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Guide Preparing Your Proposal

Guide Preparing Your Proposal

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Published by Jason Brown

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Published by: Jason Brown on Nov 24, 2009
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British Science Festival ‘how to’ guides
Guide 3: Preparing your proposal
Anyone can organise an event at the British Science Festival. If you would liketo organise an event as part of the Festival, then you need to complete theproposal form
by the October the year prior to the Festival in question.
 We include a whole range of events in the Festival including debates,workshops, plays, films and talks for everyone; schools groups, families, peoplewith an interest in science, scientists and professionals. Depending on thetype of event you would like to hold, it could be included events on theuniversity campus, in venues around the city or in the school programme.For more information about the kind of events that we look for, which part ofthe programme they may fit in to and inspiration for events that you might liketo organise please see our info sheet:
‘What kind of events are we lookingfor?’
.All proposals need to be made on the appropriate proposal form, which canbe found on our websitewww.britishsciencefestival.orgor requested from theFestival team. The deadline is in October prior to the Festival. The specificdate is advertised on the website.
Things you need to think about for your event and proposal
1) Choosing your audience
Firstly you need to decide if the event you are proposing is for the mainprogramme (events for the general public, such as families, people with ageneral interest, those with a specific interest etc) or for the schoolsprogramme (workshops and hands-on activities specifically for school groupsonly).
2: What kind of events are we looking for?’
may help whenchoosing your audience. This will help to choose which form to fill in.
2) Choosing the content
The content of the event
needs to be expressed on the proposal form clearly,in language understandable to a wide audience, and its relevance, noveltyand points of topical interest made clear. Events should be comprehensibleand interesting to a wide audience – this is not ‘dumbing down’; it is skilledcommunication.The Festival is all about science-related issues that are important or potentiallyimportant to people. This is regarded by the British Science Association as ofthe utmost importance. The distinctive feature of the Festival is that it exploresthe social, political or ethical implications of scientific progress, as well aspresenting and discussing new areas of scientific research. These conceptscan be explored in any kind of event.
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Discussion about areas of uncertainty is encouraged both between scientistsand others. In all events it is expected that the issue and discussion will beaddressed in a reputable manner and with due respect for the audience andparticipants.There are some further comments about content in ‘
Guide 2: What kind ofevents are we looking for?
.Organisers should note that the media makes up a very important part of theFestival audience. The media are looking for new material, an interestingangle, or something ‘sexy’ which will capture the attention and imaginationof their readers, viewers or listeners. For events that present new research,particularly those that the media are interested in, organisers should not usethe Festival to re-run events.
3) Choosing the participants: the Chair or Facilitator
Many events have a chair or facilitator where appropriate (for example in attalk, but not at a play), so this is something you need to think about. As well aspossessing appropriate skills for facilitation, a chair or facilitator needs to beable to keep speakers to time effectively, to stop one panel or audiencemember taking control of the discussion, to provide clear summaries of theissues and to be able to lead the occasion without dominating it.A good chair will be able to involve the audience in the discussion and avoidthe event turning into a question and answer session with ‘the expertsanswering questions put by the audience rather than stimulating debate.Whilst those in the audience may not be the leading scientific experts on thetopic, they will bring their own expertise from other areas. Asking the chair tosummarise the discussion from time to time enables people to reflect onwhere the event is going and allows latecomers to catch up. It is important tobrief your chair as well as the presenters and encourage them to speak toeach other beforehand.
4) Choosing the participants: the Presenters
Presenters should also be people whom the organisers know to be effectivecommunicators as well as top class researchers or practitioners.They also should be briefed in advance not only about the audience who willbe present, but about their responsibility to be available for contact with themedia if appropriate. Please read Guide 6: The media for further information.Making presenters aware of their specific audience, and their level ofexpectation, is vital. This is not like talking to undergraduates or colleagues.Some concepts may be complex but simplicity of language and the totalabsence of jargon will carry the audience with you. Despite targetedmarketing of an event, there will be a mixture of people present who havecome for all sorts of reasons. It is not unusual to get a Fellow of the RoyalSociety, a seventeen year old schoolgirl and someone in their eighties allattended the same event and contributing in the discussion. None of these
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may be expert in the field under discussion and may have no or littleknowledge of the topic.It is up to the organiser of the event to establish and maintain the quality oftheir presentations. Before inviting a presenter, check if they have presentedto a general audience before and, if you can, find out what the audiencereaction was. Even the most exciting scientific breakthrough can fail to makean impact if the presentation is too technical, unstructured or because thepresenter is simply not engaging the audience.Presenters should be encouraged to think carefully about their presentationswhen preparing for their session. PowerPoint presentations and slides shouldbe used to
illustrate what the speaker is saying 
, not echo their wordsverbatim. As a rough guide, in a 20 minute presentation, only six slides shouldbe used. It is highly unlikely that slides prepared for another audience ‘will do’without modification. Events where a presenter just talks and has the sameinformation on the slide behind them often prove the unsuccessful and theleast rewarding for the audience.
Research shows that if an audience just listens to a presentation they only remember 5% of what has been said. This rises to 15% if the presenter uses slides, but by using a demonstration, the figure increases to 25%. By becoming involved in the discussion or interacting with a demonstration, this figure rises to 65% (Source: National Training Laboratory, Maine).
5) Choosing the format
 More information about this can be found in
the ‘Guide 2: What kind of eventsare we looking for?
. But for some ideas, here are some things to think about:
Interactive votin
 Although high tech systems do exist, often a show of hands or raising differentcoloured cards can be as effective. People can vote on the issues raisedthroughout the event, at the beginning and/or the end to indicate theirpreference for one point of view over another. Make sure that the questionsare clear and that the audience knows beforehand what will be required ofthem. If you are interested in hiring in an electronic voting system, please letus know well in advance. It is possible that other organisers might have thesame idea and will be able to share the cost.
Breakout groups 
 These can work either as ice breakers, encouraging the audience to interactwith each other and express their thoughts on the subject or can be more indepth discussions about a certain aspect of the subject. Good facilitators areessential for this, and they should be clear about the aims of the breakoutgroups.
Focus group
 If your organisation is trying to find a way of monitoring public responses toyour new products, research area or service, you could have a focus group

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