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How Mobile Supports Missouri Botanical Garden’s Visitor Engagement Strategy

guidewebinar7232020


July 23, 2020

While cultural venues around the country are facing reopening challenges, strict regulations, and the general anxiety of the public, the real question is: what’s it going to take for visitors to engage with your venue—onsite or virtually?

At Guide by Cell, we know there are ways to successfully navigate this new terrain. At our next webinar, join our host, Mobile Solutions Consultant Patty Ruland, with Morgan Maul-Smith, Missouri Botanical Garden’s Supervisor of Digital Engagement and Jennifer Wolff, Manager of Interpretation, as they discuss mobile technology, GPS mapping, and the virtual engagement strategy you need for today’s unique visitor experience. 



Full Transcript

Patty Ruland:  Welcome, everybody. Thanks for joining us for our session today. My name is Patty Ruland. I am with Guide by Cell. I'm joined here today by Morgan Maul-Smith from the Missouri Botanical Garden and we're going to talk a little bit about what they've done in the past, what they're doing currently, and what they see for the future. Let's go ahead and go to the next slide. So a little bit about Guide by Cell: we are a mobile technology company. We are cloud based. That means no apps, no downloading, no hassles. We've been doing this for about 14 years and I'm going to share a quick story in a second. We work in various countries around the world and at any given time we have between 4,000 and 5,000 clients. I'm going to share this story I started to tell Morgan earlier. If anybody in the call knows our CEO, Dave Asheim, he’s the founder of the organization. He shared a story with me when he was growing up. I should thank Morgan and her venue for basically inspiring my boss to get into this business. He had shared as a small child, he lived in Illinois, and you're either a Chicago fan or you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan. They happened to be Cardinals fans. So during the summer, they would take a couple of days and make a three hour drive to St. Louis, catch a couple of ball games and go to the zoo and go to the gardens. He said it was one of his I think formative experiences walking into the Climatron and just being amazed at all this stuff the little boy from rural Illinois hadn't seen before. And that really, I mean, I hate to use this tacky term, but that kind of planted the seed for his experience and later, obviously, founding this organization that deals with all types of cultural venues. So thanks, Morgan, because of you and the garden, I have a job. But anyway, so let's go to the next slide. Morgan, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, your experience, what you've done with the garden, so forth, and then we'll kind of jump into how you started using the technology.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Sure. Um, so I, my current title at the garden, and as many of you know, museums are changing those constantly, is that I am the Supervisor of Digital Engagement and exhibitions. So I started a lot of programming materials where I was creating, built exhibits, whether that was construction and that kind of thing. And then I actually have a background, before I started at the garden, in theater and performance work, and editing and those kind of things. So I brought that to the table. My boss, Jennifer Wolf, had already worked with Guide by Cell on some of their early audio tours. So we were looking for platforms to make our garden digital that we also, from an educational standpoint, had more feedback and data driven information. And that was the big thing for us as we wanted that data piece. Because in education today and in museums today, you're always getting that feedback of like, well what's your output? What are you getting from doing these projects? And so Guide by Cell was kind of something we’re starting on with that. We started using Guide by Cell probably about last year in a really, versus the audio, sorry Guide by Cell versus Engage by Cell. We started using the Engage by Cell, really using it about a year ago to try to do more specified things, including using the mapping feature, which we piloted trying during our last Garden Glow event. It's been an interesting way for us to capture, and especially during this particular time period, we have been able to look at all of the content and stuff that we offer as frontline staff on the interpretation team and go, well, we can't talk to people. So how do we get that same interactive component if we're not.

Patty Ruland: It looks like, I apologize, Morgan seems to be frozen there, of course technology at its finest. Hopefully her audio will kick back in in a second. But as she had indicated, Missouri Botanical Garden has been a longtime client of ours. They started with your basic audio guide, where somebody would dial in and just listen to pre recorded messages. And then a couple of years ago, they moved more into our mobile platform, which was more engaging, and they were able to get analytical data out of it. And then more recently, with our GPS map feature. It looks like Morgan is back live again. 

