One of the most popular events that that Bath Skeptical Society put on is the “Skeptics In The Pub” talk events held every month. These have been consistently attended by 40 to 50 people with numbers growing constantly. Those joining us have enjoyed talks as diverse as the science behind ghost hunting, alt med, and even transport policy.
With the success of these talks and the positive feedback we have had from all involved, it has become apparent that things at the Bath Skeptical Society (that launched in February after months of work to get the group off the ground) needs to step up a gear.
The talks are just the public face of what happens at Bath Skeptics, behind the scenes an extremely small team of volunteers work to make events like this happen, and we need more help to ensure that the people of Bath and the surrounding areas continue to have high quality speakers coming to the city for such events.
Let’s look at the work that goes behind setting up just one talk to give some insight:
“That person looks interesting”
First and foremost, someone needs to work out who could speak for us. We are attempting to look as widely as possible, and of course the more people that are involved the more likely it is that we’ll continue to approach speakers from varied walks of life and expertise.
We then have to approach them, explaining our reasons for contacting them and why we feel they would be an excellent guest speaker. If they agree, we need to work with them to find a suitable date for them to come to Bath to speak.
If the speaker is from out of town, we need to arrange transport, accommodation and food. This is one of the main reasons that we ask for donations on entry to Skeptics In The Pub events, and without these we would not be able to approach speakers from outside the area. It would obviously be rude to ask someone to travel a long distance for a voluntary talk and ask them to foot the bill, and it would be just as rude not to arrange this for them too.
“It’s a bit cold out here. And I’m thirsty”
Then there’s the venue. A “Skeptics In The Pub” talk wouldn’t work without a pub to put all the skeptics in. This is harder than it sounds, and has been a long struggle for the group, however we are now finally finding it easier to approach venues now we have a proven track record of attracting crowds. But we still need to ensure that the date we want hasn’t already been taken, and if it has we need to go back to the speaker to rearrange or to find an alternative venue.
“It’s a bit quiet in here, isn’t it?”
We have a speaker, we have a way of getting them to us, and we have a venue. Now we need to tell people about the talk, otherwise the whole thing will have been in vain. So it’s on to the publicity bandwagon, printing and sticking up posters, utilising social media, updating the website and contacting local media. As we currently aim to host a Skeptics In The Pub events monthly, this is an almost ongoing task.
The big night
In the run up to the talk we’ve had to get in touch with the speaker and the venue to ensure that everything is OK.
And on the day the work doesn’t stop until we get to bed. We’ve had to ensure the speaker is met and brought to the pub, and the room itself needs to be setup – a manual process involving tables been moved, chairs arranged and equipment turned on and fine tuned.
Our volunteers have been able to borrow essentials such as sound systems, microphones and projectors, and donations from attendees have helped purchase a projector screen. Without all of this undoubtedly the talks would not be the success they have been.
And when the Q&A has finished and people start to go home, we have to put the room back just the way we found it (we like to keep on good terms with our venue), and the speaker helped back to their hotel or to the train station.
I hinted a couple of paragraphs ago that the work stops when we go to bed. That’s a lie. Inevitably as we’re packing up someone asks the question “is everything OK for next month?”
And just like that, the process starts again.
We need help!
We’re not trying to scare people into thinking that volunteering will take up many hours of their life each week, but many hands do make light work, and the more help we have the easier event organisation will be.
We are currently in the process of putting together a comittee for the Bath Skeptical Society and we are looking for people to become an integral part of the group that makes Bath Skeptics events work.
If you have something you can offer, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll let you know when the first board meeting is being held. You could become a part of something fantastic.
photo credit: Dmitri N