Big Picnic Logo

button-what.pngbutton-who.pngbutton-where.pngsubstituent buttonbutton-time.pngbutton-do-dont.png


HOW to plan your event

Using the previous tool kit sections, you will have decided on a topic for your science café (WHAT), the experts that you need to invite (WHO), and chosen a location (WHERE). This section deals with promoting, running, and evaluating your event.

Promote the event

  • Existing networks - Museums, botanic gardens, and zoos usually have very well established networks and these should be used to promote science café events amongst people already linked to the institution.
  • New connections/networks - Members of the co-creation team should be thought of as valuable links to new networks. Through these representatives you can promote your events to new individuals, groups, and organisations.
  • New connections/networks - Ask invited experts to spread the invitation in their associations and social networks.
  • Media promotion - Use traditional (radio, newspapers, TV, etc.) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to promote your event.
  • Link to exciting events - Link a science café to a well-established event, which has proven to attract visitors already.
  • Word of mouth – Word of mouth (analog and digital) is still the most effective form of marketing. It is a helpful strategy to plan for a sequence of science cafés right from the start, as participants will inform their friends and social networks about them. Experience has shown that even if only few participants show up at the first science café numbers increased at the subsequent events.
  • Start promoting your event early and maximize your activities in the final week before the science café takes place.
  • Be aware that your event complies with national and European privacy policies when gathering contact details and compiling email invitation lists for future science cafés. 

Royal Botanic Garden of MadridRoyal Botanic Garden of Madrid, Spain

Hortus Botanicus LeidenHortus Botanicus Leiden, Netherlands

Botanical Garden of the University Vienna, AustriaBotanical Garden of the University of Vienna, Austria

Sc HannoverSchool Biology Centre Hannover, Germany

Berlin Hungrig oder sattFreie Universität Berlin, Germany

Leiden VanilleHortus Botanicus Leiden, Netherlands

Offer engaging moments

Alongside short expert talks to stimulate discussion, which is the common approach to science café delivery, we recommend additional ice-breaker activities to promote a relaxed atmosphere and facilitate the interaction between experts and participants. These activities help to break down barriers and level the playing field.

Hands-on activities, such as cooking, doing experiments, observing living creatures, art and craft activities, games, provocative objects, interactive exhibits or short video clips, music, etc. have proven to be successful at BigPicnic science cafés.

apm-1.jpgMicroskope, Botanic Garden Meise, Belgium   

bgbm-7.jpgBuilding a home for insects, Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany   

hao-8.jpgIce breaking activity with medicinial aromatic plants, Balkan Botanic Garden of Kroussia, Greece   


tbg-23.jpg"No food, no peace", singer and dancer, Tooro Botanic Garden  

wien-neu.jpgCollective cooking, Botanical Garden of the University of Vienna, Austria   

uah-7-18sciencecaf_brihuega3.jpgVisit of a lavender field, Juan Carlos I Royal Botanic Gardens, Alcalá de Henares University, Spain  

Facilitation and hosting

In addition to your expert, you will need someone to host the event - introducing speakers, informing the audience about timings, health and safety issues, etc. Additionally, you will need someone to facilitate the discussion. This may be the same person or two different people. For facilitation, choose a person who can adapt well to the participants as one can never predict exactly what will happen. The facilitator must pay attention to group dynamics and has to intervene if particular people start to dominate the conversation.

Evaluate the event

Evaluation of your science café is an important step in continuing to hold successful science cafés. Evaluate each science café, so you can learn what worked and what did not and apply lessons learned to your next event.

There are different ways to collect information, which will help you to determine the outcomes of your science café and whether it was effective to achieve the goals you had in mind when planning it.

To get started you need to answer the following three questions:

  • What are the most important goals you want to achieve?
  • How can you tell if you have achieved these goals?
  • What information do you have to collect to answer your evaluation question?

In the BigPicnic project, a Team-Based Inquiry approach was used. Team-Based Inquiry (TBI) is a practical approach to data collection and evaluation, built on a cycle of question, investigate, reflect, and improve. Evaluation often focuses on the impact of a project. TBI gives professionals the opportunity to also reflect on the process and practice development and is illustrated below.
Further information and a collection of evaluation tools can be found in the BigPicnic TBI Practitioner´s Manual.

TBI Grafik

The TBI diagram ist adapted from Pattison et al. (2014)


ul-10.jpgThe knitting interviewer, Hortus Botanicus Leiden, Netherlands


Evaluation approach

Botanic Garden Meise organizes a science café on the link between bees as pollinators and food security. This was an evening event which included an ice-breaker activity (a quiz) that provided an interesting approach to data collection and evaluation.


7:30 – 8:15pm: Welcome, quiz: What would disappear from your plate if pollinators disappeared?


8:15 – 8:20: Introduction of speakers


8:20 – 8:45: Speaker: Jolien Smessaert (KULeuven, PhD student) on the importance of pollinating insects for the Belgian apple and pear cultivation. During the talk, people could taste different nectar concentrations.


8:45 – 9:10: Speaker: Piet Stoffelen (BGM scientist) on ‘Biodiversity, climate, pollination and the future of our coffee’. During this talk, participants could taste pure Arabica and pure Canephora coffee and make a guess which coffee was of what type.


9:10 – 9:20: Break, with possibility to look at different coffee plants and beans, taste coffee honey, look at wild bees with binoculars, … or chat and drink a honey beer.

9:20 – 9:40: Speaker: Anne Ronse (BGM scientist) on ‘Bees, threads and protection’.

9:40: Question round + discussion of the quiz
Thanks to the quiz, it was possible to gather information about our question: How profound is the publics’ knowledge of the relationship between pollinating insects and the food we eat?

Some conclusions:


Most participants underestimated the role of pollinators for the production of food crops.



Link between fruits and pollination was clear for the public:
93% of the participants knew about the link between apple juice and pollinators, 86% about the link between strawberry jam and pollinators.



However, the link was not obvious for other crops (e.g. coffee, chocolate, and margarine containing soy oil).

There were interesting discussions with participants who took a more holistic approach, arguing that the disappearance of pollinators would affect the whole ecosystem and therefore all crops.

Several beekeepers were present. They had a rather narrow view on the question, focusing on honeybees only and discussing the question based on what they observed with their own bees.

It isn’t always possible to find a consensus on the importance of insect pollination for a specific crop (National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise)

Ice breaker

An open air rally campaign was one of the unique methodologies used by Tooro Botanical Gardens in Uganda to engage the public with Responsible Research and Innovation on food security. People of all classes and origin including young adults gathered together for a science café titled ‘Family labour and inclusiveness of every family member to increase food production’. Experienced speakers presented their work and then there was an opportunity for discussion and questions. The rally started at 2:00pm with participants being entertained by Emango cultural dancers who educated participants through songs. For example, one of the songs stated that food is life, “no food, no peace” it showed that in the land of Tooro, children, youth, and elderly do not have balanced diets and children are dying of malnutrition. It called upon mothers to prepare balanced meals for their families and stated that the cultivation of more food secure crops like cassava and yams can help to provide food for their families.


Back to the Tool Kit

Back to the Science café main page


eu logo


 This project has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 710780.

Nach oben scrollen