Participants who speak stand at the heart of your event. At least for skeptics right now, finding them can be a challenge as we don't yet have an active culture of knowledge sharing.
Thus you need one or more volunteer organizers dedicated to schmoozing and cajoling people to come to the event to participate and speak. Speakers are drawn not only from the local skeptic community, but outside it as well.
The chief skill of a speaker wrangler is schmoozing. Depending on the size of your event, you may want multiple wranglers.
The goal of the wrangler is to attract participants who will be prepared to give on-topic talks. This includes attracting local academics, science professionals, and people from all walks of life who have something of value to share. For example, you can ask a police detective to talk about how they avoid confirmation bias in their investigations.
The wrangler should also look within the local community of skeptics to encourage even our more passive members to give a short talk on a topic that drives their passion for science and skepticism.
The openness of the event as well as the Rules of SkeptiCamp should be emphasized. Anyone with something of value to share should be cajoled into giving a talk.
The BarCamp ideal is to have every attendee give some sort of talk or to volunteer in a substantive way. Among skeptics this may take some time as the culture adjusts. Nevertheless much is gained by encouraging first-time speakers. For instance, it's a foot in the door towards bigger things. Encourage first-time speakers
When drumming up interest and excitement for your skepticamp event, ask everyone to consider giving a talk. Make it clear that talks need not be complex. One can simply get up and lead a short group discussion on an interesting question of which there are dozens. A handful of examples...
* how did you become a skeptic? * what books, TV shows, movies, people were influential in you becoming a skeptic? * why should I care about fighting xxxx when yyyy is happening? * what's the harm of zzzz? * what are the prerequisites to becoming a critical thinker? * what are the different varieties of skeptics? (social, activist, etc.) * how do we cater to those different types of skeptics? * what about skepticism and those involved that irritates you? * what does it take to grow the number of critical thinkers? * can one be religious and a critical thinker?
However, for some skeptics, all you need do is ask for a presentation -- they've been waiting for the opportunity. Others will need gentle encouragement. Note that personal appeals will have far greater impact than a spam-like call for speakers.
For those stumped for ideas, ask what drives their interest in skepticism and explore whether an interesting talk lies within. There might be a skeptical talk related to their profession or avocation or schoolwork. You might suggest they go out and do something, such as a review of a local psychic fair or an investigation of local lore.
See the SkeptiCamp main page for other ideas.
Keeping speakers on track
One of the most surprising duties as a skepticamp organizer is to keep the speakers on track in their preparations. Having the aforementioned Event Page where speakers publicize their talks helps some, but you'll nevertheless suffer a number of no-shows and those who arrive unprepared. Reduce attrition by staying in touch with your speakers in the weeks leading up to the event and expressing your interest the topic of their talks. Having doubts is natural, especially among new speakers, so you'll often need to be supportive and offer constructive advice.
Preparation is key to a successful presentation. Conversely, the lack of preparation has destroyed many a talk and alienated an otherwise receptive audience. Three critical tips you'll want to make clear to every speaker...
* Practice your talk - to maximize the impact within the allotted time ask that talks be carefully practiced beforehand * Main points at start of talk - suggest that key points be moved to the start of a presentation in case the speaker runs out of time due to questions that inevitably arise during their talk * Restrictions on time, subject matter and presentation style - spell out the limits in unambiguous language.
Finally, should the organizers themselves plan to do talks? Preferably not, as it's a distraction from organizing duties and sets the expectation that organizers must present. Erecting such barriers to organizing events is not the skepticamp way.
Sources of participants who are likely to offer talks Edit
- ask local science institutes, labs & university science/medicine departments for speakers. Many are publicly funded and seek outreach opportunities.
- land grant universities are particularly fertile ground
- Cafe Scientifique speakers
- satellite meetup groups