DEEP DIVE: How to have the most productive outcomes when hiring content creators.

Now more than ever, museums hire storytellers of all types to create content that is central to museum experiences and museum identity. It can be in all kinds of media, including text, audio, video, interactives, and totally immersive. The storyteller can be a solo freelancer, a production company, a large design firm, or any combination. In this Deep Dive, three storytellers who have worked with a huge range of museums in the USA, the UK, and Europe talk honestly about how to get the best out the relationship. What are the best processes? What makes everything easier? What makes things harder? What makes for the best outcome? What causes stumbling blocks that result in a less inspiring outcome than you were hoping for? What causes cost overruns? This session, in the form of an open give-and-take, will air it all. The goal is that you will come away with greater confidence about how to structure your future storytelling projects and how to create happier working relationships that lead to more creative outcomes.


Unknown Speaker 00:00
Okay, so it seems like everybody here is a lucky winner. So for everybody here, go ahead and seat yourself in one of these round clusters of seats. Because we're don't worry about where you're choosing, you're not committing to it. But we're going to be in these clusters. So it makes sense just to start here. And instead of having to move everything around in a minute

Unknown Speaker 00:29
then you have to actually look at each other as well. Thank you. Okay. So is everybody comfy. So, Oh, see, I see that you're introducing yourselves already, which is great, because we were gonna have you quickly do that. But it's good to see you all taking the initiative. So this is a new category for MCN. This year. They calling this a deep dive, which is not a workshop, and it's not a presentation. It's this new concept that they described as just going deeply into something. This is how I understood it's something actually quite practical. So we're not going to be talking big theory, we're going to be hopefully coming away with collectively, not for anything we're teaching you. This is not a workshop of teach of teachable moments, but rather, it's something we're going to come to you together and hopefully come away with some incredibly concrete, practical and pragmatic takeaways. So that's the, that's the goal. So make sure this is working. So this is why we're doing it. I mean, obviously, storytelling is a huge buzzword, it started really taking off about four or five years ago. You know, those of us who care about content, either make it or oversee people who make it or interact with it, saw ourselves coming out of the basement. And now we're considered in generally. Now we're seeing this paradigm of storytelling or generic content, like this cartoon from the 1990s was, it's integral not only to an exhibition or project but to the museum's identity. But what's wrong about this cartoon, in my mind, and I think what we're going to work on today is that this is showing content as a product as a thing. And actually quite a warm Dover kind of messy, disgusting, lukewarm, hot dog sort of thing. So this is the IRS is definition of what of an outside contractor what we are the three of us at this table in different ways. So I think this is the one of the roots of the problem. Actually, why don't you read out, you want to read that out whenever

Unknown Speaker 03:03
an individual is an independent contractor, if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what it will be done, what will be done or how it will be done.

Unknown Speaker 03:16
So that is an insert is a really big mistake, because it leaves out the process, it leaves the makers of the thing out of the process by its very definition. So I think that's a really big problem. And, and I think that's as somebody who's been in this field lo these many years, that's where a stumbling block, the big stumbling block is is thinking about us as creating the product, we are told, as described.

Unknown Speaker 03:45
It's a very binary definition. And I think I'm not so good with boundaries anyway. But I think that we kind of live in a non binary, especially as creatives space now. And the best work comes out of that.

Unknown Speaker 03:59
Yeah. So we're really going to be talking more about content as a partnership and a relationship. So we're going to sort of create this metaphorical relationship that will carry us through. So just to talk about who we are. I mean, I called these two nice folks in on this because I thought we could do, we're each three different very different kinds of content providers, not in the kinds of stories we tell, but in the way we do it. So I'm a person. I'm not part of a company. I'm an independent person. I do call in people to help me with projects and my little circle of other freelancers, but I'm a person that comes to the museum as being me. And then you are the mama bear

Unknown Speaker 04:43
that I'm the mama so we have baby bear, Mama Bear and Brad Bear. So my name is Christine Marie and I am a content specialist at antenna. I don't think I need to explain antenna to most people but it's but we are a big company. We're around the world. And I work in museums all over the place. But I think the thing about my position as the sort of medium sized position is that people usually when they look at me, they don't see the giant company behind me, they just are interacting with me. But I usually have a team of four people probably that I'm working with in some way or another in a project, but I am always the kind of like, creative Overlord, as it were.

Unknown Speaker 05:28
Creative Overlord, that's nice. I am, I am the bread bear, and also the person representing the larger content creator, I'm the partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Blue cadet, everyone hear me. So we're a 65 person experience design studio based in Philly, and New York. And we create all kinds of different content for folks. But it's been really fun to work with these two and talk about some of the similarities and differences. And I also want to give you all pat on the back for being in here when we're in San Diego, and it's really nice outside. So thank you for showing up after lunch. One of the other things I just wanted to note is that over the course of the last seven or eight years, I've visited over 200 different museums. And one of the really cool thing about working with so many museums, as we all do is we get really interesting perspectives about what's working, what's not working. And I think I've gained a lot more empathy about some of the challenges that exist creating contents in house. So we can talk more about that later.

