One of the things I enjoy doing most is acting as a spokesperson for the AAVSO and sharing my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm about variable stars, observing and the AAVSO with other people. I write blogs, newsletter pieces and articles that reach a lot of people, but there is nothing like the experience of meeting new people face to face and watching their eyes light up as you explain variable stars and stellar evolution, or the seeing light go on as they realize, "Hey, I could do this too!"
This year (2011) I've been able to reach a lot of people this way. I gave a talk entitled "Stand Back, We're Going To Try Science!" about CCD observations of variable stars to a packed house at the Northeast Astro Imaging Conference in New York. I gave the same talk via Skype later in the year for the Orange County Astronomers. I wasn't sure how effective that was going to be, but the lively question and answer session after the talk let me know it was a success.
In June I gave several talks at the Texas Star Party and got to meet and hang out with a lot of serious visual observers with ginourmous telescopes. I had a great time talking about 100 years of the AAVSO at the Nebraska Star Party in August, and recently I went to St. Louis to meet with members of the St. Louis Astronomical Society, tour their observing facility out in the countryside, and give a talk entitled "Advancing Variable Star Astronomy", about the AAVSO's role in variable star research over the first 100 years of its history.
Every audience is different, but they all have a few things in common. First, they are all interested in astronomy and knowing more about the universe we live in, or they wouldn't be there. Second, they have a high regard for the AAVSO, even if it's just through things they've heard. Last, but not least, when effectively presented to them, audiences are very interested in what are variable stars, why are scientists interested in them, and how do they fit into the landscape of astronomy in general.
Then, if you're lucky, there are a few who want to know how they can join in the fun and contribute to science. Not everybody wants to be an active variable star observer or data-miner, but the interest in what we do is there.
This is why our Speakers Bureau is so valuable. We have a number of AAVSO members who give dozens of talks every year to astronomy clubs, societies, schools, scout troops, planetariums, star parties and conferences. They are out there spreading the gospel about variable stars, citizen science, AAVSO and the role amateurs can play in supporting and contributing to science. These ambassadors of VSO are available at little or no cost to the public. If you'd like to have one of us give a talk to your local group, fill out the form at http://www.aavso.org/contact.
If there is no one available for your area, we also provide pre-made PowerPoint presentations that you yourself can download and use to give a talk to your club or school. We have a whole library of presentations to choose from. We might even be able to custom design or create one for you. Write to us and let us know what you need. We are here to help. It's never been as easy as it is today to get someone to give an inspiring and entertaining talk at your next meeting.