Taylor Studios at American Association of Museums 2012 Conference

Taylor Studios is happy to announce our attendance and exhibition at the 106th AAM Annual Meeting & MuseumExpo™. The event is one of the industry’s largest and will be held April 28-May 5 in Minneapolis Saint Paul.

While there Taylor Studios will host a celebration of our 20th anniversary. If attending, you are cordially invited to celebrate with us on Tuesday, May 1st from 4-6p with cake and champagne! We’ll be in booth #1011, across from the AAM Showcase.

Taylor Studios will be participating many events surrounding the conference so if you’re there please keep an eye out for us. A few places we know we’ll be in addition to the MuseumExpo include:
Sunday Evening Opening Reception
Monday Evening AAM Events at Como Park Zoo, Minnesota History Center, and Science Museum of Minnesota.
Tuesday Evening TEA mixer
AAM is a wonderful opportunity to rekindle friendships and start new ones. We hope to see you there!

The Five Powers of Exhibit Design

Our mission is to create products and experiences that inspire people. To achieve our mission we need to engage people. Most visitors to our experiences are there voluntarily. We often call the experiences we design informal learning. This type of learning can occur in a variety of places, like museums, nature centers, visitor centers, hospitals, university settings, zoos, homes, clubs and more.

The National Science Foundation defines informal learning as follows:  voluntary and self-directed, life-long, and motivated mainly by intrinsic interests, curiosity, exploration, manipulation, fantasy, task completion, and social interaction. Informal learning can be linear or nonlinear and often is self-paced and visual- or object – oriented. It provides an experiential base and motivation for further activity and learning. The outcomes of an informal learning experience in science, mathematics, and technology include a better understanding of concepts, topics, processes, and thinking in scientific and technical disciplines, as well as increased knowledge about career opportunities in these fields. Whew! This is a long yet cool definition. It illuminates how we attempt to inspire people.

To engage people in an informal learning environment we need to understand how people react to different stimuli. Our design staff has to have a general knowledge of human behavior, psychology or emotional design. If the text is too long, if it is too loud, if the colors are bland, if it is broken the visitor will not engage with the environment. At a seminar about visitor studies and prototyping at the AAM conference lead by Minda Borum and Rita Hoffstadt of The Franklin Institute, I learned about the Five Powers:

  1. Attracting Power – Does the exhibit cause visitors to stop at it?
  2. Holding Power – How much time is spent at the exhibit?
  3. Procedural Power (for an interactive) – Does the exhibit cause visitors to use it correctly?
  4. Explanatory Power – Does the exhibit convey its message?
  5. Affective Power – Do visitors like it?

During this workshop we did some testing of these powers. My group observed and surveyed some visitors to The Liver exhibit. It did not pass the muster on all the powers.  Yet, by interviewing the visitors we did learn that what we think and what visitors think is often not the same thing. Prototyping, observing visitors and interviewing can help make better-informed decisions about exhibit design. As budgets allow we will be adding all of these services to our clients. We believe it puts us closer to our mission of inspiring people.

Do your exhibits have the Five Powers?

Heading to Houston

The ACM conference begins this week in Houston followed immediately by AAM.  While we’re not exhibiting at ACM, Myrna will be wandering around meeting exhibitors, attending sessions, and preparing for the arrival of Betty and me over the weekend. The three of us will be exhibiting at AAM, booth 817.

AAM is a show that we look forward to every year.  It’s a time to meet up with old friends, make new ones, and connect with others in our industry.  For each show we attend, we set a few objectives for ourselves in order to keep us on track and not distracted by the open bar at the evening events or some local attraction that would take us away from our original reason for flying over 970 miles to attend the conference.

Our objectives typically involved the number of leads we need to collect, the number of meetings we want to have outside of the tradeshow booth, the number of dinners we’d like to have with others, and of course, the number of contracts we want to have signed within the year following the show.  While we normally do not have much trouble meeting the first few objectives, the last one, the number of jobs within the year, is always the tricky one.  Usually, it’s the only one we don’t come close to meeting.

We have gotten much better over the last couple of years at tracking our leads and knowing from where they came so, when a lead does turn into a project, we can usually pinpoint where we first learned of the lead and how long it took to go from a lead to a project.  The speed at which most of our leads turn into projects is extremely slow.  The sales cycle can last anywhere from three months to five years, which is a very hard concept for those outside our industry to comprehend.  So, when you consider how much time it normally takes to get a signed contract, should we really beat ourselves up for not meeting that one objective?  It’s a question we ask every year.  After all, we have to consider our ROI and, given the fact that one job could potentially pay for the cost of our attendance, it’s an important factor.

However, there are other factors to consider, too.  This show is an opportunity to meet more people in three days than we would in an entire year.  Unless a client tells us three years later that “Hey, we met at AAM when it was in Houston and I’ve had you in mind for this project ever since,” we probably wouldn’t link that project to this show.  Also, it’s simply a way to increase our brand awareness.  It’s a way to let people know what we do and that we’re here to help when they have the funds in place to move forward on their project two, four, or six years from now.  If we didn’t go, we’d miss out on these connections.

OK, now it’s your turn.  What objectives do you set for yourself when you attend a tradeshow or other networking event?  Do the other positives outweigh the fact that you may not get a contract right away or would you decide to stop attending that particular show or event?