Unknown Speaker 06:18
So we thought we had this metaphorical discussion about what those relationships are like. And you know, from my decades of working in museums all over the place we came up, so why don't you share your thoughts about Yeah, I'm gonna

Unknown Speaker 06:34
read this off my computer because my phone keeps shutting off right here. Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about starting off on the right foot. And I'm going to use the analogy of a modern dating relationship. So I've been married to my wife for about 10 years. So I didn't do the the tinder thing. But follow with me as you will on this journey. So, you know, imagine that you're on a dating site, and you have a potential match. This person has a really long profile, with some really exciting highlights. And they're all some sort of cautionary notes about how the relationship will work, though. So even though they seem interested, you follow up with a couple of questions about your concerns. You ask them how many people they're courting. And they respond by saying I'm not able to disclose this. Right? Well, frightening to begin with. So then, nonetheless, you're intrigued by some of the high points and the profile, so you decide to swipe right, hopefully, that's the right direction. positive one, if you will, they follow up. They saying that before you can have a face to face conversation, they want to know your financial background, and a little weird, right? They want to know your vision for the relationship and for you to commit to paying for the first few dates, regardless of how things turn out. Oh, they also need it by tomorrow, because they're really busy, and they're in a hurry to get married. It's a little demanding, but you're really looking for a companion. So at this point, you're like, hey, why not? Okay, so you work frantically to supply the information, you enlist your friends and family members to take a look. They you create the perfect message saying how much you're looking forward to the relationship you submitted to them. But then again, nothing happens. Little weird, right? Time passes, and you wonder are they ghosting me that I do something wrong? They said they'd let you know week. But now it's been a month and nothing has happened. So finally, after six weeks, they are right back, right. And they do want to meet you. But they're also bringing on their family, the weird uncle, he's going to be there. So as the dramatic sister, the exhausted father, fiscally conservative grandma all going to be there at this first meeting, their cousin might actually show but she's going to be in the car, and she's reluctant to be there after all. So you know, it's clear from the moment you walk in this family has a little bit of issues. But you're hopeful that when you get in, you can sort of fix all of these different ills. You put a smile on, you carefully run down your credentials, about how you think you can be the best partner for this person. Despite the dysfunction, you walk out the door feeling like you made your best case, it's totally going to be worth it worth it once you get into the relationship stage. Okay, but then again, you don't hear back for weeks your concern? Was it something you said something you did wrong? Did you say too much too little? Would it have been better if you would have brought a friend to this first meeting, sadly, you know that it could be great if only you had the chance to begin. So without any choice, you begin the process all over again, trying to find a new person to court. But wait, all the sudden out of the blue, you hear from your original match. After months, they are interested, you've moved on, but you want to play the situation out. So you asked what the next step is. And the potential suitor says I just need to see if there's anything else you can bring to this relationship before we begin. And it needs to be legally legally binding, by the way. So I need you to sign this agreement. So you skeptically signed the contract and are happy to be finally moving forward after all of this. You start by prepping for the first date, but then you get a call out of the blue. They decided to go back to their ex after. So as you can probably see here, I'm not actually talking about a romantic relationship. Hopefully, I'm talking about the process of how a lot of the relationships begin when we actually work with different museums. And I don't mean to be critical because I think everyone sort of knows this and it's sort of the process of procurement, but it's really hard to start off with a trusting relationship with a content provider. Letter when you're forcing them to jump through all these hoops. And it's tough because sometimes you spend hours and 1000s of dollars and all this and you don't want to be resentful because you know, this is how it has to go. But I think what we want to talk about today is how to get over that little bit of a hurdle and make it a little less than awkward beginning to a relationship, because I think we can all agree, if you had to jump through those hoops, finding a partner, and probably wouldn't have been banned for that person anymore. So I also would just wanted to say that I realized that we can have content providers are not perfect. So you're probably listening to me say this, and you're like you to throw us some duping loops as well. So don't think that we're perfect. And I hope that someone actually write a rebuttal to this and post it online to talk about how terrible the vendors are. But until that point, I'm gonna turn it over to Christine to take you to the next

Unknown Speaker 10:42
stage. Yeah, so I loved this metaphor. So I decided to go to Code stand up, so I can see you guys over there. So I decided to play this out as Okay, so you get past that Tinder stage, and you're gonna go on your first date, we've all been there. So you decide this. So you choose your favorite restaurant, you decide dinner, in a movie, we're gonna have, you know, baby steps, we're gonna get together for like a long, getting to know you session. So decide on a dinner and a movie. So you know, you choose your favorite restaurant, to take this person to small and serene and family run and authentic. And it's great place to have a conversation, low lights, or whatever. And they have a great wine list, by the way, very important. So you walk in and your date meets you there, they seem a little skeptical, a little, maybe kind of disappointed in you. And you can't really tell why. And so it's kind of awkward at first. But you know, you do your best to kind of end up really sparking great conversation and you end up having a really, a really nice time, the food is surprisingly inventive, the wine really helps. So then you connect deeply enough during this kind of conversation time that you decide to bring up that awkwardness, that first moment that it didn't seem like it was quite gelling. And your date says, Well, you know, I actually thought we would be meeting someplace, it's a little bit more, Buzzy has more of a scene, maybe some artisanal cocktails, like, you know, it's kind of loud and noisy and flashy. And so everybody feels bad, you feel bad, because you picked the wrong restaurant, they feel bad, because they couldn't really appreciate this great opportunity that they were having with you. But then you end up laughing about it. Because it turns out that you're both foodies, you really like this, you don't like each other, you have this chance to have this great conversation. And so to me, this is all kind of about goals and expectations that upfront, there are these expectations that you have to talk about. And you have to kind of create a shared vocabulary, what you're both where you're both coming from, and then also where you meet where those two things meet. So then you go off to the movie, and even though you've just had dinner, your date decides that they want popcorn, soda, candy, nachos, and the souvenir poster along with the movie. So this is what we call scope creep. But you know, it's all kind of implied in the word movie. So, you know, you buy all this stuff. And so then you walk in, and you both feel kind of slightly, you know, where do you sit? Where do you so you like to sit in the front, because you want a totally immersive experience. They like to sit in the back because they like to take it all in. And so you're in this, maybe an awkward relationship moment where you're sitting, you need to navigate this. And so you decide to compromise, You both sit in the middle, you say like, let's go in the middle row. Turns out, you both really like it there, you didn't know, now you do. So to me, that's kind of like a compromise, everybody feels like a winner. So even though at the end of your movie, you both feel a little bit nauseous because you've eaten all that junk food, you agree that this kind of encounter was full of surprises, and you discover new things about your process, their process and how to communicate. And everybody feels great. So the only thing that needs to happen now is that you have to have some like relationship hurdles that you get over together. Like they have to really get you accepted by that big family that was in the room. So they have to talk about how important that big family is. And you've got to kind of be vetted by all of them. You have to explain that you're polyamorous and there are other families that you spend time with too. And that can sometimes be awkward, but you know, then you have to kind of like have the conversation about how far you're willing to go and maybe come up with a safe word. So as you can see, like this, these relationships with get calm, boring, co more complicated, but we all actually know how to do this in other parts of our lives. And this is a place where it happens just around content. So that's my

