“See research as the start of something”

Takeaways from the Museum Association’s MP seminar on Getting to Know You: Using Visitor Data Intelligently at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 20 September 2017.

Yesterday I spoke at this one-day conference which aimed to explore the different ways data can be used, from diversifying audiences and supporting fundraising to planning exhibitions and events.

My  topic was ‘Demystifying non-user consultation’, talking about how museums can undertake their own research with people and organisations who aren’t currently engaging with them or their services. My aim was to share practical tips and methods that cost very little and could be carried out by museum staff or volunteers. You can find links to links that I referred to in my presentation here.

Here are a few takeaways from some of the other presentations of the day, linked to Twitter accounts:

Sarah-Jane Harknett, visitor engagement project coordinator, University of Cambridge Museums who chaired the day:

  • “Ask better questions, not more questions.”

Genevieve Adkins, assistant director of public programmes, National Army Museum:

  • It is important to be realistic – the National Army Museum were aiming for a small shift in the percentage of some of their target audience groups after re-opening.
  • “Simplify your communications, not your story.”
  • I loved hearing that old and new audiences are having a debate on Facebook about the re-opened museum, and opinions are shifting as a result.

Andrew McIntyre, co-founder, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre:

  • Make sure you and everyone at your museum can answer “What is your cause?” – what is the purpose of the museum?
  • “Anything definable is measureable” – create meaningful measures and turn them into KPIs.
  • Consider measuring if people got what they came for, rather than if they are satisfied with their visit.

Susie Ironside, visitor studies curator, Glasgow Museums:

  • “See research as the start of something.”

Elaine Macintyre, digital media content manager, National Museums Scotland:

  • “Play to your strengths.”

Laura Crossley, museums and cultural consultant:

  • Funders are looking for a compelling narrative – tell a clear story, use quotes and case studies to highlight this.
  • Be flexible – listen to your consultees and be prepared to change your plans if necessary.
  • “Create an evaluative culture at your museum” – this helps museums maintain relevancy and become more resilient.

Some tools that speakers recommended that I’m now going to explore are:

  • focusgroupit.com – free software to run online focus groups, recommended by Laura Crossley
  • qualaroo.com – website surveys (there’s a cost, but a free trail available)
  • polldaddy.com – free for surveys, quizzes and polls
  • iconosquare.com – for Instagram analytics (there’s a cost, but a free trail available). The latter three all recommended by Elaine Macintyre.

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