Morgan Maul-Smith: So sorry about that. It's weird when I freeze because I don't freeze, everything else just kind of stops. I'm so sorry about that. We do have a thunderstorm rolling in. So that pretty much covers my background and the Guide by Cell use that we have going right now. And we're exponentially expanding and trying to figure out how to use it and make these materials evergreen, so even when we do return that they can be used in a capacity on grounds.

Patty Ruland:  Let's go ahead and move to the next slide. I would love for you to all see what they've created. So if anybody has a cell phone with them, go ahead and text in to access this information. If you're in the US, you're going to create a new text message and the number you're going to send it to is 56512. And then the message portion you're going to type in demo space, MYGUIDE. So DEMO space MYGUIDE. If you're one of our friendly folks from the north, in Canada, the number you're going to send it to is 393939 and you're going to type in the words ENGAGE space MYGUIDE. So if you do that you should be able to see on your phone, I'm going to switch it over to my computer screen and kind of talk a little bit about some of the things we've been doing with them. So if you want to go ahead and advance to the next slide, and let me get my screen showing here. So this is actually the back end of our platform. This is where Morgan makes all the magic happen. Um, what I wanted to talk about and let me pop this up and I'll make it actually a little bit bigger so people can see individually what you've done. Why don't you talk about the activities and so forth that people had access to while you guys have been closed.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  So we actually shut down. We were closed, starting on probably about the week of March 16. We shut down the garden to the public and then all went home. And during that time, we were trying to figure out ways that people could continue engaging with nature since they weren't on our spaces. And so we thought about using the platform  iNaturalist, which is a reporting platform for nature, materials, plants, animals, that kind of idea piece, but we wanted to find a way to get people also engaging with us. So we created our nature scavenger hunt, and really was aimed at families, but it's just this very basic thing like go in your yard, find something prickly, find something fun, and we use the super quiz feature then to get that feedback from people as they reported things and then they can also add, we told them a little bit about something in that family, and then we can upload their photo of their own stuff. And then we have a gallery. We didn't get terribly many photos. But we do know that people were engaging with it a lot of the time like to fill out the quizzes and use it as a tool.

Patty Ruland:  Absolutely. And it's a great way because, you weren't able to still connect with people, even though you couldn't be physically with them, or they couldn't be physically with you. What was kind of a response to that?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Their response was pretty good. So we actually had some other apps that were put out there that people could use from the garden as a whole. We really use Guide by Cells an education department right now. That and the nice part of this is that we could get the feedback and anyone who used it was desperately looking for things for their kids and families to do and it was just free. We just advertised it through our platform, and then people and gave people the access to it that way. Since we could also send out the website, you could do it in a different capacity.

Patty Ruland:  You also have the I Spy Nature ABC plants. 

Morgan Maul-Smith:  These are brand new. So we wanted to,  we have a literacy program called Tails and Trails and we've actually created a YouTube series that links with that. That's live nature books. But that this became a part of, well, how do we encourage literacy? And we said, okay, we'll do a plants one. And this one's just starting to roll out. So it's something that we can share with school programs as they open up in the fall for classes because we still won't be doing field trips. It's something that we can share publicly with families who are looking for something to do, and it gets them thinking about plants and they can share that and again, it's something that's free. It's a virtual tool that we're just putting out.

Patty Ruland: In the chat window someone asked if you charge for this app, or it was something free that you offer to them? So what you also do, which I think is great is you do a visitor feedback survey. This is such a great thing to do when you bet when everything's back to normal, capturing all the types of information that you know, nobody's going to sit there and pick up a piece of paper and fill all this out. But obviously, they could do it in their own time. It's simple. It's easy. It's straightforward. So that's great. I know everybody's excited about our mapping feature. So let me click on the Garden Glow. Why don't you explain a little bit about what you guys were doing? What the program was? I know this ran last November but you have a hopefully coming up towards the end of this year again, also.