Unknown Speaker 14:53
you're walking into it dating

Unknown Speaker 14:57
that's why you're all facing each other. See, we're gonna make

Unknown Speaker 15:00
And then the last step that I'll mention briefly as I'm sort of, I'm looking for the dreamboat relationship, because not to say that the long term is relationship is the best relationship for everybody. But in terms of museum and content providers, I can say that there are so many advantages to that dreamboat long term relationship, there's financial security. And what that means in terms of the museum is like, you can get so much more out of your budget, because the person you are in this long term relationship with knows your collection, knows your building, knows what you made a year ago, how that can tap in, knows that this person on your staff who wants to be involved, no, don't get them involved, because it's going to throw everything overboard. So the dreamboat not necessarily monogamous doesn't have to be monogamous. But that long term relationship can really work to the advantage that that person becomes your a real partner in the room. And instead of you having to explain over and over and over again, on that first date, who the people in your family are and who your crazy friends are, this person already knows that they come to the table. And it's super efficient, and much more creative because you've gotten this other stuff out of the way. And you know what else is lurking in the family's attic and in the basement, that all those treasures that they forgot about? So moving on, this is what's going to happen today, we're going to do a group activity that I'm going to describe in a moment, then we'll actually have a little bit of a break, then the second activity builds on what you did in that first short activities, these are really short, then we'll use that second activity, which is based on, you know, these mapping, you know, mapping journey mapping journey mappings that nobody heard of five years ago, that now is like mandatory that everybody does, we're doing a version of that in terms of a content journey. So it will feel familiar. And you can, since you know what it is already, theoretically, in terms of journey mapping, you can see how it could actually be very useful. And then we'll have a little group therapy and some, I promise, some promise rings sort of takeaways at the end that are real, hopefully really practical things that will be useful. So I pulled up a few images from the Museum of broken relationships, just because I thought that was a good metaphor here. So the images are just sort of fun. But this toaster of indication shows what happens when you can get spiteful when there's a bad content vendor relationship. And it's like, well, I'm taking in terms of software, I'm taking my CMS and I'm going home, or I'm taking that video that was on all those assets, you clear. And I'm taking them with me because now I own the rights. So that's what you do not want. So for these activities, even though this session was not listed as Chatham House rules, I think it would be nice that we can just be open to complain. So does anybody have any objection to us doing Chatham House rules, which means that you're not live tweeting it, and that you're not you know, anything you share in this room just stays here? Is that okay with everybody? Okay, great. So, can I ask? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 18:15
can I ask, can we have all of you just introduce yourselves, like really quickly, just go around the room like who you are and where you came from? You go,

Unknown Speaker 18:24
Okay, I'm Ryan Wagner, creative services manager at Splinter Museum of Art University of Kansas.

Unknown Speaker 18:34
Marilla Garcia was the guy a graduate student? Good idea. We're gonna pass the mic. Yeah. Okay. My name is Kelsey Brown. I'm a graduate student at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Unknown Speaker 18:55
Hi, I'm Maddie. Maddie Barnes. I work at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. I do digital marketing.

Unknown Speaker 19:03
I'm Teresa van Wagner. I'm the design director at Neopian GIA in Pennsylvania. Julie trim and I'm the Chief Creative Officer of acoustic guide.

Unknown Speaker 19:13
Krista Kleiber. Clever Senior Director of Business Development with acoustic guide.

Unknown Speaker 19:18
Amelia dooba, the CEO of duva, an Italian company working at audioguide and multimedia. John Simon Hello, who's to guide giant Austin

Unknown Speaker 19:33
RIA Yeates Canadian Museum for Human Rights director of digital outreach.

Unknown Speaker 19:39
And Nathan logging Meyer. I'm an independent designer and technologists that works in museum exhibition design. I'm Arianna chironomid. I'm an interpretive planner at the Nelson

Unknown Speaker 19:49
Atkins Museum of Art.

Unknown Speaker 19:52
I'm Susanna White. I'm the collections manager at the University of museums at Colgate University.

Unknown Speaker 19:59
embolize this Santa. I'm a digital producer at the Whitney.

Unknown Speaker 20:04
And Mary Rosen. I'm a content strategist at Gallagher and Associates in New York City. Hi, Corey Schulman. I do digital, the Obama Foundation.

Unknown Speaker 20:15
And Jason Meyer, I do digital at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Unknown Speaker 20:20
Great, great, thank you.

