The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense

Book: Creating Great Visitor Experiences

Author: Stephanie Weaver

Summary:

The three chapters namely Sensation, Common Sense and Finale, provide with a very succinct overview into visitor engagement through a myriad of simplistic but thought provoking perspectives. The author particularly stresses on focussing on the little details that make all the difference in the big picture.

Chapter 12: Sensation

This chapter mainly encompasses the importance of stimulating a holistic sensory experience when it comes to design. Human beings are social animals and designs that encourage visitor interaction make for a fulfilling experience. A fun-filled day has a huge influence on memories and increases the chances of visitors returning for more. One way to formulate such kind of engagement would be through a sort of five sense synergy, where the visitor’s senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste are put to play. The author provides with some very compelling examples of how this ideology has been successfully put to practice in the GLAM industry and large corporations like Disney.

Chapter 13: Common Sense

This chapter mainly talks about the importance of the little details that are most often overlooked but are the most crucial in shaping visitor experience. It also refers to multiple simple marketing strategies that could be used as a tool to increase engagement.

Common sense is not so common and there are many reasons for this. Being too closely associated with any creative process can lead a sort of inertia that makes one overlook the obvious. The author discusses three key types of common sense that need to be considered: Operational, Cultural and Alignment based common sense. Each type is backed up with examples of some very high-end corporations and companies that goofed up on these grounds and lost significant capital resources. There are multiple practices one can inculcate to minimize this kind of loss like:

·         Soliciting input from front line staff as they have more frequent interactions with visitors than the upper-tier management or exhibit designers.

·         Keeping up with times and capitalizing on the latest trends through constant content monitoring, social media updates etc to stay on top of the game.

·         Audience polls (formal and informal) where the audience is involved in assessing the general effectiveness of an exhibit/resource.

·         Audience involvement where the visitors contribute in the design through various modes of participation

·         Creating partnerships with similar enterprises that can increase the overall scalability and outreach of the product by many folds.

·         Smart investment strategies in terms of time, money and resources to optimize potential outcomes.

 

Chapter 14: the finale

This chapter mainly delves into the intricacies of providing a satisfying end to the overall visitor experience. The final act must be moulded to utmost precision as it makes for a key determining factor of customer experience. The essence lies in the attention to detail. Subtle psychological cues go a long way. Some very simple yet profound tools could be souvenirs, take home materials, mementos and memorabilia.  Anything that stimulates one’s memory of their experience will lead to stronger and more positive association with the overall brand or feel of the exhibit/product. Audience engagement is thus taken up several notches.  Positive memory acts as a huge incentive for visitors to return and also promote the exhibit among their peers.

 

Analysis:

The three chapters weave together a very intricate web that marks the foundation of visitor engagement. As one advances to newfound heights, the basics are brushed aside to focus on the seemingly larger complications. While it is naturally inevitable to form a deep sense of proximity with any creative product, this can be the very cause of missing the obvious. Weaver touches upon exactly this with utmost precision. It reminded me of this quote from the movie ‘Now you see me’- “the closer you look the lesser you see.”

Her concepts make for a very formidable reality check and assay for factors that are very often overlooked when it comes to creating effective visitor experiences.

Concocting an exhibition/product design is not very different from a magic trick as Weaver says. One needs to be just as innovative as a magician to create this symphony that visitors are drawn to through every faculty possible. What better way to do this than engaging the senses that man-kind is gifted with? Each of the five senses plays a crucial role in forming associations and thus memory and experiences. Making use of these kinds of sensory associations to evoke memory and building a strong visitor experience is a brilliant idea. However, I feel the successful execution of building a sensorial experience would have many barriers. The overall feasibility, so to speak can be questionable. It is easy to fall into the trap of generalization as sensory stimuli could be perceived by different people in varied ways. Having said that, some of the suggestions like manipulating lighting and vamping up the overall ambience of a place can be factored into the design elements.

Along similar lines, Weaver provides some notable insight into the importance and use of visual imagery to amplify the basic effectiveness of a product. She makes use of some strong examples to make her point. However some of these examples like Singapore Airlines recruiting only young, petite, conventionally beautiful women as flight attendants make me ponder over the ethical implications of rigorous, capitalistic marketing strategies.

 

One particularly interesting aspect in this reading was how subtly and efficiently the subject of inclusivity was weaved in. Creative fields by nature run through a network, where each hinge and nook plays an essential role, much like an ecosystem in nature. I was surprised at how I never gave the idea of surveying the front-line staff much thought before this. It made me realized how bound we are as creators with our own limitations in terms of perspective. Something as simple as asking the doorman for an insight would make any market survey richer and much more diverse. This will also play a role in uplifting the morale of the staff, making them feel valued for their contributions.

 

Another very thought-provoking point that was revealed to me was that of forming connections and partnerships beyond the scope of directly related subject matters. This kind of symbiosis opens up a myriad of trend setting opportunities for both parties involved. More visitors are attracted, much more memorable experiences are formulated and it puts the product/experience into this niche with minimum competition. I reckon this would do wonders in terms of brand identity and awareness.

 

Weaver’s point of involving the visitors in the promotional process through calculated incentives is simple but strong. It is a great marketing strategy that could increase awareness and outreach while ensuring engagement. The visitors would also form firm associations with the overarching brand through this process and become a sort of patron to the cause.

 

Lastly I feel everything is the power persuasion and science is most definitively not an exception to this. The finale/final take-away encapsulates all the elements involved to make or break a successful visitor experience. This means that all loose ends must be tied together and the take home message must resonate strongly and clearly with visitors to have them return. Here, it all boils down to final delicate touches.

As Sherlock Holmes rightly says, “Never trust general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details”

 

 

Food for thought:

1.      What factors play a crucial role when it comes to designing a successful exhibit/resource?

2.      How important is product/exhibit awareness and promotion? Does it factor in when it comes to visitor experience/engagement?

3.      Can audience experience be manipulated according to how a product/exhibit is marketed?

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