NextGen PEM

Group of NextGen

Photo by Walter Silver/PEM

There is a fundamental question that almost every business must ask itself with each changing of the generational guard. A question that is, on the surface, so simple that it is often ignored. It doesn’t matter if you’re a theme park, video game developer or even a museum — this is a question you must consider strategically to ensure the continued success of your operation:

“How do we engage with a new audience without alienating our current audience?”

Asking the right question is only half the battle though. At PEM, we have decided to search for answers through conversation.

In October 2012 we began the NextGen Conversation series with the goal of identifying strategies to create experiences that encourage increased visitation and engagement. This may sound complicated, but answers, we find, emerge from food, drinks and brainstorming with a group of 18 to 25 year olds.

In just three short sessions we’ve learned a lot about why museums have historically struggled to engage with this group and how we can do better in the future. Most of the ideas and comments we’ve heard can be boiled down into three categories: immersion, interaction and community.

For example, our groups expressed a desire for additional contextual information about the artist, process or the socio-political climate at the time the work was created. However, they don’t want the information forced upon them. They prefer an active museum visit with a system that allows them to curate a personalized experience with the information they find most interesting. They also want to be able to share their experience during, and after, their visit with their friends via social media.

While we’re not sure what that system could look like, any changes made will be consistent with our mission and inclusive of our current audience. As a 24-year-old member of the PEM team, I’m confident that we can succeed in this venture. The leadership here is committed to engaging with me and my peers and have been cognisant of the challenge from the start. Sometimes all it takes is awareness of the problem to help guide decision making.

Please share about a museum visit that felt more personal, with a different way of engaging with art or tell us what you’d like to see. Meanwhile those in the 18-25 age range with an interest in being part of a focus group, we welcome to fill out our online form and we’ll be in touch as we plan additional sessions.

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