Unknown Speaker 20:22
So even though you all did that, just as a sort of shorthand, can you just raise your hand, if you consider yourself, generally a content provider in some way, either as part of a firm or on your own or somebody who is an outsider, not in the museum? Okay. Now raise your hand, if you're in the museum, somebody either does it in the museum or chooses people? Okay, so it's about half and half, which is great. So now, you have an assignment for the activity, we want each group to be mixed of different types. So can we trust you to look amongst yourselves and swap out? So you've got it kind of a mix of insiders and outsiders in each cluster? And I think we want one, three, does everybody have a pen, hopefully, we didn't bring enough pens for everybody, we have markers, but those are a little fat. Okay, so the first part of the activity is, okay. So Christina and Brad are just handing out some sort of large size post its. And for the first thing we just want you to quickly with actually, at this first thing you're doing, you're actually not conversing with people in your group, you just like take five minutes on your own, then you're going to compare with people in your group on your pad, write down either or write down something that happened, that was a stumbling block, in some kind of content creation process, something that happened, that caused something to go to derail to get, you know, a less than optimal outcome, or something that was just a physical stumbling block. And then we, if you have, if you write down one of those put a big X at the top of the page, we also want positive ones, if you can quickly just write down, if you can think of one that was just a creative spark, something that happened in the process that created a better outcome. Or that allowed you as a content maker to make something that you were really excited about, like something that happened within the process that was better than you expected. And if you have one of those, right, make a big star at the top of the page. So it'd be great if you could each of you can give us more than one. But if you can only have one of one of the other. That's fine.

Unknown Speaker 22:46
Yeah, try for three. But if you get two, I'm not

Unknown Speaker 22:49
about goals. That's okay. No pressure, right? Right, right. So this is going to be like three minutes, three to four minutes, just real quick.

Unknown Speaker 23:03
As much as you're comfortable, I mean, specific, we want to get, you know, pretty specific want to get in the weeds because we want to figure out how to fix stuff. And as you're, as you're doing this not to distract you, but I did want to point out as part of the Chatham House rules, and as part of this open discussion, for those of us in the room that are actually you know, call themselves vendors or from companies or whatever, we really want to make sure that this doesn't turn into some kind of pitch. So please don't write down something that you think your company or you it does specially or that, you know, hire me because we do it this special way. Let's not let it devolve into that, okay. Okay, so in one more minute, what we're going to do is then within your group, and we'll actually the three of us will sort of meander between the groups and then for about 10 or 15 minutes, we're going to have you just show sort of show and tell with each other. And what we're hoping is that there's you discover that there are some that are slightly repetitious, or something that's come up more than once and either good or bad. So we're gonna go around the groups and just sort of help facilitate conversation or just spy on you. And then if there's something at that end of the 10 or 15 minutes, if you all agree, like, oh, yeah, that one is really important. That was a terrible one that happened to me, or yes, that was great. If we were hoping that maybe one person from each group after that would stand up and present like one good one and one bad one, and then we're gonna go from there. Is that clear? Okay, so we're gonna just wander around for so it is now like 205 So we'll do this till like 215 till 20 to 20 We'll see how, how chatty you are. If you're having fun, we can go a little longer. Like collect your thoughts and somebody wants to bring up one thing that was particularly positive one thing that was negative and just sort of tell the group what it was like one. Okay, so we're doing the first group now.

Unknown Speaker 25:15
I'll come over to the mic. Okay, so I don't necessarily have like a positive and a negative. But I think there were positives and negatives, that kind of centered around two different areas that we discussed a lot. And one was being open to collaboration and accepting each other's expertise. And I think that most of the negatives arose when people didn't feel like their expertise was being respected and your voice wasn't being heard in a project. And the positives were when you had an experience where the other party was open to collaborating and learning from you and providing their input. And having just a much more respectful partnership that could result in a better product. And then the other key thing was communication, and that when communication wasn't effective, it resulted in a lot of problems where feedback was vague or expectations weren't clearly communicated. But when the communication was clear, and people were open to listening to each other, and really trying to be open minded, then it resulted in a better product.

Unknown Speaker 26:33
So back to the middle school. High school, so I apologize to all of my acoustic colleagues, because they've heard this before.

Unknown Speaker 26:55
But we had a client years ago. And prior to our project kickoff, they internally had taken all of the stakeholders together and gone through an exercise to determine what their institutional voice was, and what they wanted that voice to be moving forward. And this is their first audio tour project for their institution. So you know, it was super helpful for our team to have that input. And what they shared with us is that they had been thinking of themselves as Tom Hanks, and they wanted to be Queen Latifah you. So yeah, it was a beautiful visual, you could understand where they were coming from where they wanted to go. And I enjoyed telling the story. It was really helpful as a vendor to have that amount of clarity for all my clients starting off the relationship.

Unknown Speaker 27:49
The negative that we had was started off with unauthorized hours being billed to us as a client. But I think it stems from actually what we've seen elsewhere, which is just shifting staff environments, like shifting development teams, so that people are moving from company to company and companies are reimagining what they're actually focusing on. So you start off a relationship with one kind of firm, but, you know, eight months later, it's a different kind of firm.

Unknown Speaker 28:37
think one of our big things was this idea of the voices in the room when it comes to like the vendor and the client, museum institution. And sort of who has the same order editorial pesos, you put it. And there's kind of this like, shifting scale of, of who has the say, and when that's more defined, or when it when it sort of naturally evolves in your case. That's kind of when things bloom. And then in terms of successes, I think we talked a lot about have about sort of a creative brief at the start of a project and really being strategic right up front. Kind of setting expectations together. And also, good headlining system. That was a big one that came up and then being honest, I think that was a really good point that you made, like when scope is creeping, like say something and bring it up and kind of start finding solutions together.

