Visitors to the Museums + Heritage Show 2022 packed out the first day of talks, networking sessions, and demonstrations as expertise were shared at Olympia in London.

Attendees have been engaged in a wealth of talks, a walk through over 150 exhibitor stands, the Museum Mix area with expert one-on-one support and a big catch-up with fellow attendees.

The day began with a talk from Bala McAlinn, Founding Director of Complete Works. In ‘Monetising your visitor journey’, spoke to a packed-out audience about the quick wins and new ways to consider the ways organisations can improve revenue.

McAlinn advised the audience on a range of techniques for increasing revenue, including the tip that the placement of donation boxes was crucial to raising funds. He stressed that they are rarely incorporated during the design of a functional visitor flow, and only those feeling “very philanthropic” will go out of their way to donate to a poorly placed box.

“Simply by moving [donation boxes] to the middle of the visitor journey”, he said, donations improve, and even better results happen when museum staff stand nearby those boxes with a smile. It was one a series of tips from the speaker who also shared the ‘Six Essential Stories’ every organisation should consider.

Art Fund – News
Bala McAlinn, Founding Director of Complete Works presents ‘Monetising your visitor journey’,

McAlinn said that while lots of organisation have already thought about these questions, these are often devised, printed, and then put in a drawer to be forgotten. Crucial to encouraging these visitors to becoming a member or making a donation then, was a matter of ensuring that these stories are in the front of the mind of staff, creating an engaging experience which naturally becomes a chance to talk about membership.

Emma Stirling-Middleton, Curator at The Cartoon Museum drew in a crowd with standing room only as she detailed her transition from a career in large national museum level gallery projects and international blockbuster exhibitions to The Cartoon Museum, a relatively small independent museum.

In ‘Think big, go small: lessons from creating exhibitions in a small museum’, Stirling-Middleton advised museums to experiment with “weird forms” of engagement which might not obviously work, and are “logistically ridiculous”. “Experiment, and visitors will love it”, she advised.

She also encouraged museums to consider changing their exhibitions after opening, a process not often taken by larger museums. She said museums should observe what is working, what is not, and to be agile in making changes based on how visitors use the space.

Stirling-Middleton also suggested every member of staff should work on Front of House. Having not previously taken on the role, she said she was surprised by the insights gathered from taking on the role.

In ‘Repair, Recovery and Renewal – what we’ve learned over the last two years’ Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA crystalised the learnings for the pandemic, with a focus on the positive.

Among his ten points, Donoghue highlighted a greater political appreciation of the importance of tourism and culture through proven data, an explosion of sharing and collaboration in the sector, and the importance of FoH teams with an “awesome responsibility and power”.

He also said the reopening of the sector was an opportunity to open doors to a wider audience and truly serve the wide-range of people who contribute through the lottery and paying tax.

He also reinforced the responsibility of museums and heritage sites to take seriously the idea that they “create the backdrop for peoples happiest memories.”

The Show returns tomorrow, Thursday 12th May, and free registration is still open should you wish to visit.

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