When it comes to providing public engagement training we often come across similar challenges. Drop-out rates and how to get people into the room in the first place is possibly the most common of these challenges. Here are some tips from our members on how best to tackle these. If you know of any others do add them below!
- Provide accurate and clear learning objectives and highlight how the course will be a valuable use of time.
- Link your training to public engagement opportunities and/or funding opportunities
- As much as possible courses should be associated with ready-made opportunities that researchers could easily join once they completed training,
- For example researchers are more likely to attend presentation skills training if they know they are going to need them in the near future for a talk to 7 year olds! Likewise if it will enable them to apply for funding.
- Aim to provide a range of support before and after training (eg networking, one-to-ones and resources guides). If the training you provide is just one part of a wider programme those people you engage with are more likely to come back.
- Is the course length right for your training audience?
- Intensive courses are often good for post-docs and principal researchers who can more easily find blocks of time to put aside for training. PhD students tend to find it easier to have a couple of hours out of the lab for training, rather than full days. However intensive courses may suit some PhDs particularly if they have support from their supervisor.
- Aim to provide a regular programme of training. This maximises visibility and enables you to ‘sell’ your training with positive feedback from previous attendees (such as quotes) and as well as using word of mouth.
- Target your training and watch out for branding
- Recruiting researchers for training courses can be challenging, particularly as they progress further into their careers. Those that have just made a step-change in their career are the most effective groups to target (i.e. new PIs) as this is when researchers are really looking to improve and expand their skill sets.
- Often PIs and leading researchers are reluctant to attend anything branded as training and much prefer one-to-one support and advice. Target PIs and heads of department separately with advice and support which highlights the value public engagement can bring to their research and their researchers.
- PIs are also the gatekeepers for those in their research group being able to take up any public engagement training. So, if you are running PhD training, can you ask the PIs to encourage their students?
- Go to where researchers will be anyway (e.g. canteens, Department meetings, funding info sessions, etc.) – this way they can’t escape you! In these cases make sure what you are delivering is short, sweet, useful and provides sign posts to your other support activities and opportunities.
- Use external speakers – you could put on the exact same training session but for some reason people are always more likely to turn up when it’s an external person talking.
- How will your researchers/PhD students find out about your training? Are there more targeted forms of communication you can use to encourage a better participation rate? For example, using an application process or inviting participants personally