4.1 Formats for public engagement events

Once you have identified a target audience and appropriate community partners for your public engagement work, you can begin to think about how best to connect with those with whom you would like to engage.

On a table are various objects for craft activities: a raffia basket contains ribbons and wool in bright colours, and cards wrapped with strands of wool. There are more cards like this on the table, and some of them have had more wool woven into the wrapped strands. There are also colourful plastic sewing needles, and printed images of ancient artefacts on the table. In the background are two people whose hands can be seen weaving with wool.

There are endless possible formats for public engagement activities, and your chosen methods of engagement will depend partly on your research topic. For inspiration you may find it helpful to browse some of the case studies provided on the Being Human festival website; these share tips from humanities researchers who have engaged publics using a whole range of event formats and venues. This Being Human toolkit on finding the right format also has some excellent tips.

Remember that whatever you choose to do, it is important to think carefully about connecting your planned activities with the research you want to share. This often happens in the course of informal conversations which are stimulated by the activities taking place at your events, but you could also think about other ways of communicating with your audience – through short talks, posters, and printed resources, or something else which they can take away with them to remind them where they can find out more. Social media can also be helpful here – if, for example, you have a hashtag for the event, attendees can use it to share their thoughts and you in turn can share resources which might be of interest to them. Do bear in mind, however, that the use of social media may not be appropriate for some activities (for example, if attendees might be sharing sensitive or personal information), and you should seek permission from participants (or their parents/guardians, in the case of children under 18) if you wish to share photographs of them online.