Science Connection Member Polylogue, part 8
Science Connection member events: feedback
Here's a small sample of feedback on member get-togethers and some great tips on organizing events from one of our members who has organized many wonderful events in the Washington, DC area.
- Please remind members to participate in hiking and other trips organized by fellow members. While Science Connection is not the Sierra Club, such trips offer members a neutral ground to meet others. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! A special thanks for those club members who take time to organize such trips.
- Kudos to the DC group for their brunch and museum tour on Sunday, Sept 21. I was going to be visiting DC for a job interview the next day, so I got in early enough to make it to the DC members' event -- met some wonderful folks. I RSVP'd to make sure it was OK for a stranger to drop in, and the local organizers made a real effort to make sure I knew exactly where to go, and that the meeting time had been shifted slightly. Although Science Connection is a "dating service" for meeting friends and potential mates of the opposite sex, it was nice to meet some of the terrific women who are also members. Based on their advice (i.e., give people an opportunity to eat and do an activity, and have flexibility about dropping in or out at various points of the get-together), I will try to organize an event in my area.
- Matt's 'Lessons Learned' when organizing SciConn events:
- Keep it simple and interesting! This helps both you and the attendees keep from getting stressed out. Too much planned and crammed into the time allotted can be stressing and confusing.
- It helps to stick with a 3-4 hour event. People seem to start "bailing out" after that. If you are planning an all-day event or an overnighter, see if there is enough interest by "floating a balloon" (if you already have a core group of attendees) to see what turnout you may/may not get.
- Always establish a singular, unambiguous meeting place and time for the initial gathering. If you are expecting someone no one has met before, try to get and give good descriptions of one another and maybe you can even carry a sign that says, "SciConn" if it is a really public, bustling location you are to meet.
- As you hear from members for the first time try to get E-mail addresses and a work/home phone from them. I have found E-mail to be extremely effective in getting the word out, making changes, passing along info, etc. The home or work phone is good for last minute changes. I also now send my E-mail as a "bcc" (blind copy) to each person, so they do not see the E-mail addresses of other members. This maintains trust in the event you get someone who sends out unwanted/unsolicited mail to other members as once happened to me.
- Do not give out any other member's phone numbers/E-mail addresses, etc. until and if you have received permission to do so from them. This is a major issue of trust for some members; respect it and it will go a long way with your local SciConn crowd.
- I do not plan anything that involves expenditures of money/credit card ahead of time (for example, tickets for plays and other events) because invariably you may get stuck with unsold tickets. If you do plan such an event, insist on people paying you by a certain cutoff date before you purchase tickets or if it is an event without assigned seating they can purchase their own tickets. Things come up at the last minute for people that are unavoidable (family illness, etc.). Taking the steps above makes it their responsibility, not yours, to find a replacement attendee.
- Always include a Raindate or Snowdate (especially if the event is to take place outdoors) or indicate there isn't one.
- Check with restaurants ahead of time to ensure there are some vegetarian/alternative items available.
- Ask members to bring bills ($) under $20.00 (American). This makes it easier when paying the final bill for a meal if they won't do individual checks.
- It is helpful, though not necessary, if you have a male and female coordinator. This helps as a backup and some people are more comfortable initially contacting someone of the same sex.
- Solicit ideas for new events from members who attend your events.
- Look for events in your local newspaper's "weekend" section if they have one. I've found that very useful for upcoming exhibits, events, and ongoing venues such as parks, museums, etc.
- Encourage members to bring friends. It adds to the crowd and exposes potential new members to a cross-section of SciConn membership in a non-threatening setting. I often "cross-pollinate" single friends from other aspects of my social life (folk dancers) with SciConn events.
- I usually try to plan one event per month. If you are not so industrious then at least bi-monthly, so you can maintain interest among regular attendees. Expect that some months you will only get a few attendees and other months you will hit "paydirt." A good "critical mass" seems to occur when you have more than about 8-10 attendees and roughly gender balanced; I tend to get a lot of positive feedback from those threshold events. I've had 17 people show up on some occasions.
- Detail is good. Give attendees a lot of details about How, Who, What, Where, & When. Don't assume everyone is savvy about your town. I've found it especially helpful to actually go to the location(s) of your event (or at least call and inquire) and make note of helpful issues (costs of parking and the event itself, if any; phone numbers of the places you are going; nearby metro/bus stops; major cross-streets or landmarks; safety concerns (lighting); etc.).
- It also seems helpful to split up an event and a meal if you plan both together. This gives those with limited time the option to attend one or the other. If you are planning a long event, it might be better to eat first vs. afterward.
- Keep in mind that you are merely a catalyst for a SciConn event. Be flexible, be respectful, and be mindful of the fact that all kinds of people will be attendees. Having said that though, don't accept abuse in any form. We are all adults.
- If an attendee does not enjoy him/herself because the event ran a little long, wasn't what they expected, they didn't actively participate, or something unpleasant unexpectedly happened, it is not something you should feel guilty/responsible/uptight about. This is life and things happen and don't always work out as planned. Expect the unexpected. Attending an event is what you (and they) make of it.
- Most important of all: Smile and have fun!
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