and radio stations will list events for free, as do websites such as
  • Post flyers where they are most likely to be seen by your intended audience: restaurants, pubs, supermarkets, coffeehouses, convenience stores, cybercafés, and laundromats are just some of the local businesses you can use. Don’t forget libraries, university and college campuses, student unions, and other public gathering spaces.
  • If you plan on using NOVA scienceNOW video, contact your local PBS station to see if they can help you publicize your event.
  • You don’t need to be a designer to make an attractive flyer or poster! Register your café for sample flyers and other promotional materials on the Grow a Café section of this site. You may also want to use sites such as iStockphoto and Shutterstock as sources of free or inexpensive images to illustrate your flyer.
  • Ask your funders, partners, and sponsors to reach out to their members in e-newsletters and other communications.

Prepare the guest scientist.

The guest scientist helps to set the overall tone of the event. Don’t be shy about doing some coaching!

  • Be specific about the scientist’s role. He or she is not there to give a speech, lecture, or formal presentation. (There are no podiums or PowerPoint slides at a Science Café!)
  • Describe the informal atmosphere that you are trying to create. Remind the scientist that the conversation will be free-ranging and fun.
  • The scientist’s presentation should be a brief overview or conversation starter, no more than 10 minutes.
  • Ask the scientist to include some open-ended questions so that the audience will feel comfortable about starting to talk. You may want to review the questions and add suggestions.
  • Help the moderator and scientist to establish a rapport. Introduce them just before the café or a few days ahead of time. You might want to treat them to a meal or a drink so they can spend a few moments chatting.
  • Share your promotional materials ahead of time with the scientist to make sure your description of the topic is accurate. Similarly, review the video and any handouts with the scientist beforehand.
  • Register your café for more information about working with presenters.

Recruit volunteers.

Volunteers can be a valuable resource as you plan, set up, and run a Science Café. You can find volunteers at local universities and science organizations and through postings on electronic message boards.

Volunteers can fill a variety of roles alongside the coordinator and/or moderator that may include:

  • Treasurer: handles finances and tracks expenses;
  • Media coordinator: manages promotion and press;
  • Event manager: works with venue owner or manager;
  • Presenter manager: helps with details such as transportation of the presenter and making sure presenter is comfortable;
  • Photographer/Videographer/Podcaster: records and/or broadcasts the event.

Meet with volunteers beforehand to be sure they understand the format, the goals of the café, and what they’ll be doing. Here are some things to discuss in advance:

  • Mission: Share your vision for the Science Cafés and what you want to accomplish.
  • Tasks/skills: A well-defined set of tasks helps avoid confusion. If the tasks seem vague or too broad, it may make people less likely to volunteer.
  • Time commitment: Estimate the number of hours an assigned task will take and be sure to set check-in points and deadlines.
  • Schedule and arrangements: Clarify when and where the work needs to be done. Does it involve travel? Weekdays, evenings, or weekends? Can it be done at home?
  • Contact information: Be sure you know how to contact the volunteers. If you have a lot of volunteers, you may want to arrange for a volunteer coordinator to help you keep track of people and tasks.

Create materials and gather supplies.

Depending on your topic, the venue, and the guest scientist, you may want to develop handouts and/or trivia questions.

Be sure to bring:

  • sign-in sheet to collect names and email addresses,
  • evaluation survey or questionnaire,
  • pens and pencils,
  • audiovisual equipment
  • flyers or announcements of the next science café.