boy in traditional dress, new caledonia

The Art and Science of Visitor Experience

Visitor experience is 70% art and 30% science. When I was a young park interpreter, we rarely had access to audience research. In fact, I don’t much recall anyone talking about it: if you were in the heritage tourism sector, you simply did your work (exhibits, activities, orientation, amenities) as best you could, based on what you thought it should look like. We didn’t spend much […]

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brown pelican, teetering

Hearts, Minds, and Positioning Statements

Positioning Statements: Simple, Not Easy Sometimes, life takes you in odd and unexpected directions. If you’d told me twenty years ago that I was going to be spending my days helping heritage sites do market research and audience segmentation, I probably would have cut myself. It really isn’t something that comes naturally to me. Target marketing is not the kind of thing I wake up excited about […]

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peacock

To script or not to script? An interpreter’s dilemma

A great presentation requires a great script. We’ve been talking a lot lately about the decline of classical stand-and-deliver interpretation, and the rise of experiential, inquiry-based or dialogue-based programming. I think it’s a healthy dialogue. For decades, sage-on-the-stage programming was the default interpretive medium. You took an interpreter, put her in front of an audience, and made people listen to her. Simple. But it wasn’t always effective. […]

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Sunset, Strait of Georgia

How to Craft a Vision Statement

There’s no sense telling your staff and public that you will be the top heritage attraction in the nation if you can’t craft a strategic plan (and budget) that will get you there. In my previous article, I outlined what I hope will be a fairly simple way to craft a relevant, realistic mission statement. The problem with relevant and realistic mission statements, though, is that boards […]

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Mission Statement Checkup: How’s Yours?

Mission statements should avoid vague and lofty turns of phrase like “transforms lives” or “provides hope” or “empowers wise choices”. All planning starts with a mission. From your mission flow your vision, your strategic goals, your management plan, interpretive plan, marketing plan… and all of the magical visitor experiences you live to facilitate. Without a solid mission or mandate, your organization is rudderless. Mission vs […]

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Goals: The Definition of Success

A primer on the setting of goals A few years ago, I was involved with the organization of a giant event. It was a one-day outdoor festival and concert in a big city. It was a lot of work and a lot of money on the part of the organizers and, well, to make a long story short, it rained all day. Not just drizzle; […]

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two rowers

It’s Finally Time to STFU.

Start to think of yourself as narrator, stage manager, and prop assistant. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of interpretation in the rapidly-expanding world of experiential tourism. What is experiential tourism? It’s the future. Actually, it’s the present—the world of tourism began moving to an experiential model at least fifteen years ago. Where once it was enough to see Florence, to see Old […]

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What makes an experience memorable?

It’s a fairly simple formula, actually. Take a moment to think back to one of your most cherished travel experiences—something that goes back, say, more than five years. Close your eyes and let the images and feelings of that trip surround you. It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it? What were the images and feelings that came back to you first? What were the strongest among […]

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girl in crowd

Interpretive Capital and the VE Cycle

How are you spending yours? I just spent a week working with interpreters at three different national historic sites in Alberta, and what a blast it was. Is there anything more energizing than workshopping programs with passionate, engaged people? I would like to share an insight I had while working through a script about the history of a particular discovery. We were at a point in […]

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