Exhibits: What Makes Them Successful?
The idea of putting on a successful exhibit may seem daunting, but creating a fun and popular booth is a lot easier than you think! Below are some suggestions on how to get your group ready to brainstorm and create a successful and well visited exhibit.
What draws in a crowd?
The best exhibits immediately engage visitors with playful, open-ended discovery. The content fascinates people by helping them see themselves and the world in new ways, be it through the experience of unfamiliar things or a new perspective on the familiar. They then provide the opportunity for unscripted human interaction that creates a personal connection between the visitor and the people that are dedicated to the exhibit’s topic.
What keeps them there and engaged?
Generally there are two key factors that will keep your visitors actively participating. While these aren’t strict guidelines, we have found that the most well liked booths have these elements.
1. Hands-on activity:
An easy yet demonstrative task that teaches people of all ages about a specific topic and allows them to be the scientists.
• A large crowd turn out is expected. Therefore, it’s best to have an efficient activity that can handle about 3-5 participants (if not more) at a time.
• The activity should last no more than 5 minutes to keep traffic flow at a peak and ensure that a steady stream of visitors can move in and out throughout the day.
• Easily acquired, cost effective and plentiful materials will make sure that you have enough supplies to last the day.
• The level of content should appeal to both youth and adults. Remember, parents like to have fun too and are often left out of activities because exhibitors focus solely on younger participants. Consider offering your presenters suggestions on how to engage all age levels.
2. Face to face interaction:
This is the public’s chance to meet and interact with real science professionals. Smiling volunteers with high energy and enthusiasm can be even more effective than any activity.
• A staff of 4-6 people at minimum makes your scientists and volunteers more accessible to visitors.
• Encourage volunteers to engage in conversation with visitors—asking questions that require visitors to think about or observe something. Let their responses and curiosity drive your interaction.
What does your audience want?
Remember that one of the primary goals in a science festival is to make science relevant to everyone. When creating your exhibit you will want to step into the minds of your visitors and answer two questions:
1. “Why do I care?”
This is your opportunity to show people that science is important and it affects us all. Let your audience walk away knowing more about a topic and how it impacts them.
Tip: Select activities that relate to everyday life or familiar concepts. Use examples that a wide range of people will understand.
2. “How can I learn more?”
Great events don’t just excite people for a short duration. They inspire people to explore more on their own. Providing information about ways to continue their experience allows them to keep learning.
Tip: Be prepared to get lots of thoughtful questions from visitors—some that your volunteers may not know the answer to! Prepare volunteers to provide alternative resources—like a website or reference—to help them better serve visitors.
What is possible?
While we want our exhibitors to reach for the stars, the logistics behind creating such a large scale event do have limitations. Discovery Days take months to plan and we are often bound by city laws and ordinances. We will have very detailed guidelines on what is and is not possible. If you have any questions, our festival staff is on hand to assist in any way we can. We will also strive to make your activities a reality but it is helpful for exhibitors to understand the magnitude of the coordinated planning involved and, occasionally, some things will not be feasible.
Most importantly, this is your chance to take risks and try something new. Discovery Days are bound by a single day so the possibilities of doing something inventive are truly endless. Science is fascinating and fun and this is your chance to let your work and your group shine!
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