Interactive exhibits convey and retain information by engaging users through a variety of media and on multiple sensory levels. The glue that keeps users glued to them is the sheer joy of interaction. Exhibits that invite and encourage the active participation of their viewers turn knowledge transfer into a real experience. This is what makes exhibitions and showrooms with interactive media stations so successful.
Copying explicitly encouraged! Read here on our 8 tips how to make your concept a success.
Interactive Exhibit – Definition
While traditional exhibitions simply display the objects in their collection, an interactive exhibit facilitates active engagement with the objects on display. Typically, an interactive exhibit is designed and built specifically for the purpose of experiential knowledge transfer. It often uses digital technologies to explain the object itself or its wider context.
Through their multi-sensory approach to knowledge transfer (touch elements combined with audio-visual output), interactive exhibits help their viewers to ‘grasp things by grasping things’. A basic rule applies to interactive exhibits: the more senses that are addressed and the more intense the possible engagement with the object, the more memorable and lasting the experience.
What Makes an Interactive Exhibit a Success?
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the “MS Wissenschaft” initiative has developed a guideline for the design of scientific exhibits, to which we have added our own practical experience and summarised it in a neat list.
An 8-step concept – What are the ingredients of a successful interactive exhibit?
- Attention: Is the exhibit designed to be intriguing and inviting, in other words, does its design encourage visitors to engage with it? However, don’t overestimate people’s attention span – in most cases you only have a few minutes to get your message across.
- Inclusion: An interactive exhibit ideally is accessible to all visitors – regardless of their age, education, cultural background, or possible impairments. At best, it should be self-explanatory. Remember that most visitors come to your site with no prior knowledge of the subject, so you need to engage them from the start. This starts with using simple language.
Tip: Change of Perspective
If your installation is aimed at a wider audience, you should gather feedback from a variety of people who are not familiar with the subject (children, friends, etc.) during the design phase. This will give you a much better understanding of the typical amateur’s requirements in terms of what he or she actually wants to learn and know about the subject.
- Interactivity: Visitors engage with the subject matter of an exhibit much more deeply when they are encouraged to explore and make their own experiences. Active engagement with the exhibit supports long-term memory of the experience itself.
Tip: Reward Through Immediate Feedback
Exhibits that provide immediate feedback on the user’s actions are particularly popular. This feedback can take the form of simple messages, visual or auditory effects, or the display of a result. Everyone has a play instinct and likes to try things out.
- Shared experience: Especially desirable are exhibits that can be used by several people at the same time and that facilitate interaction between them. Not only does this minimise queues, but it also enhances the learning experience.
- Multimedia: Engaging multiple senses at once with a multimedia mix increases people’s interest in the exhibit. This mix can include, for example, audio (hearing), text/images/video (sight), tangible objects and interactive components (touch), and other sensory elements. When skilfully coordinated and harmonised, the involvement of as many senses as possible in the experience enables a complete immersion in another place, time or domain.
- Intuitive: Ideally, it should take the visitor only a few seconds to understand how to control the exhibit. If the exhibit’s navigation is not clear or its operation is not self-explanatory, users are likely to turn away.
- Clarity: Less is more! What exactly do you want to communicate to visitors to your exhibition? Ideally, the content of your exhibition should focus on a single theme. What’s more, the attention span of your visitors is limited, so it’s important that they can get a meaningful result from their interaction with the exhibit in just a few minutes. The idea of “not getting it all done in time” can be overwhelming and frustrating. If you still want to provide more background information, you can do so by making it available at a deeper level of information as an option.
Tip: Minimize the use of written information
Instead, use multimedia content or at least images in your presentation.
- Practicality: Interactive exhibits need to be robust and easy to clean. In addition, their central control (e.g. on/off function), easy updating of content (content management) as well as software updates (remote maintenance) are integral to their suitability for everyday use. A reasonable amount of human “user support” should also be available at each station.