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Special Interest Group
of Active Hampshire
Social Club

A member group of
Association of Inter-Varsity Clubs

9-13 London Street
Basingstoke RG21 7NT
Provides the Venue

Thames Valley Branch of British Science Association
Pay Speaker Expenses

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Advice for Speakers

The talks would normally give the speaker up to 30 minutes to state their case, and then we take a short break for people to recharge their drinks and chat.  This then leaves leaves around 45 minutes for questions. This format provides an opportunity for exceptionally lively discussion.

Questions can be sympathetic or challenging. 

Note that the formal talk finishes around 9pm (some people have to get the last bus home; and it is usually time enough.)  But of course you are very welcome to stay on and chat/argue/elaborate with audience members as long as you may wish.

What makes for a successful talk?

Lively Questions and Answers

The Talk should be:
capable of standing rigorous questioning;
intellectually stimulating;


delivered in plain English for the non-specialist or non-scientist;
without expensive visual aids (apart from hand-outs if you wish);
broad enough to generate an hour or so of lively Questions and Answers. 

What else?

The Café format is not like a lecture; it is far more inter-active.  We have found that the talks that work best are those where the speaker can talk freely and engagingly, perhaps with only minimal notes, about a subject you are passionate about.  It is a good opportunity to test out new ideas. 

You do not have to guess in advance the level of knowledge of your subject that the audience will have, and put all the relevent detail in your talk; the Q&A session will allow you to guage the level of understanding in the audience ( which will, in any case, varyu from indiovidual to individual), and respond accordingly..

We do not recommend the use of pre-prepared PowerPoint slides as this rarely works well.  There is a strong temptation then to revert back into "the standard lecture"; try to cram 30 minutes into 20; and then have to rush to finish, and run out of time.  But this is also a wasted opportunity to do something new.

That said, we appreciate the use of imaginative visual aids.  Other Cafe Sci groups have had a stuffed badger for a talk on bovine TB; insects in jars; a 3-D model of a 7-dimensional universe, for a talk on particle physics; and fluffy stuffed woollen things to model invasive bacteria; and a plaster cast of the fossil of the first ever complex multi-cellular life forms.  Images or even graphs can be handed round. Or left for people to peruse during the break.

30 minutes is not long; and it is never going to be possible to say everything you want to say in the first session. A good trick, therefore - especially if you find you are running out of time - is to throw out a few comments or provocative ideas as you go along, and see if the audience takes the bait.

One advantage of meeting with the host of the evening before the talk (possibly for a meal) is that it gives you time to brief us on some areas you really hope will come up.  The host can then if necessary ask a leading question or simply allow time for the theme to evolve.


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