I have attended numerous ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ (SITP) meetings, either as a member of the audience or as a lecturer. They can be splendid occasions to learn, be entertained, to discuss, and to socialise in a relaxed atmosphere.

The usual format of a SITP meeting includes an invited speaker (often a renouned expert with an international reputation) who gives a talk on a specific topic, followed by a break where people can re-fill their glasses, followed by a long question-and-answer session. Meetings are usually scheduled on a monthly basis. The SITP movement started in 1999 in London. The concept soon spread, and now there are SITP meetings in many countries across the world.

The organisers of the meetings are local enthusiasts who run them on a shoestring. Each attendee pays a small entrance fee or gives a donation. Speakers usually get their expenses paid. As the meetings take place in pubs, there is no expense for room hire.

As I already stated, the concept of SITP is great, no question.

Unfortunately, however, there is also a ‘BUT’.

I have been to SITP meetings that were run perfectly – but I have experienced also the exact opposite, both as a lecturer as well as a attendee. For instance:

  • I have attended meetings where the room was too small and stuffy.
  • I have sat on chairs that seemed like medevial torture instruments.
  • I have suffered through lectures where the technical equipment did not work properly.
  • I have been at meetings that were attended by embarrassingly few people.
  • I have, as an invited speaker, been told retrospectively that my (very modest) expenses could not be paid.

Here is my plea to the organisers of SITP worldwide:

I know you volunteer for this job with enthusiasm and dedication. But PLEASE, do it also with competence. Your speakers are as dedicated as you; often they are top experts. They have a right to be met not just with kindness but also with competence.

So, please advertise each SITP meeting as best as you can; for example, go to your local papers, radio, social media etc. Do not humiliate your speakers by having them lecture in front of a half empty room. Make sure that your technical equipment works and test it thoroughly before your speaker arrives. Do not use locations that are unsuited for such events because they are too small, uncomfortable or poorly ventilated. If you are unable to organise meetings that are good in every respect, it might be better to not run any at all.

Yes, SITP is a great idea in theory. But even a great idea can be destroyed by deficient practice.



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