Tech pop-ups in Pubs

by Jo Stapleton from the ABC Outreach Team

Older men are often underrepresented within Ageing Better in Camden (ABC) activity groups. Many men are reluctant to engage with activities in formal settings such as community centres as these environments are often perceived by men as predominantly female and may be regarded by men as culturally remote from their usual social spaces.

The ABC Outreach Service has begun to locate and engage with older men in more traditional masculine settings including pubs and betting shops. Many men told us they were interersted in building their knowledge and skills around technology. Many had mobile phones but shared that they had difficulties performing functions on their phones including using email and internet. 

Even though men were interested in the iPad courses run by the Mary Ward Centre, this translate to sign ups. So we took a pop up iPad taster session into a pub to find out if men are more likely to take part in an activity if hosted in their own social space, and if it could be a stepping stone to enrolling on a course.

The plan

  • In June 2018, Mary Ward and ABC Outreach hosted a joint pop up ‘iPad’ taster session for men to be held in a local pub.
  • To prevent disruption to customers and session participants, the iPad session was held away from the main bar area.
  • The session was a general introduction to using iPads and delivered by a Mary Ward Centre tutor.
  • The session was made available to 6 older men. The Outreach Service liaised with the pub landlady to promote the sessions.
  • Each participant was supported by a volunteer/member of staff during the session.
  • The session ran for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Participants were required to complete a registration form (with support from staff/volunteers) at the start of the session.
  • Refreshments – tea/coffee and pastries were provided
  • A follow up activity (iPad course at an activity centre) was arranged for participants

Our expectations

  • We expected older men to be more receptive to taking part in an iPad taster session if held in their own local pub.
  • We though providing tea/coffee/breakfast would be an incentive for people to take part and provide an alternative to alcohol consumption during the session.
  • Based on previous interactions with pub patrons, we thought some of the session participants would have little if any knowledge and experience of using iPads and mobile technology, so we provided 1:1 support for each participant and enable the security of the equipment.
  • The involvement of the pub landlady was key in promoting the sessions 
“This thing is really good, I mean it does great things!' I will speak to my brother about this'. “I’ll ask my brother to get me one”. – male participant

What happened? What went well and not so well?

The patrons of the pub were reluctant to take part in a formal group class or session. It quickly became necessary to adapt our approach to engage men 1:1 in the bar area with iPads in a less formal setting than the function room space we had planned to use. Length of participation varied from 10 minutes to an hour. 

The majority of participants had not used an iPad before and were initially reluctant to interact with the device. The tutor had the participants use the iPads to talk about parts of their life, like viewing maps of their home towns. This made participants feel engaged and they began to touch the iPad to expand maps, scroll down screens and search on Google. For two participants who were unable to read and write, accessing visual information on the screen provided a gateway to their engagement with technology.

Due to the casual nature of the iPad engagement, it did not feel appropriate to ask the participants to complete ABC registration.

Whilst offered, tea, coffee and pastries were not taken up by participants, the majority of whom were drinking in the main bar area.

The participant who engaged with the iPad for an hour transitioned from not wanting to touch the iPad to feeling that it was worthwhile and something he would investigate afterwards. “This thing is really good, I mean it does great things!' I will speak to my brother about this'. “I’ll ask my brother to get me one”.

“The patrons of the pub were reluctant to take part in a formal group class. It became necessary to adapt our approach to engage men 1:1 in the bar area with iPads in a less formal setting”

Why did this happen?

“When I see a group of people who are a bit reluctant to learn about technology I usually find that it's fear that is preventing them from engaging. The fear often comes from not being able to understand the instructions and physically not wanting to touch the device. People are often afraid of breaking it, damaging it or putting viruses on it.” (Marie – Mary Ward iPad tutor)

Some of the older men were reluctant to accept our offer of refreshments - our offer may have been perceived as an act of charity/acceptance of offer as making a commitment to formally participate.

We had scheduled the session to run from 11am when the pub was quieter to avoid disrupting other patrons, however due to the informality of the iPad engagement, more people engaged as the pub became busier approaching lunchtime.

As the participants engaged with iPad as part of 1:1 engagement with a staff member/trainer, their learning experience became responsive and personal in approach.

“Learning is taking place in a gentle manner without any pressure… Finding out a little about the person, where they are from, their interests etc., provides a way into the iPad. Once they can see that they can take a virtual tour around their birthplace and watch archive footage on you tube, it shows the iPad in a different light. It's not all about sending emails, it can connect you with your roots”(Marie – Mary Ward iPad tutor)

The session successfully enabled a hard to reach group of older men to engage with an iPads but as an initial first step to digital engagement. Repeated interactions/opportunities may be required in the pub environment before transition to a more formal learning experience outside of the pub environment.

Key learning points

  • To engage older men with iPads (digital inclusion) successfully in a pub setting, our key learning points are:
  • Meet the men in their own social space - provide a relaxed and informal ‘casual’ opportunity for men to engage with an iPad within a pub setting in the main bar area, as part of 1:1 engagement with an iPad and member of staff/volunteer.
  • Avoid using ‘educational’ language e.g. workshop/session/class/course, to promote the opportunity as this may present a cultural barrier to participation.
  • To be accessible and encourage participation, engagement between the participant, iPad and staff/volunteer, needs to be personal and responsive as opposed to a formal demonstration or following a set curriculum.
  • The length and nature of engagement needs to be driven by the participant.
  • Follow up opportunities to engage with the iPad need to be available - not all pub patrons may have the confidence to participate first time (may want to watch initially).
  • Do not discount that prior knowledge and experience of technology, literacy levels and a lack of familiarity with educational settings may provide significant barriers to participation. All interactions need to be on the participants own terms and comfort zone.

For more information contact the ABC Outreach Team's Jo Stapleton on