Unknown Speaker 29:50
Okay, so we're gonna pick it up again, does everybody feel like they broke whatever they needed to break? Everybody's okay. Okay, so um, You know, if you just want to move up to the front and move your chairs around, or whatever, well, we thought we'd have a discussion about this good three of us are just gonna, we're just gonna give our impressions of how things were clustered. So we sort of made themes of your observations that roughly translate to where those things happen within the general timeline. So the first it goes from prep to vision to the timeline itself being scheduled, Roosevelt's buttressed by a budget and scope, and general communication. Now the first thing that I noticed is that communication is mostly exes. So two stars Nginx. But the thing that I loved was that prep is, everything is stars, except for one. So that sort of reinforces one thing I was hoping would come up today, because I, I've experienced this, and I'm sure everybody here has is that starting the project, long time before the project pays off in so many ways, if you could get everybody together, and have those before any time is really even counted, or whatever. So I would say that we all agree so much that this is a source of so much creativity, that I would hope that maybe one takeaway we could talk about, at the end is that okay, if we agree that this is so important, have this if you're going to do an RFP or something like that have that written in to the RFP or to the scope of work, that it's beginning with these big meetings. And that may be on a sense of trust, these won't be specifically billable hours, forgive me, I know you're a big firm, but but that this is going to pay off in so many ways, even in budget savings later on, because it will avoid all these x's over here. So that was my main two takeaways.

Unknown Speaker 32:03
I think also, I think, also, that idea of prep, there was a lot of conversation in the group that I was part of about creative freedom, and sort of respect for being a part of the collaborative process and ideation. And so when there's prep work done, like if a institution comes into a creative kickoff meeting with clear ideas, not about exactly what the thing is going to be, perhaps, but the direction they want to go in and even bring examples and not one to one examples. But you know, we want it to feel like Toy Story, or, you know, we want it to be as respectful as blah, blah, blah. So or, you know, we want it to be like an unfolding episodic mystery, like cereal, whatever it is, so that there are actual, like, I love to do this, to ask them ask the stakeholders to come in with an idea of something that they like to emulate, or to at least set a guiding

Unknown Speaker 33:11
or even what position is of what you're making. Because very often, the thing that is assumed that you're making is not the thing that you should even be making. So but you won't know that unless you really say what the mission of this is. And then you say, okay, but you know what you aren't, you're making the wrong thing.

Unknown Speaker 33:32
Yeah, I think that's a vision thing, too, right? Like I have under vision, one of my pain points is that we don't actually know who we're making this for. I mean, it's just like, well, we're making this because there's an exhibition, and we need it. And but like who's actually ingesting this, right? So. So that's one of my things where I'm I'm always asking that question, right. But who's actually who is this for? Who is it for because that, that guides language that guides experienced design that guides augmented reality versus audio versus an interactive, like, you know, and sometimes that vision is already laid out in an RFP, and you're just responding to it. But a lot of times, once you get into the room, you can sort of adjust that vision, right?

Unknown Speaker 34:19
Y'all should definitely wouldn't ever done you should come to take a look at all these because they're really, really fast. You

Unknown Speaker 34:22
guys are really smart.

Unknown Speaker 34:25
Take pictures. And what

Unknown Speaker 34:27
one question, can we run into that at our museum about we're always asked me to pour who's the audience who's going and I'm just the way you phrased that was helpful. Who is it for? Maybe won't get blocked by people there? They're going to ask. But what do you do with people in your team today? Well, it's for all of us. What do we do with people who say that? Usually, I usually say that's really unsatisfying, because it's like the Swiss Army Knife approach to voice which is like a three year old, and an 82 year old are not speaking the same language. And so I mean, I really feel like you have to talk you have to there has to be a I even do this when we record people in a booth, I like put an image of a person in front on the other side of the microphone so that they're actually talking to a person instead of being the narrator of the thing that's going to be like, you know, it's like, it's all about that human connection. But you got to know who the human is really, right. Do you have other things to say about that user personas, and

Unknown Speaker 35:30
I totally agree with that we, we do a persona exercise, which a lot of people do, but we kind of view them a different way. They're not just purely in a democratic thing.

Unknown Speaker 35:38
But I feel like I feel like I'm so much louder than you.

Unknown Speaker 35:41
But it's actually like, what is someone really hoping to get out of it, you know, if some people go to a museum, because they have kids, and it's cold outside, and they really just want somewhere to escape. Some people want to go to feel smart, someone wants an interesting date night. And that breaks down the sort of like, you know, it's still tied to age in many situations, but it's actually just thinking of what are people really hoping to get out of it. And we don't just create these personas and then file them away, we actually bring them and print them out at every single meeting. So when someone who's a major voice in the room, a loud voice is kind of driving, the discussion will say, remember, so and so person, they're the people we're actually considering you represent a voice that we need to consider. But there's other voices as well. The other thing that we had changed recently was we would do a kickoff typically, and we would sort of run the entire kickoff. And now what we'll do is we actually ask the main point of contact, to run half of the kickoff, and it sort of forces them to get their ducks in a row and ask some of those questions. And it is it makes it feel a little bit more like to side instead of we're just going to come in and put on a show. So we will give them some prompts, we will help them send out a survey to people or do these other little tasks. And it's really changed how our kickoffs operate.

