On Monday, October 14, 2019, engaging keynotes, interactive sessions, and a multitude of networking opportunities will be offered. .

9:00 – 10:00 am 

Welcome & Keynote with Mar Dixon

10:10 – 11:10 am

In Pursuit of Diverse Audiences: Reaching Out Starts with Looking In
Molly Giordano, Director of Development and External Affairs at the Delaware Art Museum and Beth Brodovsky, President Iris Creative

In this program, we’ll discuss how to conduct audience research that illuminates the people you need for your organization to thrive. The result of this start-in-the-center method is an organization that knows its core. And when you know your core, you can expand your audience in ways that build on what your key supporters value.

Audience take-aways:

  • How to identify and understand your most critical current audience
  • How to expand toward new audiences without losing your base
  • How to engage your staff in a culture of change

The New Glenstone: Expanding the Visitor Experience
Stockton W. Toler Director, Visitor Experience at Glenstone

Stockton will lead a discussion of how a small, privately funded museum created an intimate visitor experience and scaled up to meet the needs of its expansion while maintaining an unhurried, uncrowded, and contemplative experience despite the increased visitor attendance.

Audience take-aways:

  • How to apply techniques or strategies that are not common to museums to
    create a unique experience.
  • How to think about the experience at respective museums holistically and
    collaborate with others to create an exceptional experience.
  • How to create and sustain a visitor experience training program and culture.

Creating a Full Circle Culture of Service
Ginny Fitzgerald, Director of Visitor & Member Services, Chicago History Museum, Colleen Higginbotham, Director of Visitor Services, Chrysler Museum of Art and
Stephanie Wood, Director of Guest Services, Denver Museum of Nature and Science

This team of museum professionals have found that by creating an internal culture of service program to engage employees, museums will be best positioned to deliver an outstanding visitor experience. They will tell you how to begin, and how to sustain such a program at your museum/organization.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Your internal program should be customized to fit your museum.
  • The program may take longer than you think to develop and take hold, and you must persist.
  • The circle of service is an equation of happy employees in a gratifying work culture delivering on a brand of outstanding visitor experience.

Going Undercover: When Guest Services Trains As Security
Christine Goerss-Barton, Guest Services Manager, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Other than admissions, who are your institution’s guests most likely to interact with? If the answer is Security, how does this help or hinder the guest experience? One Guest Services team went undercover to become licensed guards to find out how two divergent departments could possibly serve the same goal: securing the happiness of all visitors.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Fight the good fight for the guest experience–it matters more than people know! Arm audience with data.
  • Identify opportunities for action within home institution.
  • You are not alone in trials and tribulations of this sort, and don’t lose hope–progress can still be made if sweeping change is out of the picture.

11:20 am – 12:20 pm

The Art of Influence: Crafting Organizational Buy-In
Dorothy Leventry, Director of Education and Guest Experience, Mt. Cuba Center

Are you passionate and want to make significant contributions to your organization, but aren’t sure how to effectively build consensus around your ideas? In this session, we will discuss strategies and tangible tools for successfully pitching proposals, whether it be to your staff, colleagues, boss, or Board.

Audience take-aways:

  • The significance of being familiar with your organization’s guiding principles and documents such as mission statement, strategic plan, and core values.
  • How to identify influencers and allies, and the importance of knowing their personalities, values, and communication preferences (with a tool to help figure this out).
  • Logic models as a valuable tool for program design and evaluation

Employee Enrichment: A Fresh Perspective on Staff Engagement
Kimberly Zies, Director of Guest Services, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and Taylor Herbst, Manager of Guest Services & Retail Operations, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Discover how connecting personal interests to mission can develop skills, build relationships, and improve customer service! Learn to serve your organization by advocating for employee growth through critical conversations and collaboration.
Explore how creating and implementing enrichment programs in the pursuit of a happy staff will result in happy visitors.

Audience take-aways:

  • Fundamental ideas and simple structures – how to start building an enrichment program.
  • Tools for critical conversations – how to advocate for enrichment programs at any level of an organization.
  • A fresh perspective on enrichment as, not only engagement, but as a new way to serve exemplary internal customer service to our most important first line customers: our staff.

Become a different kind of leader: strategies for achieving happiness, driving change and gaining respect as a Visitor Experience professional
Paul Gibbons, Head of Visitor Experience, Design Museum London

Paul Gibbons shares lessons from his career in Visitor Experience leadership and will show you how to adapt from being a leader of your own team into becoming an influential and persuasive leader within your organisation- ensuring the visitor’s voice is heard and decisions made with their expectations as priority.

Audience take-aways: 

  • To think about your leadership style and how you might effectively adapt it to become a more credible and respected leader in your organization
  • How to balance the needs of your team and visitors with the complex relationships and priorities across your organisation
  • Tools for influencing your wider organization to understand and prioritize visitor experience issues

If You Build It, They Will Come: Re-imagining the Visitor Experience During a Museum Closure
Lauren Diamond, Visitor Services and Membership Coordinator, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, Andrew Turner, Visitor Services Coordinator at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth, and Hunter Dixon, Director of Guest Relations at the Speed Art Museum

How can a museum with no visitors rethink the visitor experience? Join presenters from the Hood Museum of Art, the Speed Art Museum, and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum as they discuss ways they reexamined and rebuilt their museums during construction to make spaces more accessible, navigable, and visitor friendly (or not!).

