Here are some guidelines for planning public BAW programs.

Determine your target audience. Before developing programs about the brain, it is important to determine who you are trying to reach and why. Understand the needs and interests of your audience.  All aspects of event planning are contingent on this choice.

Select your topic. Your program will be most successful if the topic you choose is of direct benefit to your audience. Consider including information about local resources that will enable the audience to take advantage of the information they have received at your event.

If your topic is research- or science-based, be sure to accurately assess the scientific literacy of your target audience. The impact of your information will be weakened if it is either too complex or too simplistic for your audience.

Determine your staff needs. Decide if you have the staff needed to run a successful event. Identify staff or volunteers available to assist you with promotion and audience development, media, and follow-up.

Develop a budget for the event and plan accordingly.

Collaborate with co-sponsors. Combining resources may help to attract audiences, obtain media coverage, find speakers, secure event space and volunteers, and reduce costs. Search the Partner List or contact the BAW Campaign Headquarters (, or (212) 401-1689) to identify other partners in your area with whom you might collaborate.

Select a format. Would your topic be better presented by a single presenter or a panel discussion? Do you want to have audience participation? Will your audience respond well to hands-on demonstrations, lab tours, or other forms of interactive activities such as questionnaires and quizzes?

Select a location. Keep the following in mind:

  • Does it work for the event format? Can it accommodate the audience?
  • Is there adequate parking and public transportation?
  • Is it geographically well situated for your intended audience?
  • Are there provisions for handicapped guests?
  • What are the electrical and audio-visual capabilities?
  • Can the venue provide additional staffing?

Select a date/time. The timing of the event should be determined by what is most appropriate for the audience. For example an older audience may be available afternoons and early evenings, while a weekday seminar could be arranged for working professionals. Family events are best suited for weekend afternoons. Programs for students may be best scheduled during the school day. Before finalizing a date, don’t forget to investigate other activities and events in your area that may attract the very same audience as your proposed program.

Select your speaker(s). Review your plans for audience, topic, location, timing and format with prospective speakers. Select a speaker with good “people” skills who can interact well with your audience. If you anticipate press coverage of the program, be sure your speaker is willing to speak with press before and after the program. Ask your speaker for biographical information which can be made available in advance to members of the press.

Consider the following tips for finding a speaker(s):

  • Contact local medical college/university departments of cellular biology, neurology, neuroscience, neurosurgery, or psychiatry. Many scientists/physicians are happy to address lay audiences about their field of research.
  • Contact local hospitals and medical centers. Staff neurologists, psychiatrists, and physical and occupational therapists may be happy to speak to your group.
  • Check for nearby BAW Partners who may have available speakers but limited public programming opportunities. Consider joint programs as a means to support both your efforts. The BAW Campaign Headquarters can provide you with detailed contact information.

Work with your speaker(s) to develop the content of the program and prepare them to speak on the audience’s level. The more precise you are about the interests of your audience and the message you wish to convey, the more effective your speaker(s) can be.

If you would like press coverage of your program, develop a media plan to identify your target media outlets and establish a schedule of communication. Fact sheets and press releases on your topic are often a useful tool for the media.  (See Working with the Media in the Outreach Tools section for more information.)

Plan for the day of the event. Things to think about in advance of your event include signage, hand-outs and materials, press participation, and audio visual needs.  Also, know where services are located at your event site, including toilets, handicapped facilities and access, elevators/stairs, emergency aid, and public transportation.

Allow time for follow-up. In addition to completing the administrative details of the event, it is important to “close out” your program properly.

  • Elicit comments and suggestions from your audience, and share any feedback with your speakers and co-sponsors.
  • Thank your speakers and co-sponsors/hosts (if any).
  • Prepare a brief summary of the event for your records and assess the program’s effectiveness in carrying your message to your target audience. These will help you and your organization plan for future activities.
  • Submit a partner report to share your experiences with other BAW Partners.



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Geneva Neuroscience Center, University of Geneva, Switzerland, Brain Fair, BAW 2009. Photo: Jacques Erard.

Geneva Neuroscience Center, University of Geneva, Switzerland, Brain Fair, BAW 2009. Photo: Jacques Erard.


Brain Awareness Week Campaign Headquarters

The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives

505 Fifth Avenue, Sixth Floor
New York, New York 10017
Tel: +1 212 401-1689 
Fax: +1 212 593 7623

Kathleen M. Roina
Campaign Director

Simon Fischweicher
Campaign Coordinator

Simon and Kathleen at the BioBus, part of BraiNY, the New York City Brain Awareness Week campaign. BAW 2013.