As the café begins, don’t forget to take a deep breath, relax, and have fun! For a more detailed agenda, see a Sample Schedule, a resource on this site.

Break the ice.

Strangers often need an icebreaker to help them jump into a conversation. Of course, food and drink often help! Here are some other icebreakers you can use.

  • As people arrive, hold a quick trivia contest to get them talking together and thinking about a topic. (For sample trivia questions, register your café and check out “Using trivia” in Grow a Café.)
  • Be creative with your introductions—and make them short and sweet. Find an interesting fact about the scientist to share or a provocative aspect of the topic. (Using humor always helps.)
  • It is amazing how quickly a crowded room will pay attention when a video begins. A short clip from NOVA scienceNOW can provide brief background information and stimulate ideas and questions. For more about using video, register your café and check out Using Technology” in the Grow a Café section of this site.
  • A short 5–10 minute break after the scientist’s presentation may allow people to chat and connect with each other.
  • If there’s an awkward silence at first, have a question of your own ready to get things going.

Encourage conversation.

Whether you or someone else is the moderator, use these tips to get the most out of the evening.

  • Arrive early to establish a rapport and plan of action with the scientist.
  • Pay attention to the audience. You’ll sense when an idea has grabbed the group’s interest or when people are disengaged.
  • Keep a low profile. You may be tempted to answer questions or express your opinions, but your job is to let others talk.
  • When a particularly good question comes up, try having the audience answer it.
  • Polling the audience, electronically or by a show of hands, is a good way to keep people engaged and encourage them to offer their opinions.
  • It’s a sure sign of a good Science Café if audience members begin interrupting the moderator!

Wrap up.

End the event according to the schedule or when people start getting restless or disinterested.

  • Be sure to announce upcoming Science Café events and topics before people leave.
  • Don’t forget to collect the sign-in sheet with email addresses.
  • If you want to evaluate the café via a survey or questionnaire, distribute it so that people have plenty of time to fill it out.
  • After the event is over, some people may stay to chat. Encourage the scientist to mingle and continue the conversation. Some of the best interactions occur in these smaller groups.