I am often called upon to give a "lab tour" to visitors, including but not limited to:
- prospective graduate students
- candidates for summer research positions (including undergraduate and high school students)
- researchers or executives from our "industrial partners"
- professors and graduate students from other universities, who have come to speak in my department seminar series
- journalists or other media representatives
The goal of these lab tours is to leave the visitor(s) with the impression that we are doing interesting, important, and exciting research.
The research that goes on in my lab mainly looks like... students sitting at laptop computers. We are a telecommunications lab. A lot of the experimental equipment we use is not actually housed in the lab, and the pieces that are there in the lab are not that unique or interesting to most visitors. (Think a few Openflow switches and lots of wireless devices, none of which is particularly visually exciting.)
Given this, I am wondering how to use these "lab tours" to my best advantage. What can I do in a lab tour that I couldn't do with, say, a visitor sitting down in my office and talking to me over my desk?
Right now we mainly walk around the room and talk about the posters hanging on the wall, giving any students who are around a chance to give their elevator pitch. This doesn't seem very effective, and visitors often seem kind of bored.