The secret to attracting more visitors is to get those who are already coming to talking about their experience. In the second of our ‘Talkable Museum’ articles, we share four more ways you can achieve this.
In the last article I introduced the acronym SUCCESs as a useful way to ensure that the experience you provide at your museum or heritage attraction is something that people will remember and share.
However, there are a couple of additional thoughts that I wanted to introduce you to that are not fully covered in the Heaths’ book but are mentioned in Higbee’s (remember him?) that I think you’ll find useful.
If you’ve read my article on schemas, you’ll know that the more someone knows about a subject, the easier it is for them to remember and understand new information about it.
So if your visitors already have knowledge of what your attraction is all about, they’re more likely to learn something new as they have some existing learning to anchor their new learning to.
If your subject is entirely new to them, then you need to try to relate your information to something they already know i.e. one or more of their existing schemas. Examples that relate your information to their everyday life can be very powerful in this regard.
Take this example. How do you explain to someone what it was like to spend time in solitary confinement in a Korean Prisoner of War Camp – surely this is too far removed from anyone’s existing schema? Here’s one approach:
‘If you want to know what it was like to experience solitary confinement in a Korean POW Camp, walk into your downstairs toilet, shut the door and sit on the floor. You’re only allowed to come out once a day a few steps into your hallway for a couple of minutes before returning and you’re not allowed to stand up, flush the toilet or turn the light on.’
I’ve anchored the Korean POW Camp experience in someone’s ‘downstairs toilet’ schema (dark, pokey, hard floor and potentially smelly). I’ve therefore increased the chances that they’ll remember it, specifically when they’re using the downstairs loo. OK, it’s an extreme example, but you can see my point.
The more logical your organisation of information for your visitors, the more likely they are to remember it.
Two logical orders spring to mind when thinking about heritage attractions – by chronology and by topic (e.g. People At Home, People At Work, People At Play). I’m sure you’ve already got this covered.
But there’s one more thing I’d like you to consider and that’s something called the ‘serial position effect’.
Basically, when we’re remembering things, we tend to remember the things at the beginning and the end better than we remember the things in the middle. That feels logical – we’re keen to learn when we first visit somewhere, get information fatigue in the middle and then muster ourselves for one last push near the end.
What does the ‘serial position effect’ mean for you? Well, ideally your experience will be following the SUCCESs mantra, and people will find it all engaging and memorable. Failing that (and we don’t live in an ideal world) put the key messages that you want people to remember at the beginning and at the end of your exhibition.
Repetition helps people to learn, as you’ll no doubt remember from your own exams. The more revision you did, the better you did in your exams.
Again, the ideal scenario is that the content is communicated in such a way that you don’t need to repeat yourself. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so a little repetition, perhaps coming at the information from different angles (or communicated via different media) is no bad thing.
If you’d taken your mock exams and nobody had told you how well you’d done and where you’d gone wrong (although in some cases you might have been happier if they hadn’t), you’d have wondered why you bothered.
Giving people the chance to test what they’ve learnt keeps them interested. It also helps to cement the knowledge in their heads, perhaps because they’ve had to retrieve it.
But of course keep it fun and interactive and reward them for success – we don’t want anyone to feel like they’re back at school.
I don’t know where all of that leaves us in the acronym stakes – perhaps FFOR SUCCESs?
In fact, you don’t need to remember it, you can use one of your computer’s memory aids – just bookmark this blog.