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.
First Key Factor: 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. (Approximately 300 to 500 people are expected for each booth.)
- 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. To help you estimate how many materials you need, here is an estimate:
- 5 minutes/activity for 5 people at a time with 12 opportunities/hour = 60 supplies/hour. The festival will have 6 hours, so if your booth has those characteristics, you would need supplies for 360.
- 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.
- Watch this video on how not to interact with visitors: https://vimeo.com/32933894
- Watch this video on good ideas on how to interact with visitors: https://vimeo.com/32933974
- Watch this video from Philadelphia Science Festival about how to build a booth for the science festival: https://youtu.be/5gEL1LRWdZE
- Some booths that have been successful in the past are:
- “What type of boat can hold the most objects?” (Build a tinfoil boat, put it in water, and add pennies to see how many it can hold.)
- Is blood made a liquid or a solid? (Show how blood is a solid and a liquid)
- How does solar energy work? (Have small solar car races, make things work using solar energy)
- How do engines work? (see-through model of an engine can be bought for about $90)
- The Science of Sports (many different booth ideas are available – consult the Programming Committee)
- Links to other science festivals:
Second Key Factor: Face to face interaction:
- This is the public’s chance to meet and interact with your business/agency and 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:
- “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.
- “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.
Science is fascinating and fun and this is your chance to let your work and your group shine!