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;
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.
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 provide an LCD projector for any visuals that the speaker wishes to display from their own laptop during their talk. The Tea Bar also has a full PA system which we use for the speaker with either standard or radio clip microphones, depending on what is available at the time. We also have a couple of standard radio microphones for the Q&A period so everyone can hear any questions that are asked.
That said, we also 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.