20 October 2011 // Thoughts

10 Keys for Successful Museum Experiences: Listening To Your Audience

For this 5-post series, JRA Vice President, Shawn McCoy, teaches us the keys to developing memorable museum moments for guests of all ages.

For over thirty years, JRA has had the opportunity to plan, design, and produce a wide range of museums – from whimsical children’s museums to interactive sports experiences to immersive corporate visitor centers. Seeing a museum project grow from initial idea to opening day is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of the experiential design business.

What is even more rewarding is to see these projects succeed over the long-term; therefore, we wanted to share what we think are the “Top Ten” keys for creating successful museum experiences:

1. Design for the audience (interests, style and experience)

The first thing to remember as you begin to plan and design the guest experience is that you are creating for your audience, meaning that you feature exhibits, environments and stories that your audience is interested in, not just what the CEO, curator, marketing department or funder wants to talk about. During each stage of planning and design, you should ask yourself, are we really developing an experience that our audience cares about, or are we just conveying the messages that interest us? One way to ensure that you understand what your audience wants to have featured in the project is to get their input via in-person community sessions or online focus groups.

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum – Renfro Valley, KY

2. Accommodate various demographics, interests and learning styles

Keeping with our audience-centric approach, you want to make sure that the guest experience appeals to a wide variety of demographics, interests and learning styles. There are those who are more interested in the past than the present, while others may have no interest in history. Some of your guests might like a more passive experience, preferring to look at displays and read graphic panels, while others may want a more interactive, physical experience. It is important to create a guest experience that appeals to each segment of your audience and accommodates the various ways that they would like to learn about your subject matter.


But how do you connect with your audience on an emotional level, and how do you develop strong takeaway messages?  Shawn will answer these questions for us next week.  In the meantime, tune in Tuesday as we profile another Jack Rouse Associates team member.  Thanks for reading, and remember, if there’s something you want to know about the attraction design industry or JRA, feel free to comment here, on our Facebook page, or send us a Tweet.