Many times we talk about science outreach and engagement with a kind of unrestrained fervor. Wherever we’ve gone, people have been excited to see us for one reason or another – whether it was children delighted to escape the tedium of a day in school, or adults stumbling across us in their favorite pub. Still, however often this has been the norm it still sets an interesting precedent and creates a kind of complacency.
Jonathan Frederick of the North Carolina Science Festival has a great story of what happens when you’re challenged, on the spot, with an audience that not only has no interest in you, but also in your message; and then how to recover and pull it back together. It turned out that at a BBQ festival, people didn’t want to hear about “science” they wanted to hear about BBQ.
My favorite part about this spotlight is that Jonathan’s group didn’t just keep pushing what they had in new ways, and didn’t keep trying to sell the same idea – instead they looked at their audience, what their audience wanted, and adjusted their message and content to fit. If someone is already doing science, and believe me BBQ is a science, instead of trying to shoehorn in other topics why not talk about what it is they’re already excelling at? It’s a great way to engage and keep people’s attention and it certainly changes how they see you and your message.