There are many advantages to using audio guides in museums and tourism. For one, audio guides can provide more context for visitors about the exhibits they are viewing. They can also offer anecdotes and stories about the items on display, which can make the visit more engaging and interesting.
The potential of audio is vast. The trend of audio consumption is only increasing, with more and more people getting into podcasts. In 2022, the majority of the populationis used to consuming podcasts. This is good news for anyone looking to leverage audio in a touristic destination.
What do podcasts and audio guides have in common? Both podcasts and audio guides are designed to be consumed by audiences, who appreciate well-produced audio content. The narration, when done well, can create a magical experience. However, robotic voices are not suitable for an audio guide, as they can be off-putting to listeners. So here are some tips for successful audio guides.
Ask the right questions
When creating audio guides, it is important to consider what information will be most useful to visitors. Almost 40% of visitors say they want contextual information about the artworks to better understand their significance. Determining what to include in an audio guide can be challenging, but asking yourself the question Why should I care about this work? can help you decide whether or not to include certain information.
Keep audio guides short
Make sure each step of your audio guide focuses on one piece of information- visitors can be exhausted by too much information about a work of art. Choose the most compelling story and make all the information meaningful. The ideal length of an audio recording may vary, but we recommend 1-2 minutes per stage or work of art. Even if time flies, this ensures that you don’t exhaust your visitors with a complicated story. Visitors tend to lose attention when stops seem too long.
Teach your visitors to look, not impose a thought
An audio guide that helps visitors understand the work without telling them what to see would be better. It is recommended that the audio guide give visitors lines of thought rather than interpretations. This will allow visitors to explore the work themselves and come to their own conclusions. When providing interpretations, it is important to use conditional words to suggest that there are many possible ways of seeing a work. Offering multiple interpretations also demonstrates that thinking about art can evolve.
Asking questions is also a good approach to encourage visitors to think for themselves. Think carefully about the questions you ask. Open-ended and subjective questions are recommended to encourage visitors to think critically about the works. A visitor will start to see a place or a work differently after thinking about the questions asked in an audio guide.
Get into the details
Visitors also like to discover details of the artworks that they would probably have missed on their own. For example, if you describe Van Gogh’s The Story of the Church at Auvers sur Oise, you can say that there are many elements that alter reality to give us a dreamlike representation of the place. The church has a shadow, the woman depicted has none. It would not be very convincing to simply tell a visitor that Van Gogh has played with light in this painting! This is the power of the audio guide: to help us see more than a passive view of the place or the environment.
Use clear and accessible language in your audio guide
As important as it is to communicate with your visitors in a simple way, you also need to be respectful of their fatigue levels. Remember that many people visit museums or tourist sites as a break from their normal routines, and they may be feeling exhausted even if they’re enjoying themselves. Excessive use of complex language can quickly lead to burnout, so it’s important to be clear and concise. By writing in a way that’s easy to understand, you can ensure that your audience will follow your audio guide without getting overwhelmed.
The tone of the audio guide should be conversational and intimate in order to connect with the visitor. This will also make it like a podcast which many visitors may be familiar with.
Accessibility is key – make audio guides multilingual!
Accessibility is a key issue when it comes to audio guides. Audioguides can reach visitors where the written word is not appropriate, breaking down the barriers that typically exclude visitors from marginalised backgrounds. This includes providing translations with multilingual audio guides, descriptions for the visually impaired, or even subtitled videos for the hearing impaired.
Tugging at our heartstrings
There is something special about hearing real people describe their experiences and reactions to works in our collections. Audio can be an intimate experience that can offer a perspective and emotion that is not apparent in text. It is a way of telling stories that touch us.
Promoting audio guides
Make sure to include clear and concise instructions on how to find and access your audio guide content. For example, include the specific room or area number where the audio guide can be found, as well as the filename of the audio guide track. In addition, make sure to promote your audio guide prominently on your website and social media channels.
Place audio guide advertisements in visible areas, such as near the entrance or information desk. Include a mention of the audio guide in your museum map or brochure. Make a short promotional video about the audio guide and post it on your website and social media platforms.
– Easy access
Deploying QR codes can help visitors more easily access your audio guide content. By scanning the code with their smartphone camera, visitors will be directed to your audio content, eliminating the extra step of typing a URL or searching the app store.
It is also important to communicate about pricing. Your guides should not be too expensive and easily accessible, so make sure you communicate this information to your visitors.
– Give a personal touch
Many visitors don’t use audio guides simply because they don’t think about it! Involving your staff in creating meaningful experiences is an important step. And when it comes to audio guides, a personal invitation can make visitors feel welcome and comfortable using your guide is a plus.
What creative approaches have you found to create and promote your audio guides? We’d love to hear more about what you’ve found effective and successful.