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We can’t find a teacher to support us?
The teacher information pack (download it from here), gives all the details about cafe scientifique that a teacher should need. Support could come from any department, not just science – approach teachers of PHSE, citizenship, sociology, media studies or politics; speak to your librarian or other support staff members. If you don’t already know, your head teacher will be able to tell you who is responsible for advanced skills training, supporting gifted and talented pupils and citizenship – these people might all be interested. If you still don’t have any luck, get in touch with us and we will be happy to come to your school to tell staff more about the project, or put them in touch with other schools that are running cafés so that they can go and see for themselves how it works.
We can’t think of a topic?
The project organiser will offer lots of help on potential topics but if none of these seem interesting, look around you. See what news items spark your interest in papers or magazines or on television, radio or online. The BBC online science pages are excellent and The Royal Society (Britain’s oldest science society) produces a breakdown of science in the news every day. The Project Organiser and Assistant Organiser are here to help: let us know your ideas, however tentative and we will do our best to help you come up with something. We've listed some possible topics here.
Someone from the team lets us down?
The key to reducing problems is good communication. Define responsibilities clearly and have regular meetings to update on progress. Then it should be possible to identify difficulties early on, reducing the risk of major problems on the day of the café. Key players, especially the chair, should have an understudy in case of illness or other problems.
The speaker doesn’t show up?
Make sure that you have agreed and confirmed all the details with your speaker, including date and time, well in advance. Arrange with the speaker for him or her to arrive in plenty of time, say half an hour before your café is due to start. Make sure the teacher co-ordinator has the speaker’s mobile telephone number and that the speaker has a way of getting in touch with you (remember, you are likely to be dashing around setting up the room, arranging drinks etc.). Have a plan in place beforehand in case something unforeseen occurs, such as the speaker being unable to make it. (In this case, it’s a good idea to have a back-up topic, which you have prepared some information on, so that you can still hold a discussion, though it will probably be shorter than normal. The project organiser can help you to prepare this.)
The speaker isn’t what we expected?
If your speaker talks on a topic that is different from what you expected, isn’t great at explaining things or good at putting their point across, remember that the speaker is only a starting point for the café. A poor speaker doesn’t have to lead to a poor discussion. The team can ask questions and make comments to try and encourage debate. After all, you have chosen your topic because it is something that you are interested in and have opinions on – voice them!
The audience is very small?
Small audiences don’t mean that your café isn’t a success. A smaller group can mean that you can get into more in-depth discussion of the topic and that everyone has a chance to get their voice heard. Don’t worry; just enjoy the chance to get really stuck in. Afterwards, ask yourself why the audience was smaller than you hoped. Could your publicity be improved? Was the choice of topic the problem? Ask the people who did attend why they came and whether it was what they expected. Use the information that you get to change the way that you promote your next event.
No one has any questions or comments?
There are a few ways to encourage debate. First, you have opinions about this topic, so you should have questions and comments from the organising team at least. There are lots of different ice-breaking activities the chair can have up their sleeve if talk runs dry – talk to the project organisers about preparing one or two.

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