Morgan Maul-Smith: Yeah, fingers crossed. So that one of the big things is here is you're seeing our glow map. This is a map of our on ground space. But the quiz features and those kind of things, they're actually I can access this from my home at any time and look at it. So it's available to anyone outside.

Patty Ruland: So again, I apologize. Morgan is having some technical difficulties today.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Am I back? All right. So um, this is kind of our general map of the garden grounds. But for Glow, we had a special event. So we did an overlay with our wonderful communications department who created a map that would have been the print variety. We overlaid it and then we made it. We made it interactive. So each of those points as you hover over it gives you what that stop is. It makes it really easy and also Glow was an event that was hosted at night. And that means that it was basically  accessible more than a regular paper map because if you're outside in the dark, you can't see anything. 

Patty Ruland:  Exactly, so it became more practical too. And looks like we're having some technical difficulties again so they just highlighted certain things. Now if you are actually in the location of the garden, you are a little blue dot that goes around so you can see exactly where you are in proximity to the things. I think great things that they also did was they highlighted different places to take a photo. You know, I'm sure a lot of these probably look great on people's Christmas cards last year and so forth with all the lights. So they highlighted different areas. They also highlighted the restrooms, a couple of other things going on. They were doing the smores there so they were able to show people and they could just kind of wayfind themselves through the property. So I know that was very successful for them. It looks like we’ve lost Morgan. Are you back?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  I'm here. I've just turned off my camera because I think it's having issues in the stream. So I'll just, I'm here verbally.

Patty Ruland: Perfect. So what was the feedback at Garden Glow?

Morgan Maul-Smith: The feedback and Garden Glow and honestly, this map was a test map for us. It was mostly from staff rather than our overall garden population coming in. But it was really successful. People really liked it, they thought it was really pretty to look at and the GPS feature is really nice. If you have a big area of grounds, it's hard to be like, oh, where am I on this map?

Patty Ruland: I know from my own use with maps, sometimes I’ll see a dot that says “you are here” and I see where I am but I'm not really sure that's where I am. So having something that follows me around is definitely something that's helpful for the directionally challenged folks. You guys also did another event called Tiki in the Tropics that took place in the Climatron, I believe. And you did these cute little cocktail-type drink, pinpoints or icons. And each one was a scavenger hunt question. So here's an example. This one says, Look up, and they logged out and they see this and there's a question and then there's clues. You also included different types of engagements. And then they could just return to the map. So I know that's something. I think we're gonna have you joined again?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Yeah, I'm still here.

Patty Ruland:  Oh, so I've been trying to give you a quick explanation.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  So the Climatron is a large geodesic dome that houses a lot of our tropical collections. And Tiki in the Tropics was an event in January, when it was quite cold outside. So we encouraged our guests to come in and have a nice event. We have a children's space off of it that was used for the main event host. And then this was a way that they could go engage with the tropical plants and species, and then they were able to submit that and since we get the data feedback on the other end, we were able to choose a winner for a drawing from them completing the scavenger hunt and doing all the work,

Patty Ruland:  Right, you actually did something unique. You did like a raffle prize or a door prize and we're able to pull the entries right from the site. And useful in getting around making sure that when you go to the type of event, you don't want to miss anything. And I think the great thing about it with this and also with glow is I see everything right there. You know, I see, okay, I'm going over this way I can hit a, b and c, and then maybe I have to run to the restroom. So I'll go do what's over there. So I feel like I'm not missing anything, because it's all laid out in front of me that way. And interactive. Is that kind of the feedback that you have gotten?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Yeah, it really was the feedback that we got. And we did this in partnership with our event colleagues. And so it made their polling from the other end really more engaging. And it also made some, it added an educational element to something that was a social event, which is as an interpretive team, as an educational team, and as an educational institution. That's always our goal. We want that extra piece. That's not just “oh yeah, I had a drink and I stood in the rainforest.”

Patty Ruland: Although right now having a drink and standing in the rainforest wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Morgan Maul-Smith: Not at all.

