Kate HowellsMay 22, 2019

Organizing a Watch Party

Watch parties are a fun and informal way to bring together space fans and the public to experience the excitement of space exploration. Enjoying a milestone moment in spaceflight can be entertaining and educational and creates a great opportunity to share The Planetary Society’s mission with more people.

Here are some general tips for organizing an event around a launch, landing or other space exploration milestone.

Who to invite

The most obvious guests are the people you already know. Invite your friends and family, or anyone you know who is interested in space exploration. If you want to make the event open to other people as well, you will need to promote it. Here’s how:

  • Post about the event on your own social media pages and ask people to share the post;
  • Find space/science/technology interest groups in your area - try searching for space or science groups on Meetup.com and Facebook, or try searching on Google for local astronomy clubs. Contact the coordinators for the group, introduce yourself and The Planetary Society, and ask them to share the event with their group;
  • Make a post about the event on your city/town’s Reddit, Craiglist, or other local message boards;
  • If you have a neighborhood newspaper or other local media outlet, ask them to include a mention of the event or submit the event to their online events calendar if they have one;
  • See if you can post a flyer on a local college/university’s bulletin board, or contact relevant departments to see if they have a mailing list.

You can create an event page on Facebook or Meetup and invite attendees to register there so that you have a sense of how many people to expect. This is also a great way to provide updates and reminders in the days leading up to the event.

Where to host the party

If you decide to keep the guest list to friends and family, you could choose to do it at your own home or a friend’s home.  For a larger, more public event we definitely recommend hosting the party in a public space. If you decide to go this route, you might choose one of these:

  • A local bar, pub, restaurant, cafe, brewery, etc.
  • Your school or university
  • Your local astronomy club’s meeting place
  • A community center or legion

Advance preparation

You should find out in advance how the milestone moment will be streamed. You’ll usually find a link to a stream on the space agency or company’s website, press room, or YouTube channel. The website or press room will usually tell you in advance where the stream link will be found.

Use timeanddate.com’s converter tool to convert the time of the event to your local time zone, and double check that you have the right time. It’s easier than you might think to make a mistake. Schedule the event at least a half hour before the highlight moment is due to begin. That gives you plenty of time to meet and greet your guests.

If you’re using a public space, make sure all the technical requirements will be met. You’ll need WiFi, a projector and screen or a large TV that can connect to the internet, as well as speakers. If possible, arrange with the venue to test a week or more in advance to make sure the audiovisual equipment works.

Plan a “Run of Show.” Write down a schedule for the event and what you plan to do to fill the time before and after. If you will be hosting the event from a stage, arrange for someone to assist you with behind-the-scenes event coordination.

Remember that launches, in particular, are often delayed. Be prepared with a back-up activity like a discussion topic, a game, or something else space-related to watch. Also, be prepared in case of total audiovisual failure. What's your backup plan? Using a phone to follow Twitter and reading tweets aloud to the crowd works, in a pinch.

Celebrating Chang’e-4’s landing
Celebrating Chang’e-4’s landing Technicians celebrate after the landing of Chang'e-4 lunar probe at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) in Beijing, capital of China, 3 January 2019.Image: Xinhua

Leading the event

Once your attendees have arrived, welcome them to your event and give a brief description of The Planetary Society - who we are, what we do, and how they can get involved. If you really want to take this opportunity to educate your attendees, you can give a more formal presentation about TPS or about various topics in space exploration using the resources in our outreach toolkits.

Enjoy the watch party! Don’t forget to take pictures throughout the event.

When the event is over, thank everyone for coming and give your TPS pitch one more time, encouraging people to check out our website and sign up for email updates. The next day, send your attendees a thank you message or e-mail including a reference to our website and a link to sign up for email.

Following up

Tell us about your watch party by emailing us at [email protected]. This helps us track how many people are engaging with their communities worldwide, and helps us recognize you for your great work.

The Time is Now.

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