Unknown Speaker 36:48
And to also speak to that point about who are you making this for? I found that in the museums where I've worked, you know, for a lot of projects, one thing that I've had to beg for but is very, very helpful is you know, the exhibition closes or the project or they're doing evaluations, and the museum that holds all this incredibly interesting valuation information. And I have to beg for it. So I would beg you, I would beg the museum, share that with me, because then we go into the next meeting. And maybe there was this, this very often happens, there was this amazing unintended audience that actually, like picked up on this, and it went out into the world and got used in this way that actually, none of us even expected. Now we can build on that, or there was part of it that didn't meet audience or whatever. But the evaluation, if it stays with the museum, and doesn't get communicated for the next project, that I think it sends you off into another misdirection of who you thought your audience was. Because they'll always surprise you. I think

Unknown Speaker 37:58
the post mortem, I think, if I had one piece of advice, I would say every project should have a post mortem, with both sides, and to talk about what worked, what didn't work, even if you're never going to work together again, like to talk about that after some time has passed. Because, well, it's two things, we never freaking celebrate our victories like we never actually just take a moment to say oh my god, we created this great thing look at all those people that are using the great thing Hey, high five, like that's actually important as a creative person to get that kind of validation not to just like on a Saturday go to a museum and see that like people are taking or you know, interacting with the thing that you made. But to do it together, because that also establishes that kind of partnership, which is like I didn't just make this we made it together. And that needs to that should be celebrated as well as you know, whatever whatever compromises got made that you wish didn't get made or you know talking about that talking through those things I think is should be a part of your project schedule. There should be a post mortem as part of your project schedule. How often do you get how often do I do that get that celebrate

Unknown Speaker 39:15
I do them all I do them a lot but like I said I have boundary issues so a lot of them involve bars and you know like let's have a glass of champagne and toast the launch of whatever the but in terms of like this actual sit down and like be serious post mortem, often because I have long term relationships also like Sandy will will sometimes do them at the beginning of the kickoff of the next one

Unknown Speaker 39:53
with recurring clients for sure, yeah. Thanks specially identifying if you had a roadblock or a stumbling block. Or if you had something that you realized caused a problem. On either end, it would be super, super helpful to communicate that. In the practicality of it right, I mean, I often find out about accidentally, like, you know, is this happen to me yesterday, or somebody came up to me and they said, Oh, congratulations, the museum is getting tons of food in particular. And I was like, nobody told me, you know, you know, so I think, and also just begging for those internal results. You know, I know that probably a lot of them are owned by the museum, and they don't want to share every piece of data. But you know, it's, sometimes it needs to be a six months, or even a year later, by the time you have those numbers. But you know, how useful that would would that be to bring to the table next time?

Unknown Speaker 40:57
Yeah, so we actually do a thing, where we've set six months after the project launches, we said in our original first proposal, we set a date for the like, get together post mortem thing. And as we update the timeline, for whatever reason, that date is always in there as a thing that's going to happen the same way every other deliverable happens. And we sort of just bake it in that it's something that we're going to do, and we're not going to run away after three months, because I think that's what happens. It's really unfulfilling on both sides when like, you have the big launch, and then everyone just goes their way. And then you see him at a conference in two years. So when you do that, and actually like, put it in front of everyone the whole time as a major deliverable, it does happen.

Unknown Speaker 41:33
That's what I was gonna say, if it's in the schedule, that becomes a real thing versus something that is like a, it's like a, yeah, it's like a deliverable instead of something that you would like to have happen.

Unknown Speaker 41:45
But I think what we can learn, because we actually did this exercise, I think what we can learn here is that there's this negativity in the communication. Now maybe it's because when communication was good, you just didn't happen to write that down. But I think communication breakdown seems to be a source of big frustration. So maybe that's something we can take away from this too, is to make sure baked into the process is how everybody's going to communicate. And you know how information we share it. And it's not just going to be in a Google Doc. And it's not going to be, you know, behind the scenes, but in a way that people speak up as the process is going along and can sort of jack and jack. And communication can be made better if the, if the schedule allows for a little bit of digging and dragging, because then you can report you can act on the communication, instead of saying somebody's saying this isn't working well. And then somebody else says, well, now we just have to stick to the schedule, you have to stick to this stick to that if you have the flexibility to respond in actual that moment to the communication problem. I think we would all be happier people.

Unknown Speaker 42:53
For the this is a question for everyone for your calendars and schedules for projects. Do you block off people's vacations, holidays and all these things from the first day? Or do you? So I'm seeing raise hand if you sort of do do that as a thing? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 43:11
involves communicating, obviously.

Unknown Speaker 43:13
Yeah. I mean, it's, it's something that we've in, were insistent on having a lot of the major stakeholders in the first interview, even if they're not going to have feedback throughout. And we say, okay, list all of your vacations, do your best your knowledge and travel right now we're gonna do every time when people are gonna get busy are going to be out of town. And that also has made a big difference as well, too. Obviously, it changes. It's not perfect, but I think it's, again, anything that's visible happens if it's not on the calendar, it doesn't happen. Yes,