Audience take-aways: 

  • Don’t be afraid to make drastic changes during construction/expansion. This is the time to try something new. Shake it up!
  • Re-evaluate honestly what works and what doesn’t when it comes to the visitor’s experience. Do not just continue down the same path, just because it is what you have always done.
  • Research, research, research! Reach out to colleagues who have been there before. Do not try and reinvent the wheel. There is a community of colleagues who are happy to share their experiences with you and to help you learn from their successes/mistakes.

12:30 – 1:30 pm – Lunch

1:40 – 2:40 pm – Signature Session with Steve McClaine 

2:50 – 3:50 pm

Lost in the labyrinth? Not for long! How Augmented Reality will Transform Wayfinding in Museums
Brendan Ciecko, CEO / Founder @ Cuseum

Wayfinding continues to be one of the major challenges faced by museums and cultural attractions. With the arrival of augmented reality (AR), there is a light at the end of the tunnel for addressing the navigational needs of all visitors with new, innovative wayfinding tools.

Audience take-aways:

  • Audience members will be able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the capabilities, risks, and rewards of emerging technology like augmented reality.
  • Audience members will be able to contextualize how new tools like augmented reality can address wayfinding and accessible challenges faced by their organizations.
  • Audience members will gain new knowledge about various approaches to innovative wayfinding.

Enhancing the Visitor Journey – Service Design for Designing Services
Karl Robideau, Visitor Experience Manager, Art Gallery of New South Wales

The session will discuss how implementing service design into the Art Gallery of New South Wales planning processes contributed to improving the visitor experience by aligning three crucial elements – people, processes, and technology – to form a strong foundation for enhancing the overall visitor journey.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Techniques to service design.
  • Practical examples of improving the visitor journey.
  • Change management (in a time of change).

Learning to Hire for Attitude: Matching Staff and Volunteers with your Museum
Audra Kelly, Director of Interpretation, Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, Lisa Leyh, Head of Visitor Services & Volunteer Management, Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Research shows that the many new hires fail because of attitudinal reasons, not due to lack of skills. Learn techniques for identifying attitudes, developing interview questions, and analyzing candidate’s answers that enable you to evaluate if potential hires are a good match attitudinally with your institution.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Hiring for attitude is as important as hiring for skills.
  • Hiring for attitude is a skill that can be learned, and will be taught in this session.
  • Hiring for attitude results in a better chance of finding candidates for staff and volunteer positions who are problem solvers with positive attitudes.

Summer Tuesdays: Turning an Experiment into an Operational Reality
Trevor Tyrrell, Director of Operations, Museum Facility, Guggenheim, Essie Lash, Senior Manager of Marketing, Guggenheim, and Blake Myers, Public Engagement Coordinator, Guggenheim

Learn how a cross-departmental collaboration resulted in a visitor experience success story. Since 2017, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has offered Summer Tuesdays, staying open until 9 pm in the summer with open galleries and engaging programming. Launched as a pilot effort to better accommodate visitors’ schedules, the initiative has informed the museum’s general operating hours in its third year.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Give audiences a clear understanding of the initiative at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and how it was conceived, marketed, and improved upon
  • Provide an overview of how data and analysis were crucial in transitioning from a pilot program to an operational reality
  • Offer an opportunity for audiences to pose queries on how initiatives such as these may get off the ground

4:00 – 5:00 pm

Augmenting Visitor Experiences through Adaptable Volunteers
Diana Gibbs,Visitor Engagement Specialist, Library of Congress and Susan Mordan-White, Volunteer Program Specialist, Library of Congress

Meaningful visitor experiences are sparked by volunteers, who cultivate lasting connections between users and cultural institutions. In this session, the Library of Congress will share innovative, flexible scheduling methods that encourage volunteers to focus on the multifaceted interests and needs of audiences by differentiating, adapting and maximizing their ambassador roles.

Audience take-aways:

  • Acquire best practices for preparing volunteers to scaffold experiences based on audiences, content, and time frames.
  • Learn concrete strategies to introduce and incorporate into volunteer management guidelines and scheduling frameworks.
  • Realize the benefit of activating volunteer super powers, with an emphasis on encouraging them to reach their full potential as cultural institution ambassadors

The 4 Must-dos to Make Museums Must-Sees for Millennial
Tasia Duske, CEO of Museum Hack; Caroline Wolfson, Creative Consultant for Museum Hack

Did your last museum tour include wine and scandalous stories? Museum Hack tours do… plus gossip about the museum and selfies with a $45 million dollar painting. Creative Consultants of the renegade tour company the New York Times describes as having “a different sensibility”, share with you 4 ways Museum Hack reimagines the museum experience for millennials and people who think they don’t like Museums.

