Host a Café

It’s the big night! As the café begins, don’t forget to take a deep breath, relax, and have fun! For a more detailed agenda, see a Sample Schedule, a resource on this site.

Break the Ice

Strangers often need an icebreaker to help them jump into a conversation. Of course, food and drink often help! Here are some other icebreakers you can use.

  • As people arrive, hold a quick trivia contest to get them talking together and thinking about a topic. (For sample trivia questions, register your café and check out “Using trivia” in Grow a Café.)
  • Be creative with your introductions—and make them short and sweet. Find an interesting fact about the scientist to share or a provocative aspect of the topic. (Using humor always helps.)
  • It is amazing how quickly a crowded room will pay attention when a video begins. A short clip from NOVA can provide brief background information and stimulate ideas and questions. For more about using video, register your café and check out “Using Technology” in the Grow a Café section of this site.
  • A short 5–10 minute break after the scientist’s presentation may allow people to chat and connect with each other.
  • If there’s an awkward silence at first, have a question of your own ready to get things going.

Encourage conversation.

Whether you or someone else is the moderator, use these tips to get the most out of the evening.

  • Arrive early to establish a rapport and plan of action with the scientist.
  • Pay attention to the audience. You’ll sense when an idea has grabbed the group’s interest or when people are disengaged.
  • Keep a low profile. You may be tempted to answer questions or express your opinions, but your job is to let others talk.
  • When a particularly good question comes up, try having the audience answer it.
  • Polling the audience, electronically or by a show of hands, is a good way to keep people engaged and encourage them to offer their opinions.
  • It’s a sure sign of a good Science Café if audience members begin interrupting the moderator!

Wrap Up

End the event according to the schedule or when people start getting restless or disinterested.

  • Be sure to announce upcoming Science Café events and topics before people leave.
  • Don’t forget to collect the sign-in sheet with email addresses.
  • If you want to evaluate the café via a survey or questionnaire, distribute it so that people have plenty of time to fill it out.
  • After the event is over, some people may stay to chat. Encourage the scientist to mingle and continue the conversation. Some of the best interactions occur in these smaller groups.