3. FAQ for speakers
- What if I don’t know enough about the topic myself?
- Your particular area of study might be very focused but relative to
your audience you're already an expert in the wider field of
enquiry. You may feel that it is a daunting task to speak in a
context, but students just want to know more than they are learning
in school; they won’t expect you to know everything!
- Do I need to know about the school science curriculum?
- It isn’t essential for you to know what the pupils are currently
being taught, but if you feel you would gain a better idea of the
level of their understanding, it may be useful to have a look at the
syllabus points related to the chosen topic (if any are available).
The project organiser and teacher co-ordinator at the school can
help you with this.
- I’m not a confident public speaker; is there any other way I can get
- We do rely on outgoing, enthusiastic, confident speakers. However,
if you would be interested in helping with advertising, recruiting
more schools and speakers (on a voluntary basis), please contact the
Assistant Organiser. If you would like to gain more skills in public
speaking (so you may take part in a future cafe), she can put you in
touch with other organisations who run these courses.
- What else can I do to help prepare?
- The project organisers will be happy to bounce ideas around with
you. If there is one nearby, visit an evening Café Scientifique to
find out more about the format and chat to the organisers. There may
also be the opportunity to watch a Café Scientifique ‘in action’ in
- How do I pitch the talk if the audience is a mixed age group? Won’t
this be difficult?
- Simple, straightforward language is what’s needed. The science might
be complicated but you don’t need to be! Given that you won’t have
any “technological” support (no PowerPoint!), a rich variety of
analogies will be the best tool you can use.
- Will I be in a classroom?
- Cafes Scientifique won’t be held in lesson time and therefore
shouldn’t be in a classroom. The venue is likely to be a library,
cafeteria, common room or hall but much will depend on the
facilities available in the school. Wherever it is held, the
emphasis will be on accessibility and informality.
- Will I be responsible for controlling the students if they get
- If the students get disruptive or excessively chatty, the teacher
co-ordinator should be able to help. Usually students are trying to
voice their opinions on the topic (e.g. something you have said
could stimulate a mini-discussion amongst themselves), in which case
you could open up the discussion there and then. The organisers will
be able to help with practical hints and tips during the speakers’
- What if the students don’t like me?
- Students are very honest and are likely to give you feedback as to
whether your talk was good or not. Just listen to their ‘advice’,
learn from anything useful that they can tell you and forget the
rest. If required, make the appropriate changes for your next café.
- What if no one asks any questions?
- The teacher co-ordinator and student organisers know that they
should have a few questions up their sleeves, should the audience be
completely silent. You could ask the audience open questions, ask
for their opinion or get them to vote (show of hands) on what they
think of the topic.
- What’s the time commitment?
- The maximum length of a café will be 40 minutes to an hour (approx.
10min talk, 30min discussion and debate), plus your travelling time.
Cafes are most likely to be held at lunchtime or after school.
- How often will I be required to take part?
- We suggest that each school run six cafés in the school year. You
will most probably only be asked to do one or two every six months.
However, this totally depends on your popularity! Students are quick
to let everyone know which speakers they enjoy listening to.
- Who pays the speakers’ travel expenses?
- The aim is for all speakers to link with a school local to them and
help their university of company forge better relationships with
local schools and the local community, so talk to your Widening
Participation Office/Public Relations team. We do have some funds
available if necessary.
- Do I need to be cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau?
- We encourage our speakers to be CRB checked but given that you
are a visitor, rather than 'working' in the school, many schools won't
require it. You may be able to arrange this through your university
or, under the Science Ambassadors scheme, through your local SETPOINT (see www.setnet.org.uk to find one near you). If you
experience any difficulty, please contact us and we’ll do our best
- What if I can’t make it to a cafe?
- Occasionally, for very good reasons, speakers find that they cannot
attend a café. Student organisers can quickly get disillusioned and
disheartened if they feel they have been let down. If you another
appointment must be your priority, we would be grateful if you could
find a replacement or let the student organisers know well in
- I’m not sure I’m right for Cafe Scientifique but I would like to
know more about science education and science communication events.
Can you help?
- Of course we’d like you to be involved with us but we do understand
that not everyone will feel comfortable leading students in
discussions and debating. Many other organisations support Café
Scientifique and will be able to help you. Please contact us for