Unknown Speaker 43:42
I have one just anecdote story, I'm going to tell about communication. And I'm really curious, I think when we have our group therapy session to maybe have you guys share some things too. But I this one experience where I made a I made an audio walk, and I interviewed a curator about a piece and it was a piece that was really deeply felt by her and deeply felt by me and we had a kind of really intense and intimate conversation. And we both cried in this conversation, she cried quite a lot about this piece. And it was the best tape I've ever gotten. But I used it in in this guide it was appropriate in the in the sort of narrative that I was creating. But when it came time for her to review and on paper it doesn't say she cried doesn't look like there's it's tear worthy, but the emotion was really quite quite overcome by emotion. And when she heard when she did the reviews, she heard and she was like, you have to take that out. And and I was so she was in the Midwest and I'm you see I'm in the Midwest, I live in San Francisco. So this was like a phone thing where I got this kind of like hair on fire call like this cannot be released, this is not good. You have to take this out, you have to re edit. I don't want that in there. And we had a long conversation, I could not sway her. And it was going to really kind of gut the project. It was really a very, it was the climax of the project. So I flew to Kansas City to have a conversation with her. And I sat in her office, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say. And I said, Look, there's a lot of curators, and a lot of audio guides, because I make audio guides mostly show a lot of curators on a lot of audio guys who are totally alienating, because they use language that we don't understand. Or they're talking, you know, the language that they're using is for other curators and not the person that's actually listening. And one thing about you being emotional, is that it kind of conveys that curators care so much about what they do. That's why they that's why they do this job. They're not just an like a live talking academic journal. They're actually incredibly passionate human beings. And like, this is a moment for you to kind of change that perception because most people just think yapping Philippe de Montebello, in my ear. And she, she agreed with me, in the end, she left me I mean, I did take some I pulled back there still, she still cries, but it's not quite as intense as it was. So we kind of compromise there. I don't think she would have ever gotten there. If I hadn't flown to Kansas City and sat down with her in person. I'm not sure she would have gotten there either if she wasn't on our way to retirement, because there's a lot of worry about perception. And she sort of adopted this, like what have I got to lose, this is actually great from the visitor, I might lose some professional, whatever, kudos amongst my colleagues. But actually, this is the best thing for the people who are walking in here and trying to understand this really complicated contemporary sculpture that means nothing to most people who look at it, because it's just two light bulbs. So I just think like face to face communication also is hugely valuable, like stop the email phone call, always as the first line of defense like actually look in people's eyes.

Unknown Speaker 47:31
So I mean, at this point, we're, we thought we would just sort of open it up before we do our the last thing which is just sort of do some takeaways, like some practical takeaways that we can agree on that are actionable and can help us all. Before we do that, we thought we'd open it up. I mean, we are talking quite personally, from our point of view, does anybody want to just share this is like an open therapy session? Is anybody want to share a thought? Yeah. Does anybody want to know? They're running? They're running? Yeah. Let me just bring you

Unknown Speaker 48:13
face to face. I first got into movies. Eat them. And I find looking even though we are the client, working with anybody to like, feed them, you know, just go out to dinner. Just have a moment together starts

Unknown Speaker 48:40
anybody else? Anybody have like a big wish? That they like the one thing that they wished, worked better from whatever angle you're coming from?

Unknown Speaker 48:51
Do people do face to face for use of major deliverables? Or is it always such a good question? But even like even internally at a museum, when I'm when I'm vendor clients, and collaborators send you something that you get everyone in the room and talk about it, or is it always just people emailing or commenting? Promoting

Unknown Speaker 49:13
I would normally do it. Because it's easier to convince them about the feeling you have to explain them. But why won't you say let's start. Right if they never think that the museum always had a lot because they have the feeling about the experience.

Unknown Speaker 49:52
I mean, one thing that we want to bring up also is nomenclature. Actually, why don't you advance to the next layer? Yes, we're in our therapy session now. I hear us all using very different words to describe the relationship. spender, there's partner, there's provider. So we've got, I mean, how many people in in the audience? How many people? If you're working in museum call anybody that you work with a vendor, or is there sometimes is it described differently? Vendor? Emails vendor? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 50:34
Yeah, it's, it's something we were sort of just chatting about the other day, like, I know, we are technically a vendor. And even at this conference, we're considered a vendor. But it's always just such a strange thing to me, because we've worked so personally with people over such a long period of time that, you know, a vendor, to me is someone that will give me a product, right? If I'm looking at buying a, a toilet for my home, and it's the same toilet vendor will sell me that same toilet and I can see who can do it, the best I sort of us is like a very important team member. And again, this is just our perspective that we don't call our people clients, we call them partners or collaborators, that they're not just our client, in the same way that we're not a vendor, we sort of work directly with them. And it's not like it's an offensive thing. And that's sort of just a standard RFP term or a contracting term. But I do think it's another one of those like little things that as you're kind of reaching out to people, you can do it and say, Okay, we want to be your partner, we want to work with you, we all want to succeed. And we want the same vision.

Unknown Speaker 51:25
And I think it ties into what we talked about with the first images, the idea of it being a vendor sells you a product. So when if we all agree that this is more of a process, I mean, I think a hat that I often wears, I'm often car called a content strategist, because then what you're helping with is not only making the thing but leading up to the thing. So this, this new idea of the content strategist, as a consultant, I think feels more appropriate if you're, if you're in the mindset that you're creating a process with someone.

Unknown Speaker 52:00
I was just going to ask the group a question. Because I heard this kind of come up, when we were in our smaller groups, about kind of really getting at creative freedom, and getting I mean, I think that we're all after the best possible content. And a lot of times, that means getting to some kind of creative space, perhaps that we wouldn't get to on our own. Or if we were just in this product way, you know, just doing delivering the same thing that we've done 100 times before. And so I just wonder if you guys have ways that you talk about or create environments where, you know, you're just free to ideate be creative, spitball. Brad calls it popcorn, you know, just like a kind of free space around a project that doesn't necessarily have to be the answer could just be like, inventing a fiction in order to get your juices flowing? Do you guys have any kind of processes like that in place inside your institutions or companies, Mary you do.

