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The "Outpost Output" News

Outreach Opportunities - Spreading the Word


First, this "Reality Check":
Outreach is not as easy, or inexpensive, as it used to be.

Outreach opportunities, places and occasions where you can set up an information table or booth or put out attention-grabbing models or other displays - and get enough traffic - are hard to come by these days. It used to be that non-profit clubs were welcome in shopping malls. No longer, not without at least a million dollars in liability insurance. (Someone might slip on a flyer someone else picked up and dropped on the floor)

It used to be you could display or have an event at local colleges. No more, unless one of your major officers is a student and you are listed as a student organization.

It used to be we were welcome in the lobby of the UWM Planetarium on "science Bag" night. No more.

It used to be you were welcome to have an exhibit at smaller air shows (Racine, Kenosha, etc.) but no more - in some cases because those airshows have died. What about Oshkosh? It costs $600 minimum for an outdoor plot of grass, over a grand for an indoor exhibit space, and if you do not man it all day, every day, you won't be invited back. Oshkosh is for pros with money. The best we might do would be a hit and miss effort in the parking lot - until the security folks shooed us away.

There are science fiction conventions where we are somewhat welcome, but those who attend those conventions would rather fantasize about magic dragons and other weird stuff than show any interest in the future of our planet. And what about "the big one", Gencon? Wrong kind of people - interested in playing games - not in making reality.

Once in a blue moon we get a speaking invitation, when some organization has exhausted their normal sources for speakers.

One of the ethnic festivals, Indian Summer, two years running provided our most fruitful outreach effort ever. We had an exhibit in the environmental tent, and our pitch was that lunar resources could supply Earth with inexhaustible clean energy and help regreen the Earth. We didn't meet many technonerds, but 80% of the non-technically tuned visitors appreciated what we had to say and said it opened their eyes. Then the event started charging us for the privilege of occupying space in their tent.

After two previous exhibits at the James Lovell Discovery World Museum in downtown Milwaukee, we were prepared for a successful participation in this past summer's Apollo 11 Moonlanding 30th Anniversary celebration. But the Museum decided it wasn't worth while doing something special. They had already had "something" on space day in May.

One Secret to Success

On the one hand, we learned long ago that it is not worth the effort to start your own event from scratch - you need to piggyback on something existing, something where traffic is guaranteed.

Now for the "Good News"

Our friends in the Wisconsin Mars Society have found an outreach opportunity that occurs every two - three months: a major model rocket launching event on the grounds of the former Bong Air Force Base, west of Kenosha, conducted by the Wisconsin Tripoli Rocket Association. WMS has also been fielding displays at the annual Alternative Energy Fair (Amhearst, WI), at the Rockets for Schools annual launch event (Sheboygan, WI), at the James Lovell Discovery World Museum (Milwaukee, WI), at the Kenosha Museum (Kenosha, WI), and at science fiction movie openings at Mayfair Mall's General Cinemas Complex (Milwaukee). LRS & Moon Society Milwaukee Outpost displays have been welcome at all these events.

So what Else can we do
to carry our message to the people? And to as many people as possible?

1. We need to run an aggressive speaker program, getting ourselves listed on as many speakers bureaus as we can find. As of October 2002, we have still not taken steps to do so.

2. We need to aggressively make ourselves available to schools. An occasional letter of "availability" won't produce results - at least not regularly. As of October 2002, we have still not taken steps to do so.

3. We can run high school and middle school essay and art contests - but that means hustling up sponsors to contribute prizes and or prize money, and judges. As of October 2002, we have still not taken steps to do so.

4. We can make our own events by being at the right place and right time with highly portable and compact yet effective exhibits. What we have in mind is putting together the "sidewalk astronomy setup" we've mentioned, taking it where there are people not in a hurry, whenever the weather is fine and the Moon is out, and we have free time and energy. Movie theater parking lots are an example. No arrangements are needed. We can do it or not do it at a moments notice. If this works, we will want to share our experiences and instructions on how to duplicate our setup, with other chapters. As of October 2002, we are working to prepare the equipment that will allow us to engage in this activity, but have a lot of work to do yet.

First things first - an "aggressively patient" agenda

  • Put together the "sidewalk astronomy setup"
    • New flyers and info literature
  • Brainstorm school essay and art contests
  • An aggressive speakers bureau
  • An aggressive membership drive [ideas]
    • Get our MSMO website listed on local links pages
    • Aggressively advertise our meetings
      • Plan meetings worth attending
  • Network, network, network - connections can pay off when least expected
  • Make our products available to other chapters - that way we multiply our chances of reach people indirectly elsewhere, and that counts too! As of October, 2002, this "meta-project" is something we are actively engaged in, putting ready to use products on the Space Chapter Hub website.

Outreach Calendar [outreach event ideas]


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