The Cayuga County Office of Tourism, based in Auburn, NY, is a tourism promotion agency and visitor center that encourages individuals and companies to visit Cayuga County as a travel destination.
Even as relatively small city, Auburn and the surrounding county is dense with unique historical sites like the Seward House Museum, the Tiffany-designed Willard Memorial Chapel, and the former home of Harriet Tubman, among others.
The Cayuga County Office of Tourism brought us in to do a presentation for the cultural institutions they represent in an effort to improve engagement among millennials and other underserved audiences.
Cayuga County Office of Tourism’s audience has a quick turnover, so they were looking for engagement strategies to reliably and consistently bring new guests to their county, and to connect with younger audiences that they could build more long-term relationships with.
That’s where Museum Hack comes in!
Our senior tour guide and creative associate Zak drove out to Auburn to give a presentation on our best strategies for bringing new life to art and cultural institutions, with an emphasis on engaging and attracting millennial audiences.
Zak also emphasized tangible and practical next steps that Cayuga County’s institutions could use right away to reinterpret their space for new audiences.
How You Can Immediately Reinterpret Your Cultural Institution To Attract and Engage Millennials
It’s counterintuitive, but as a museum or cultural site trying to engage millennials, you’re not actually competing with other museums or historical sites—you’re competing with anything else millennials could be doing, like going to a bar with friends, or binge-watching a new series on Netflix.
Instead of writing off this entire demographic as a lost cause, you can (and should) make an effort to convert millennials into loyal patrons, by creating programming that speaks to their interests – breaking beyond the misguided preconceived notion of what their experience in a cultural space has to look like: a mid-size group slowly walking together on a tour from one space to the next as the docent describes the history, legacy, and importance of each piece.
However, this somewhat regimented expectation can actually work in your favor, because it gives you the opportunity to experiment with something completely different and immediately grab your visitors’ attention from the start.
You can subvert their expectations, wake them up, and give them a memorable experience that completely changes their interpretation of your institution and cultural spaces at large.
Here are a small handful of the tips and tricks we presented to the Cayuga County Office of Tourism to breathe new life into art and cultural institutions using Museum Hack’s best practices.
- Hack the space — You can change your guests’ relationship to the physical space of your institution and cultural spaces in general by bringing guests closer to objects they normally wouldn’t get close to: letting them touch things they wouldn’t normally touch; giving them something they can touch when they can’t touch the real object; presenting pieces from unusual angles; inviting guests to sit on the ground during an explanation; playing games and activities on your tour. These are just a few ideas, but by changing the way one physically interacts within your museum, you invite your visitors to “rewrite” their understanding of a typical museum tour, including their expectation of how much fun they can have.
- Hack the presentation — Try to find ways to entertain before you educate. We’re not suggesting that you change history or the subject of your presentation, we’re looking for an extra layer of engagement to its delivery. Some ideas: sharing information on tour that is exclusive for that group; giving guests tidbits they wouldn’t traditionally hear or find in that cultural space; getting groups to come in really close to you and whispering when you’re telling a “secret”; encouraging guides to add their own personal connection instead of presenting strictly by the book.
- Make it social — Audience engagement isn’t just about getting guests to engage with the art, it’s about having them engage and feel connected to the entire experience. Given that other guests constitute a large part of that experience, you can dynamically increase engagement levels by encouraging guests to regularly interact with one another. Some ideas: keep group sizes small so that everyone has a chance to mingle, give guests name-tags to break down social barriers, have guests work together on activities and games to build in inherently-social elements. Guests will be more likely to actively participate and engage on tour when they feel comfortable with the people around them.
Here’s What What Cayuga County Office Of Tourism Said About Working With Us:
“I would definitely recommend Museum Hack to any institution looking to increase their audience engagement and appeal to millennials. We’ve been looking for something like this for years! Most people at the Cayuga County Board Of Tourism and the sites we represent are older, and so we didn’t know how to directly engage and communicate with millennials. When a board member mentioned Museum Hack to me, I knew it was something we needed, and I’m so glad we did it! We now have lots of fun and quirky ideas/strategies to engage new audiences. Thanks again for such an informative and fun presentation. It surpassed my expectations. I’m a big fan of Museum Hack!” – Meg Vanek, Executive Director at The Cayuga County Office Of Tourism