Outreach: Event Planning

Organize a lecture series at a local high school

Background

There are a variety of positions in science outreach and these positions can be associated with a non-profit organization, an academic institution and/or a government agency. Regardless of context, individuals with these positions must be very organized and are often required to manage multiple projects or programs at a time. Therefore these positions usually require expertise in event planning and program management, complemented by communication, time management, and marketing skills. Project management involves the initiation, organization, and conclusion of work that is achieved by a group. Event planning is essentially project management where the specific end product for a team of individuals is an event. Accordingly, the event planner is in charge of all communications between all parties involved (stakeholders) and people skills are crucial to manage both external and internal partnerships. These partnerships usually include individuals grouped in one or more of the following categories: sponsors, educators, scientists, administrators, and volunteers.

Some of the types of events planned for the purpose of science outreach include meetups at local establishments, seminar series, conventions, and workshops. The goals of such events include public engagement and the training and promotion of communication between entities such as the scientific community, city government, community organizations, and members of a school district or board.

The Process

As an event planner, you are responsible for the coordination of all event details. The steps summarized below are explained in greater detail at the following link: How to Plan an Event.

  1. Determine the goal(s), objective(s) and audience of the event
  2. Identify which individuals need to be involved
  3. Decide on a theme that will catch the attention of the target audience
  4. Set an available date that is agreed upon by all parties involved
  5. Create a plan that comprehensively includes event details
  6. Determine how you will keep track of the event details
  7. Connect with relevant sponsors
  8. Decide how the event will be publicized
  9. Develop a budget for the plan created in step 4
  10. Establish the metrics of success for the event and how it will be evaluated

Note that a successful event planner will also keep in mind strategies to adapt in case of any setbacks to their original plan. Steps 2, 3, 4, 7 and 8 will be explored during this simulation. Step 1 has been determined for you (see “Your Role”) and step 10 will be explored in another simulation (Outreach: Program Evaluation). Steps 5, 6 and 9 are important for planning a successful event, but are not included in this simulation.

The Exercise

For this exercise, you are are the Public Outreach Manager for the American Society of X and one of your projects is to coordinate a Cancer Biology seminar series at a local high school. Plan the Cancer Biology seminar series keeping in mind the following goals and objectives:

The primary goal of the Cancer Biology seminar series is to inspire conversations among students, teachers and staff about cancer biology and to expose this community to the societal implications of cancer research. A secondary aim is to make the American Society of X more visible in the community. Thus, the seminar series should be engaging and designed to facilitate the interaction between visiting scientists, employees at the American Society of X and seminar attendees.

The seminar series will occur five times during the fall semester in the gymnasium for 50 minutes during lunch. The society will provide lunch for the students, teachers, and staff who attend and volunteer at the event. The school will provide teaching materials such as whiteboards and a projector. Lastly, the content will be provided by the other speakers and/or the event planner if a speaker cancels.

Audience: High school students at all levels (may or may not have taken and/or learned biology) will make up the majority of your seminar series audience. Teachers, staff, administrators and employees at the American Society of X may also be in the audience at the seminar. Remember, the audience is especially important to keep in mind when selecting speakers.

Note: Outlining the structure and schedule of the event is also an important part of event planning. This task is very similar to lesson planning, and is incorporated in another simulation.

Task 1: Identify individuals
Write a list of individuals that will make up your team. Your team will handle all the details of the seminar series and should consist of educators, scientists, administrators and volunteers. Be as specific as possible. Your list should include the position and role of each individual. For example, if an Assistant Professor is designated as a speaker, their role section should include their topic and seminar slot number. This task represents step 2 in the process outlined above. Several examples are provided below:Position/TitleRole

Assistant Principal Scheduling and student supervision during the seminar
Classroom teacher (chemistry) Publicity and a potential lesson about drug development during Seminar 3.

You would then use this list as a guide to reach out to each team member and assign them their roles.

Task 2: Outline a plan of action
Write a plan that encompasses the relevant aspects of the event. These aspects include catering, registration, transportation, speaker, sponsor, and volunteer management.When completing this task, focus on the following questions:

  • How will this aspect be accomplished?
  • What specifically needs to be done in order to manage my team?

Your plan should include action items and be presented as a checklist. Focus on two (one long term and one short term) of the following time frames:

  • 2 months prior to the first seminar (long term)
  • 1 week prior to the first seminar (long term)
  • The day before the first seminar (short term)
  • The day of the first seminar (short term)

Please see the following link for ideas about what to include: Event Checklist. This task corresponds to step 5 and 7 in the process outlined above. Step 7 is not being directly explored here, i.e. there is no need to draft the emails and/or phone conversations that would be required for step 7.

Task 3: Create a marketing strategy
An event planner would likely identify and pursue many types of advertising to reach their intended audience above and beyond what you will create in this task. Such types of advertisement may include radio announcements, flyers, emails, and social media. Create a pictorial, phrase, caption and/or title of the seminar series that encompasses the theme. Your goal here is to catch the eyes of your main audience. Include a few sentences explaining your reasoning and the mechanism of communication and/or distribution. This task represents steps 4 and 8 in the process outlined above.

The Deliverable

Create the deliverable from Task 1 as a 2-column table with the title of the team member in the first column and succinct role descriptions in the other column. This deliverable is a tool that you could easily refer to throughout the process of planning the event.

For Task 2, create a checklist in a word processor. The action items on the checklist should be clear and brief.

The deliverable for Task 3 can be made with applications such as PowerPoint or Illustrator. At the bottom of the illustration, include your reasoning and the method of advertising.

Resources

Skills

For this task:

  • Knowledge of science, education, and outreach
  • Communication skills, verbal and written
  • Computer skills
  • Time and program management
  • Analytical skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Marketing
  • Creativity

Needed in this career:

  • The ability to simplify and/or translate complex concepts
  • Analytical and computer skills
  • Marketing
  • Knowledge of science, education and outreach
  • Communication skills, verbal and written
  • Computer skills
  • Time and program management
  • Interpersonal skills: teamwork/collaboration
  • Attention to detail
  • Creativity

A professional in the field of Science Outreach may also perform these tasks:

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Simulation authors: Corin White, PhD
Simulation vetted by professionals in the Bay Area