On in September 2018, the STEAM cluster ran an afternoon of research talks at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, under the title ‘Gathering STEAM’. The event, which was open to the public and completely free, provided researchers from the cluster with an opportunity to present their work to a non-academic audience. It was funded by the SWW DTP’s Cohort Development Fund.
Putting on this event – the cluster’s first foray into the fearful world of public engagement – involved a rather steep learning curve for our team of organizers. In particular, we learnt the importance of publicity; while there are established routes for advertising conferences within the academic community, attracting an audience to a public engagement event can prove tricky. Social media is a wonderful tool for promoting events, but it is also worth trying to find an existing audience: in this case, BRLSI had run PhD research talks in the past and had a mailing list we were able to make use of. With hindsight, we now feel that, having successfully drawn in an audience, we should also have had a system in place for gathering feedback; this would have provided a concrete way of documenting and evaluating the success of the event. In respect to these, and to countless other matters, we have gained invaluable experience which will undoubtedly come in useful when organizing research events in the future.
On the whole, the ‘Gathering STEAM’ event at BRLSI was a thorough success. We had some excellent presentations on a wide variety of topics, including Victorian hairwork and experimental archaeology, which received some very positive feedback from our audience. The researchers that spoke said that it was great to get an opportunity to discuss their work with a non-academic audience, and to practice their public speaking in a less formal setting. It was a fun, productive afternoon, and it has definitely inspired us to try and put on more public engagement events in future.
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