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Storytelling Interpretation What media is best for your project?

When you're planning an interpretation project you will consider the people involved, your story, the experience for the visitor and the storytelling interpretation media. This guide sets out the 'pros and cons' of the different media methods that can be used to enhance the visitors experience at your site. Media can range from guides and guided tours to information panels, mobile applications, leaflets/brochures and more.

Guides and Guided Tours

A guide who knows and loves your product, and the visitors/tourists is likely to be a great storyteller. Face-to-face communication is great for storytelling interpretation.

Pros

  • The guide structures a visit to deliver the story in sequence using a range of techniques e.g. change in pace of voice, tone, use of suspense and repetition.
  • The story can be adapted on the spot to suit the different visitors/audience.
  • It can be interactive and involves visitors in discussion.
  • Easy to get feedback from visitors and to change the tour in light of their comments.

Cons

  • A tour can feel constraining for visitors who prefer to explore in their own way at their own pace.
  • It can be difficult to provide tours in different languages.
  • Tours only work well for a limited number of people.
  • Maintaining constancy and quality can be difficult.

Information panels

Good for storytelling interpretation.

Pros

  • Panels can show images as well as words.
  • They are always available, which is often important at an unstaffed site.

Cons

  • Panels are limited in how much information they can carry.
  • It is hard to include more than one or two languages.
  • They are difficult and expensive to change.
  • Panels are usually only read by more motivated visitors who like reading.
  • Badly designed or positioned panels can be visually intrusive and clutter a site.
Pakihi track Motu trails. Copyright Department of Conservation/Te Papa Atawhai.

Mobile Applications (APPS)

Downloading material to mobile phones is good for storytelling interpretation.

Pros

  • Audio trails can use different voices and sound effects to add variety and create an atmosphere.
  • The interpretation can be relatively easily provided in different languages.
  • The storytelling can be closely linked to the on-site experience e.g. triggered by GPS.
  • Apps can be used when the visitor chooses, including pre and post visit.
  • Apps can be interactive and include games, quizzes and challenges.
  • They are visually unobtrusive on the ground.

Cons

  • Apps and audio trails for mobile phones need to be well promoted otherwise visitors may not notice them.
  • Apps can be heavy on data transfer and so can be expensive for overseas visitors. You need to provide free Wi-fi.
  • Mobile phones are not good for reading written texts - especially long ones.
  • Not all visitors own a smartphone or want to use them in this way on a day out.

Leaflets and brochures

Good for storytelling interpretation.

Pros

  • Can be attractive and attention-grabbing.
  • Contain certain words, images and maps.
  • A clear structure with a beginning, middle and ending.
  • Be read before, during and after a visit.
  • Available in different languages.
  • Easily portable.
  • Link well to site features and encourage exploration.
  • Give people useful information to take away, like contact details, events, programme, special offers etc.

Cons

  • Should not be crammed with text as limited in amount of information they can contain.
  • Need skilled design and high-quality illustration to be effective.
  • Storing large numbers of leaflets can be a problem for small businesses.
  • It is hard to include more than one or two languages on a single leaflet.

Don't forget

Remember to factor in the maintenance and running costs of your chosen medium.

Oneroa walkway, Gisborne. Photo: Sandra Groves.

Reference: Ireland's Ancient East: A toolkit for storytelling interpretation. Retrieved from http://www.failteireland.ie/Utility/News-Library/New-Story-telling-toolkit-for-operators-in-Ireland.aspx

© First Chapter, 21 Seddon Crescent, Gisborne, New Zealand (April 2019)

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