Audience take-aways: 

  • Learn a mental framework (the 4 Must-Do’s of a Museum Hack Experience) use to reimagine standard cultural institution tours.
  • Gain skills from each of the 4 that they can use the next day to instantly draw audiences and attract new groups.
  • Have fun! Be reminded that entertainment is great tool used to teach and learn.

Training at America’s Largest Historic Home
Jan Douglas, Director of Guest Relations, Biltmore. Bryan Yerman, Manager of Guest Relations, Biltmore

With over 1.6 million visitors, Biltmore has the opportunity to welcome guests (visitors) from a wide spectrum of the public. Learn how we train our staff of over 120 employees on the art of hospitality, the mechanics of giving an engaging tour, and how to make history informative and entertaining to guests from all walks of life.

Audience take-aways:

  • How to use training to make tours and the visitor experience more engaging
  • How to maximize the value of training manuals
  • How to create a visitor experience that is accessible to a diverse public

The Intersection of Risk and Reward: Rewriting the Rules of Evaluation through Experimentation
Alysia Caryl, Manager of Youth Programs, San Jose Museum of Art, Greg Brown, San Jose Museum of Art

After years of working with outside evaluation firms, the SJMA staff challenged their assumptions about evaluation.  After review of past results, we launched a series of in-house evaluation projects using the Design Thinking processes.  One surprise result was the internal staff capacity building and retention created by the process.  Join us for session that is more like a workshop and bring new ideas to your institution.

Audience take-aways:

  • Simple is often better
  • Evaluation can be fun
  • Small risks are part of the Design Process
  • Prototype early and often for better results

5:00 pm – Closing Remarks


On Tuesday, October 15, several workshops and a behind the scenes tour will be offered. These workshops and tours are an additional fee outside of conference registration.



How to Avoid Museumsplaining and Create a Culture of Questioning
Andrea Jones, Peak Experience Lab
8:30 am – 11:30 am, Franklin Institute (please note: this runs concurrent to the Universal Design Thinking workshop)

This workshop advocates a perspective shift away from the idea that museums must be the foremost authority on their chosen content area. Using “essential questions” to frame the content development for programs and exhibitions shifts the museum voice from that of top-down expert to co-learner. Interpretation that shows vulnerability and openness is more likely to receive that openness from visitors in return.

Workshop attendees will participate in experiential activities designed to illustrate the power of essential questions to engage, provoke, and spark self-reflection. They will also have the opportunity to practice this mindset by creating their own museum experiences that use questions to frame content in new ways.

Andrea Jones is an independent consultant and master educator with 20 years experience as a change agent and professional rabble-rouser. She is a cheerleader for immersive experiences, complex stories, and big questions over trivial facts. She works with museums across the country to reinvent storytelling and interpretive methods. In 2016, her team won the award for “Innovation in Museum Education” from the American Alliance of Museums.  Operating under the name Peak Experience Lab, her clients include Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, Wisconsin Historical Society, and The First Amendment Museum among others. She blogs at PeakExperienceLab.com.

Universal Design and Design Thinking: An End-User Approach to Accessibility in the Arts
John Orr, Executive Director, Art-Reach
8:30 am – 11:30 am, Franklin Institute (please note: this runs concurrent to the Museumsplaning workshop)

In this workshop attendees will take part in an interactive experience where they learn to apply design thinking techniques to develop solutions in accessible arts engagement. Based on actual accessible program examples, participants will be challenged to develop new perspectives on accessibility and disability, while placing the needs of the end-user first. This will be a fun, interactive – at times, probably irreverent – workshop with a goal of placing the disability rights movement mantra, ‘Nothing About Without Us’ at the forefront of arts engagement.

Modernizing an Icon: Behind the front lines at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Jessica Sharpe, Director of Visitor Operations and Membership, Philadelphia Museum of Art
10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently undergoing a major renovation designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry. This project promises to modernize the museum and further enhance the visitor experience. Join Jessica Sharpe, Director of Visitor Operations and Membership, on a tour to learn more about this redesign and how her team operates while under construction. This tour will last approximately 2 hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Interpreting Gender and Sexuality in the Museum
Margaret Middleton, Independent Exhibit Designer
12:30 – 2:30 pm, Franklin Institute

In this workshop we will discuss why gender identity and sexual orientation are relevant to museum interpretation and how to interpret them accurately and respectfully. Participants will be introduced to examples of exhibits that have successfully addressed gender and sexuality and come away with case-making strategies and resources for confidently interpreting gender and sexuality at their museums.

Impact and Scalability: Building Civic Engagement into Every Museum
Kerry Sautner, Vice President of Visitor Experience and Education National Constitution Center
3:00 – 5:00 pm, Franklin Institute

 

Rooted in the belief that museums can cultivate the next generation of active citizens, this session will ignite a conversation about programmatic strategies and interpretive techniques for promoting civic engagement. Hear how one museum designed opportunities for students to think critically about the world and their roles in it, creating positive change in their local communities beyond museum walls. Speakers from the National Constitution Center will share what happens when we approach each learner as a future participant in our democracy.