Talks, debates and panel discussions

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Talks, debates and panel discussions can be informative, inspiring, and sometimes controversial. Sustainability and energy transition are complex issues and there is a lot to gain from hearing different perspectives on the problems and possible solutions. Speaker events can give people the chance to be inspired, share ideas and question the experts.

Points to consider include:

Knowing your audience. As with film screenings, try to choose a topic or frame your event so that it taps into local concerns, interests and priorities. Are there any topical local debates that your event could tie into, or are people in your community interested in particular aspects of energy transition, whether that be energy generation, food, transport or something else? The more relevant you make your event to the community, the more interest you are likely to receive.

Choosing a speaker. Academics, government officials, local experts and community activists are all good options for speakers. If you are organising a debate or panel discussion, try inviting a mix of speakers to ensure a wide range of views are represented.

Engaging government. Inviting local councillors, MPs or local government officials working in areas related to the environment and planning to speak can lead to a lively and informative event. The presence of government officials involved with decision making could also potentially provide scope for the event to feed into or influence local policies and plans, or to open up opportunities for future partnerships. Government officials can also be a source of practical advice and guidance on local environmental issues and activities.

Framing it positively. As with film screenings, there is a risk that talks about climate change and other environmental issues are doom-laden. Try to find speakers who engage with the issues in a positive way, with a balance between debating problems and debating solutions. Allow time for guests to become involved with discussing the issues and possible solutions to help them to feel engaged and supported.

Encouraging interaction and participation. There is a risk that talks, debates and panel discussions end up being passive one-way events, with little chance for guests to become engaged or involved with the issues. Time should be set aside for question and answer sessions, a workshop component or networking to enable people to interact with each other and to feel part of the event.

Case Studies
Country: UK

Frodsham and Kingsley Transition Initiatives arranged a panel debate on renewable energy and fracking. Speakers included local academics and councillors, and featured a question and answer session and breakout activity, giving those attending the chance to engage directly with the speakers and to voice their concerns with local politicians.

Country: UK

Transition St Albans ran a joint event with the local Friends of the Earth group to share ideas about reducing household waste. They invited a local officer from St Albans Council to talk about recycling arrangements in the area to enable those who attended to hear about steps they could take from an expert.