Know your audience
- Kids? What ages? This will completely change not only what labs you visit but also perhaps even the order in which the labs are visited
- Adults? are they alumni? Legislators? Are they random strangers? Are they on campus for another event (e.g. Homecoming) and are taking in a tour of your department as part of the larger festivities?
- Will you be breaking them in groups or doing it all at once?
- Will you be doing this over and over all day, or is it a one time thing?
Decide what labs to present
- Ask professors and lab directors that you know have interesting and visually exciting things to showcase if they will participate in your Open House
- Important: always ask permission of the lab director (not just the grad student who happens to be there) to bring the public in to their lab
- Will the lab director be the one who explains their research? Is it ok if their assistant/post doc/grad student does it?
- If no one can be there on the date of the Open House, do they mind if you bring people in and show them what you have anyway? This will depend on the safety issues of the lab, the lab director’s preference, and your knowledge of the lab itself. Expert Alaina G. Levine, who has conducted many Open Houses for the University of Arizona Physics Department, often would visit a lab without the lab director being there. She would get their permission first, and of course get the keys too, and since she knew what was going on in that lab she was able to give a tour and an explanation to the public.
- Write out a schedule and confirm it works with the lab directors
Recruit tour guides if needed (if there will be more than one group coming through at the same time)
- Make sure their availability matches the time you need them – ask them first, don’t just assign them their time to lead tours and assume it works for them
Make a master schedule, Confirm everything with lab directors, tour givers, and tour guides the day before the event. Give your cell phone number and get theirs.
- Make sure the labs are open – do you need to get special keys, or does a master key work?
- Will the lab director be there at a specific time or will you have to call them when you are on the way? Tours can often run over so make sure you have a contingency plan for this