We are all passionate about what we do, why else would we do it! And it is this passion that makes us very good at achieving our core objectives, whether it be preservation, conservation or regeneration.
But it is this passion that makes us often forget our periphery, and it is in this realm that our visitors get their first impressions of our organisation; our car parks, reception areas, visitor centres and cafes. It is too easy to neglect these areas and assume the only reason our visitors will return is for the very same reason we come to work every day. But spare a thought for those parents, teachers and carers that have to keep their charges safe and entertained.
These spaces often become disjointed and untidy as they are forgotten and their original purpose becomes lost in a world of day-to-day priorities. But it is in these very spaces that our visitors will form their first impressions; a place of neglect or pride; a place where they feel valued; and a decision to return will be based on pure entertainment and educational value. Failure to acknowledge and embrace this need will only result in visitor numbers declining.
But this is not an exercise to be rushed into. Don’t make the mistake of thinking a quick tidy up will do the job, as this will only be a waste of time and money and the results will be short lived. Planning is the key to success, 90% planning and 10% doing. Look at all your existing facilities and the benefits each can bring; look closely at your target audience and identify their needs; outline your objectives, prioritise your activities and start from the top.
And even though you may only be looking to improve one small area at a time, look at your facility as a whole and plan carefully how these small improvements will eventually tie together as a cohesive visitor experience. Failure to do so will only result in a disjointed and unsatisfying scheme and you’re back to square one.
I have seen many a dusty children’s zone; interactives that simply haven’t been touched for months; exhibitions that lack lustre and invitation. This is not fair on your visitors and it will certainly not encourage them to come back.
So take the bull by the horns; it need not be expensive, just use your imagination and target your activities correctly. And don’t forget, when all is said and done, let your visitors know, use all your channels to market and shout from the rooftops, for yours is most certainly a place they will want to visit.