“Inspect What You Expect”

Get out of your office see visitor trends, interactions, dispel myths, and add “speed bumps” along the way.

I heard the above title through a Disney Leadership Training or Disney related book and decided to combine it with an exercise from Stephanie Weavers, Creating Great Visitor Experiences book and go for a walk, eight walks to be exact.  Yesterday, I made it a point to get out of the office and walk the front lines of our aquarium galleries once an hour for eightDSC03727 hours. With a map of our site I noted where visitors were as I moved from gallery to gallery with a colored dot, each hour a different color.

Here’s what I found:

  • A volunteer feeding the pelicans attracted one of the biggest audiences of the day (this was a nonscheduled interpretive moment and surprise for our visitors…hmmm maybe we need to do more of these?)
  • Visitors DO tend to go to the right when entering an exhibit….what to do with the exhibits/flow to the left that are being skipped over.
  • Our newest exhibit (Madagascar) is still a hit as it was continuously packed with visitors. Time and money well spent…whew!
  • Certain exhibits had consistent visitor density all day, others not so much. What can we learn from that.
  • There are a number of dead areas where visitors didn’t seem to go. Perhaps the addition of a volunteer or educator would attract more folks and increase their length of stay. We could add these “speed bumps” to lengthen stay and value for our visitors.
  • There were places where visitors gathered without exhibits or interpreters….interpretive opportunity?
  • A signage component that was thought to be “lame” and “unvisited” was consistently visited hour after hour. Hmmm… Don’t assume!
  • Seating is packed around kid play areas (parents). Kids play areas popular all day. Where could we use more benches? Coffee?
  • Blue shirts draw a crowd. Aquarium staff creates many engagements and interactions.
  • Personally the walk turned out to be a great brainstorming session and allows me to reflect on programming and the visitors rather than the impending meeting, deadline, or awaiting email that can bog me down.
  • I begin to see length of stay patterns with certain groups or families I see each hour.
  • Its fun being with our visitors and serving them while doing the exercise.

What and where are things happening/not happening at your visitor center, museum, park, zoo, or interpretive trail? Take a walk or eight of them!

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Categories: General | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on ““Inspect What You Expect”

  1. Great way to learn first hand–I will be forwarding this idea to my supervisors and other educators! Thanks!

  2. Vernice Aure

    This is an amazing exercise! Especially the hour by hour density notes. It would be wonderful if more top admin would do this type of ‘site study’ to truly find out what the actualities are in the daily life of their museum, gallery, aquarium etc.

  3. Excellent observations. Thank you for sharing.
    I’ve read about Proctor and Gamble sitting in customer’s home watching them do things like laundry in order to make products better to serve them. Putting yourself in your visitor’s shoes is a great way to get insight. Sometimes observation is better than asking questions.

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