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Events- Drivers of Attendance

by Megan Wood, Historic Ford Estates on

2014 Fairy Tale Festival at Ford House in Michigan.  Captain Hook invading the grounds.

2014 Fairy Tale Festival at Ford House in Michigan. Captain Hook invading the grounds.  That’s right, pirates!

Two years ago, Nina Simon posted on Museum 2.0 about events driving attendance and it made me wonder if there was a way to re-package things I was already doing to sound more “event-y” to drive attendance.  In the winter of 2013 at the Ohio History Center (in my last position) we re-packaged and added more programs to our normal weekend schedule and called them “Cabin Fever Weekends.”  It gave something for the marketing department to talk about and we demonstrated an increase in attendance over one year before.  It turned out to be more work for the front line staff, and sometimes, they had unattended programs.  We used the same “event” based principle for the summer in Ohio Village and also saw increases in attendance.  The events were a lot of work, but we were serving more people in mission-based activities.

I just came off a big event at my new place of work where we served 2,000 people in one day and I started to wonder if events are the new drivers for attendance and how do we re-organize our resources around this concept.  Is it true?  Is it worth the time and energy?

As I love to look at data to help understand patterns and visitor behaviors, I would love to see other organizations facing the same question: do events drive a significant percentage of attendance?  are they the best use of staff time? are audiences engaging in meaningful learning experiences?

Want to chat about this topic more?  Join us on Twitter @AASLHEdInt #edintchat at 4pm EST on Tuesday, July 29th to talk about your own experiences, ask questions, and connect with other educators and interpreters.

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