Patty Ruland: So we have some questions coming in. But let's, so we talked about how you started with the basic audio guide, you went to the more mobile engaging solution, incorporated all the mapping features, or wayfinding, and special events and so forth. What do you think's next? Where do you see you guys going once you get, you know, fully reopened, and what's kind of on the horizon for you guys?

Morgan Maul-Smith: We are really looking at how we can have at the beginning, but one of the things that we're looking at is that we're looking at doing a lot of virtual tours, for school groups and things like that. So we can create quizzes, we can create interactive elements of those tours in a closed tour. So we can set the website and then those kids can participate directly. Or we can also do a yard scavenger hunt where it's like, go outside, look at what's in your yard, show us something that is plant related and make them feel like they're actually doing something, because it's very hard to just sit and look at screens. And that's, that's one big part of it. The other thing that we're looking at is we actually have a partner site that's part of Missouri Botanical Garden is the garden but we also have Shawn Nature Reserve. And they are a giant outdoor reserve. There's a lot of space. There's not a lot of rooms for that. So I'm working with my colleague over there and training her so that she can create maps for Shaw and really create that accessibility at Shaw. And in a big major space like that, you don't want a bunch of signs. You don't want a bunch of exhibits. It's a way to engage the educational components, help people not feel lost, but also give them something more. The maps, I'm seeing a lot of questions about the maps.

Patty Ruland: I was gonna start throwing some at you. Can you talk a little bit about, and this comes from Kelly, a little bit about this cell engagement strategy that integrates into your other marketing efforts. How do you get people to engage with things that you've created?

Morgan Maul-Smith: So right now in the time of COVID, our Facebook site has been very popular and so it links to that. Oftentimes, we'll push it out through Facebook feed or a Facebook post. Our virtual Tower Growth House, which is on here, we haven't explored yet, has gotten a lot of success that way. The website component of it allows us to link it in other things. So one thing that I've done is that we actually created, we're creating a YouTube series called Dig In, which is deep plant explorations. And on that series, I'm able to link take-home objects like a nature journal or backgrounds things that then link to a page that lives in Guide by Cell. And then from there it says,” oh, take our nature quiz or do ABC plants” and all those kind of things. So it's finding those different routes to getting them to the landing page and not thinking of it as just a texting device piece. That's, that's a huge element for us from the advertising end is figuring out that piece.

Patty Ruland:  And someone has, I'm just gonna answer this general question. So basically, you provide us with a map and we overlay it, and then you can select what your points are. There's different icons. You’ll notice there was little glows. They had a little cocktail or the pineapples. I have seen them done with all different types of icons. And I have to say Morgan was a pro at this. She kind of took the ball and ran with it. We did the first overlay one of the Glow. Then she did Climatron one herself. But overall what I mean, and of course, everything is a new process. And I should say with all of our services we do include training and support and so forth. But like I said, you kind of just jumped in there and kind of was on. I mean, kind of talk a little bit about some of the challenges and obstacles. I know you guys have the same problem, maybe a lot of people do? As I showed in this example, your map is nice and perfectly rectangular, but that isn't actually the layout of your venue. It’s diagonal. So I know there's a few challenges there. But, um, you know, what was the process like?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  So the process for us was really, for me, was very much that the first map I had was not actually made in ESRI although we do use ESRI at the garden a lot for our living collection mapping. So I certainly don't want to put that out of there. Ours was made by our amazing communications department. And it's just a physical overlay of the garden that we would use in our print formats. They also shared their icons with me so that anything that was in our print material would match our digital material. And we weren't having these style guide issues. And then you're able to put it in and you just kind of orient your size based on the GPS mapping, and put your overlay and in that way, and it can be time consuming, but once you have done it a couple of times, it makes it very easy to do again. So once you have your standard base map for something you can do that. The Climatron map, for us, we have that's an overlay of our Climatron map and I kind of just go into Google and check my corner points, and then drop that in as a picture. So we're really using more of a PNG or a JPEG versus an ESRI connection. Although for us we use ERSI for our full living collections and it's amazing in that regard. And then your hand, the same way you're doing your points is you manage each point by going through and kind of clicking on I basically go to Google Maps and be like, what is my, what is my longitude and latitude of this object? And then there's a slight, there's a way that you can also slightly adjust to the right or to the left if it’s not perfectly lining up with your image. And it gives you a lot of capabilities in that.

