Getting started in public engagement

Advice and tips for getting started in public engagement.

Things to consider when getting started in public engagement

When you're thinking about orgainsing a public engagement event, it is important to consider the following aspects - why, who, what, where and how?

Why?

The first thing you should do is work out why you want to do public engagement. Do you want to reassure people affected by dementia that there is research going on that can benefit them? Is it to improve your communications skills? Do you want to tell people about your interesting or relevant results? Do you want to dispel some myths about research? It is a good idea to have a clear idea of why you want to do public engagement and turn this into the aims and objectives for your activity or event. 

Who?

The next thing to do is to work out who you'd like to engage. This should be related to why you want to engage people. If you want to inspire the next generation of dementia researchers, then your audience is likely to be children or teenagers. If you want to tell people about your results then people affected by dementia might be a good audience to communicate with. 

What?

The next thing to work out is what you want to do. Some examples include taking part in a science festival, doing a talk or series of lectures or hosting a lab tour or open day. Make sure that the activity or event you have planned is suitable for your audience - for example a 10 pm  lecture is not likely to be suitable for schoolchildren!

Where?

Make sure you have thought of where you can hold your event. If it's part of an existing event or science festival, where would it be best for you to go to engage with your most relevant audience? If it's an event you are hosting yourself, are there venues you can use? Make sure you've thought of aspects such as accessibility and whether there is parking or easy public transport links. 

How?

You'll need to plan the logistics of your event as well. How are you going to advertise it to your intended audience? Do you have all the materials and resources that you need? Are there costs you need to take into account? If so, you may like to consider applying for an Alzheimer's Society dissemination grant.

If you're funded by Alzheimer's Society, we may be able to help you in other ways too, so get in contact by emailing [email protected] 

Other ways to get involved in public engagement

There are many things that you can do to get involved in public engagement. These include:

Participate at your nearest science festival

Many science festivals are run or sponsored by universities and so may have space for staff members or students to have a stand where you can have games, demonstrations or activities. Alternatively you can host a talk, lecture or panel session as part of the festival. If you would like to participate, talk to the public engagement team at your university or email the festival organisers. 

Take part in a specialist science communication event 

There are a growing number of programmes across the UK that encourage researchers to communicate with the public. These include FameLab, Three Minute Thesis, I'm a Scientist, Get me Out of Here! and Science Showoff.

There are also specialist events that give you the opportunity to talk to a non-scientific audience about your subject. These include Pint of Science (where talks take place in local pubs) and Café Scientifique. If you are interested in participating in one of these events you can get in touch with a local organiser. 

Join an Alzheimer's Society event

Alzheimer's Society hosts a number of events and talks for our supporters and service users. The audience for these will be people affected by dementia and their carers and family members.

A good opportunity to engage with Alzheimer's Society supporters are our Memory Walks, held in September and October at various locations across the UK.  However, many of our local services also hold events, including talks at Dementia Cafés.

If you are interested in talking or helping at an Alzheimer's Society service or event, please email [email protected] 

Hold your own event

See the next page to find out more about how to hold your own event.

Further information

There is more detailed information throughout this section about organising an event and how to make sure your event is suitable for people affected by dementia.

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