Monthly Archives: May 2013


photoAs the sun sets on the Memorial Day weekend many of us will begin to see the annual migration of guests making their way to our sites from places near and far. Singing day campers, lively campgrounds, tours and programs that are full, and lines at our admission and entry points will soon be a common site (we hope). Let’s not forget about the seasonal interpreters and interns that come with this migration like a symbiotic relationship.

Remember those days when you were soooo excited about the summer? Maybe it was a camping or fishing trip, visit to a new city, zoo, aquarium, baseball stadium, or park. Could you sleep the night before? Somewhere right now there is a kid, family, or individual planning to come to your site. At some point in their visit you’ll likely have an oportunity to “enage” with them. That engagement or lack of can go a long way in how their experience is defined and how they will define your site when telling others. Although we know there are some folks that don’t care to engage with staff we also know there are a lot of visitors who want to be part of something when they come to your site. They want their experience to be social, active, surprising, engaging, fun, and parents love when staff engage their kiddos in activity, programming, and in the fun.

Think of NEW ways this summer that you can engage your guests AND staff. There are an abundance of things to do at no cost…(smile, ask “Where are you from?”, bring out tangible props, involving folks in our interpretive programs,etc..) Throw the question out there with your staff and brainstorm ways to engage in training, at the front desk or gate, or in an interpretive program. How can maintenance, food service, and other departments help this cause?

During this summer’s “migration” they will go back and tell the others. What they tell them of their experience depends in part on how and if we engaged them. What they experience this summer can have an impact the migration to your site next year.

Have a great summer season! Smile, have fun, make their day, and ENGAGE and we’ll see you on the other side of summer!

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The Tidal Life of an Interpreter

O.k., full disclosure—I’m based at a state aquarium so many of my metaphors relate to ocean/coastal/water stuff. In any event, I hope my premise that all of us interpreters lead a tidal life between a storm surge of crazy activity to watch-the-clock low tide.

I, myself, am experiencing a tidal change as I’m looking forward to a stretch of the doldrums after a frenetic couple of months in which I felt like I was swimming against the tide—such is the life of an outreach educator—you take your paying customers when you can! My springtime school programs had me logging some crazy hours but I am going to take advantage of an early summer low tide before putting a couple of thousand miles on the company van as I travel eastern and central NC doing summer library programs.

As we all get ready for another summer of camps, tourists, and programs, I have a question for you:  do you take advantage of your low water times to regroup, get some sleep, recharge your passion for your special places? I hope so, otherwise burnout can loom large.

As for me, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my small window of time—maybe use some of my comp to reconnect with my neglected family—but you can be sure I’m going to enjoy it before the next high tide rolls in!

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Does your message fit your audience?

ImageToday I was scanning Yahoo’s home site and while I was searching for a source of inspiration for this post I went through bits of random information that seemed to be the same from 3  or 6 months ago. An artist is in trouble with the law, a sports’ team won a game, a big corporation won a lawsuit, politicians are calling for a “full investigation”, nothing really “new”.

All these seemed like the perfect example of poor interpretation or a poster board of “how not to do interpretation”.

The one piece that came the closest to it was on the right side of the screen below all the annoying ads and it said: “If you’re single, this could be a great day to ask out someone new. If not, just enjoy the comfort of your sweetie and the good energy the day brings. Either way, you should feel better by tonight!”. Yes, the horoscope was the closest example of interpretation I could find in the entire page. The message was actually written addressing me, that was encouraging plus no matter how hard I tried to scroll down that section of the page would not move (static content). 

When you create interpretive materials remember that you need to know your audience and make sure that you address them, their needs and highlight why your message is relevant to them. Like in this small example, I don’t really want to wait until “tonight” to feel better but that is ok, I am not a Taurus anyways.

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Job Hunt Series – Telling Your Story

As interpreters, we strive to tell the story of a particular subject or topic that we generally find intriguing or entertaining. While we find it easy to do this with almost every bird, tree, or historical landmark we may come across, it is often much harder to tell our own story. Interviewing is truly just that: telling your story in a way that strikes a chord with you audience. In the case of an interview however, your audience is a potential employer.
What theme do you want your interviewer to take away from the interview? To answer this question, an interpreter should look back at the original job description and determine the theme. Is the organization looking for a programmer who is well organized and can tackle multiple projects with ease? Are they looking for someone with lots of creative energy to revitalize an existing program or facility? Or is the organization looking for someone who has a knack for working with a variety of audiences including at-risk youth? No matter what theme the job description focuses on, determine how you can blend it with your own capabilities.
To get your theme across, use positive examples from previous jobs. If the theme is being well organized and multi-tasking, generate three or four specific examples of projects you have developed, challenges you have tackled, and even new procedures you may have implemented. If you want to show off your creative theme, bring concrete examples (such as program write-ups, displays, pictures, etc) and give specific details about the processes you went through in order to develop them. If your theme is working with a variety of audiences, bring examples (AND PICTURES!) of how you have accomplished this.
Of course there are all of the other factors that go into an interview beyond your theme. Making eye contact and greeting the panel with a firm, confident handshake goes a long way. Also, no one can underestimate the importance of a finely groomed appearance complete with clean, pressed attire suitable for the position. But most importantly, remember the people interviewing you have been through and probably will go through many candidates before making a final decision. Just like when we walk a trail with a group of inquisitive hikers, we are not looking to have them remember every detail about us. We just want to strike a chord and get them to remember our theme.

Melissa O’Lenick

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