Patty Ruland:  And this is something really interesting. I don't know if people notice it or not, but you clearly have the map, there's direction, you know, they know they're going in one specific loop or however it is. Going forward with, you know, soft openings and limited openings and so forth, having a wayfinding method like this really helps with social distancing and making sure you don't get, you know, bunches of people, some going this way, some going that way and creating an actual path to keep social distancing going and when you agree.

Morgan Maul-Smith: To a certain extent, yeah. I mean, we also have a map currently produced for folks who are coming on grounds right now, that shows some of our one-way path works as we're open, but in a very limited way. So that definitely helps. Glow is always conducted in a one way line, because it's so many people. So that definitely helps as well. But that doesn't mean people always follow it. It does help in a general sense. The big thing on property, and that was actually one of the big challenges because we actually liked ESRI quite a bit. They have some beautiful mapping features as well, but we didn't get any feedback from them and we actually would run out of WiFi as well. I found that because of how this is hosted, we actually have much better success with Guide by Cell on our grounds than we did with ArcGIS mostly because it doesn't take as much bandwidth.

Patty Ruland:  It’s just a web link. It’s not completely sucking out whatever WiFi you have, and so forth.

Morgan Maul-Smith: So it does help a little bit that it runs more on like a 4G or 5G system, and you're not limited by your routers, which is very useful. And we're looking forward to exploring that more. I look forward to hearing the feedback from our colleagues at Shaw as they finish building their map, because that is a much more out in nowhere space.

Patty Ruland: And someone else had asked us, actually part of the question was answered, but they had said, is this is this something that could be there all the time, with questions for a scavenger hunt, changing month to month or every season? And yeah, I mean, you guys have created individual maps for specific types of events. But we have many clients that have you know, one map and then they change out the questions as far as this scavenger hunt or they highlight different things or they have, you know, one path if you have an hour to spend and then another path if you have, say two or three hours to spend. So yeah, you can, you know, use the same map and add on to it and change it at any time. Or you can create additional mass for specific events like they've done.

Morgan Maul-Smith: And then one thing I see in here that I actually do want to touch on, because I am actually trained in audio description is the question on sight impairment. You can add audio clips to anything basically. A lot of the audio elements can be there for the sight impaired, which is something that I think is really important, and that can be added to a stop at any time. It allows for audio description of photos or things like that, which is a great thing to be adding on. We were actually adding that to our exhibit that we have postponed that was going up this summer that each site was going to have an artist description that would have been an audio element, as well.

Patty Ruland:  Yeah, that's one of the great things about our platform is we are able to help with certain accessibility needs. You know, you can change the size of the font on any written words, for visually impaired or hearing impaired. You can also include transcripts to audio files, as well as audio files and video files and so forth. Somebody had asked, you know, you guys offer this for free, they were asking if it could be a value add activity for members? There's ways to do that you can speak with one of our consultants about that. That can be done by giving them a code and things like that if you wanted to charge a monetary fee for it. That's been done in the past.

Morgan Maul-Smith: The newest one on the analytics piece, what we see on the back end. And this is actually one of the great things if they come in from the text side, they text in, we automatically get their phone number and we register whether it's a new number, you can choose lists for the background. You can actually text that if people can kind of inform them, they're being added to a text list. So you can actually text that if you're doing it for an event, like when we did Tiki in the Tropics, we could text back to them and be like, thank you so much for coming to our event. We hope you had a lovely time. You know, here's a survey on what kind of time you had. Do this and we'll enter you in a drawing. That's something that we have the ability to do. It tracks individual IPs, as well if you're doing it on the website, which we've done that with our Tower Growth House one because we wanted to know how many people were visiting our virtual tower growth house. And it's like we've even in quarantine with very limited advertising that we have something like 250 individual users. Which for us, that was that's huge. That's great to know, in that we didn't necessarily get a number. But if they're coming on grounds and they're using their phone, you will automatically get whatever phone numbers and individual devices are coming to you. And you get it broken down by day, time, all of those elements as well from the questions. If you're doing a survey, or you really want to get like, what's their response rate, or you're doing it for kids or something like that, you want to make them simple. You want to make them have right answers, because otherwise, we're an interpretation. So we ask a lot of heavy questions like, what have you learned? And then you just get block answers that are really hard to sort through. But if you're really trying to get that kind of captured data or doing a set like that, you can cater your questions to get yes-no answers, and you can even create a stage quiz where they are automatically informed like, “yes, you got it right. No, you didn't already, here's some point values” and that gives a lot of tracking. So when you think about using it for a school program that we're doing for a tour, whoever's offering that quiz can be on the backside be like, it looks like all of you got this right or all you got that, right. Why was that? And you can conduct it in real time. It takes a little time to learn the navigation. But once you do, it's, there's a lot of value in it. And you can pull reports for all sorts of things.

Patty Ruland:  Yeah. And it also will give you like, for the scavenger hunt, and the results, it'll give you we'll call it dwell time. How long did it take? When did they start? When did they finish? Like Morgan had said, analytics as to when times people are accessing certain sections or pages. How many clicks to have that day? You know, it also helps in things like staffing. So we have a lot of clients that will base when they have more staff on some of the analytical reporting from the site. So if they see between, you know, 12 and three, they have lots of usage, they'll have an extra couple extra people on staff and days that, you know, it's there are slower periods, obviously the opposite. So there's a lot of analytical information that can be pulled from there. We're just about out of time. I appreciate everybody joining Morgan. Going forward, what would you recommend to people who are maybe unsure about adopting some type of or integrating some type of mobile technology into their venue?

Morgan Maul-Smith:  I don't know if I'm frozen, I think pause. Okay, good. I think the biggest thing is that just knowing that when you're doing this upfront, it is a time investment. 

Patty Ruland: And I'll just while we're waiting for her, I'll answer. Mary asked a question. Can you use this inside of a building like a museum? Absolutely. You know, we work with thousands of museums throughout the world in providing a mobile experience. You can do the same types of features, scavenger hunts, wayfinding, through exhibits, and so forth. Um, hopefully Morgan will get back on for some closing thoughts. But in the meantime, if anybody would like some additional information or to see a demo of our services, feel free to enter your name and email address into the chat window. You know, now's a good time with a lot, of like, I said, I'm going to refer back to the poll from earlier, 50% of you are not open yet. Now's a great time where you have some downtime to start building, a site or a map or a scavenger and so forth. In the past where, you know, everybody has been so busy doing a million things, things are a little calmer now. It can give you an opportunity to test it out.  I'm sorry, Morgan, we lost you. So what were your final thoughts? My contact information is on the screen. In the recorded version, I will make sure on the slide, Morgan's email address is included if you want to reach out to her directly and talk more about her overall experience. We do appreciate you joining us today. I know everybody's got lots of things going on and we got Morgan back. So let's get this really quick.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  So yeah, for us, it's a lot of time investment on the front end. But in the long run that allows a lot of opportunity. Once you've built a few, it gives you the opportunity to copy and create new things. And so that allows for a lot of evergreen things. Once they're created, you can turn them off and turn them back on again. And it just allows instant changes which we weren't able to do in print material.

Patty Ruland:  Excellent. So again, like I said, if you're interested throw your name and email address in the chat window. Morgan, it's okay if I provide those folks your email address? We appreciate you taking some time to chat. Thanks, Morgan so much. It's been so great working with you the past few years. I'm glad we were able to finally do this together. And thanks everybody for joining us. We hope you have a great day and stay safe.

Morgan Maul-Smith:  Thank you.

How Mobile Supports Missouri Botanical Garden’s Visitor Engagement Strategy

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