Unknown Speaker 53:26
So this is just within our, our team. So it's not with a partner in a museum or institution. But we have sort of early brainstorms that are kind of very regimented, and a good way. We kind of have this creative brief, that goes out to the participants in our in our brainstorm, it's, you know, 15 people, and then people pair off, think of things to satisfy the goals of these variances. And then we all come together and post up our ideas, we see what everyone likes the best. And it becomes this sort of creative space where you're taking from things when things become other things, and it's sort of a new process started. And I've found it really helpful. So in general, I think early brainstorming

Unknown Speaker 54:25
we do something similar. So we, you know, we brief everybody on the project in advance, and then we gather as a group, and we are always trying to emphasise when punching up other people's ideas, because it's one thing to stand in the circle when everyone's like, shouting their thing out into the world. But like, if you don't have anybody to punch it up, or like, collaborate and be like, oh, yeah, that is a good thing. But if we, if we did it this way, then we could also turn it around and like do it that way. So I think that like just getting people together to talk about those ideas and having the type of culture to support That is is always worthwhile. So that was more to like add on to what you guys do. But something else that happens more like when we're in a project stage is, somebody has an idea, don't hold back share with everyone else, maybe there was a way to accomplish it, even if it's not in scope, or you may not have the time to do it. So we're always trying to encourage, Yeah, cuz you're gonna discover things along the way that you may not have thought of at the beginning, but they would be great, like a great outcome at the end.

Unknown Speaker 55:41
Do you do? You know, obviously teams change and you someone else gets hired, whether you're a museum or partner organization, a content creator? Do you have a manifesto document or something like that, that captures those major points that gets shared with those people as they're on boarded? Or do they sort of just jump right in? Treatment, right. So yeah. But the thing is, if they missed those early stages, and they missed the previous deliverables about like, sort of the context for a project, it's hard, I feel like and it's just the reality, people go out and paternity leave or maternity leave or get hired. I think like having that document. That's the single document. That's the one page manifesto that evolves with the project. And it's always the accurate portrayal of it is a great way of onboarding them.

Unknown Speaker 56:28
Let me just add a note to that about how important those arm and it's interesting because what the first time I heard manifesto on a project, like three years ago, everybody laughed. But it's a great term, because for me, it helps because then it's a defensive object, because you everybody agrees on it. But then one post that that's come up here a couple of times is that somebody all of a sudden, has the right to sign off, or has the right to review that wasn't involved from the beginning. So if you have the manifesto, that person can't stick their nose in, because you can all say, but that doesn't match the manifesto. So you have something to defend your vision against the person from marketing, who all of a sudden wants to have sign off on the final.

Unknown Speaker 57:12
We do have something similar. We don't use the word manifesto, but we call it a logline. So it's something that clearly defines the goal. We want to do this so that this will happen. And this is our guiding force. That's our logline for the project. And it's something that isn't developed at the very, very beginning. It's developed, like after a couple conversations with our client partners, and so like we have a better definition of what we're creating. And then, you know, maybe it's like a month into the project. But then we have an official kickoff. We share the logline, we discuss it, we make sure that it's on track. And then we always have that thing to go back to and say, Are we meeting the goals of this? Is it? Is it what everybody intended to create? And if there's any deviation from it, you know,

Unknown Speaker 58:02
let's talk about it.

Unknown Speaker 58:07
I think we're all getting a little tired. I think the last thing we wanted to do is maybe this has already come out our plan was, you know, in order to be flexible, we were going to each list a couple of things that were our dreamboat scenarios, but maybe has Do you feel like that's already come out in the discussions feel like it has. So I think we can say, but I'm wondering if what the last thing if we just want to kind of write something on the pad. So I'm wondering if we're gonna, if we can say, you know, in the spirit of the mission of these deep dives, which has come about come away with something practical, practical, and actionable. If Brad, who has the nicest handwriting walks over? Can we like throw out three things that we say okay, we're going to we took this away, and we're going to try to put this into our the process of whatever our next project is who wants okay, you can write

Unknown Speaker 59:02
the one thing that just I was thinking of yet when we were prepping for this discussion, we all talked about what our sort of dream thing was, and none of the three of us said it's like the biggest budget project ever, right? Like we've had terrible projects with large budgets. We've had amazing projects with small budgets, we talked about my answer was that if we have a really good designated point of contact, even if it's an outside person that sort of like an owner's rep, that defy that will defy that it will be definitely successful define that will be a very successful project. And that's something we've advocated for more and more we can't be someone's second job or third job or fourth job, it's got to be their priority to wrangle everyone. And that's like the greatest thing that I could say what makes a dreamboat client.

Unknown Speaker 59:43
So Right. My thing was about being I mean, some museums I work with now bring me in like really with the designers and we're sitting down at that process because it's not only the things you're making, but you're creating a experience hence. So now it's not just about what you're making, but it's like, what's the environment when they first walk in what happened, what happened with the the staff, from the moment they walked in what happened when they were handed something that's all part of the thing you make, that they run into 20 minutes later, that. So it's all this experience is all together. So getting there earlier and earlier, something has been hugely important for me. And along the budget lines, I totally agree we're talking in our I personally think something, it's really big budget, sometimes I feel is less creative, because there's more people in on it, it's less able to be flexible. And, you know, like one of my favorite projects ever worked on with this video series that was incredibly open, we didn't know what we're getting. I hate it when there's a really, really, really tight storyboard. Because you go out and you want to see what you get. And if you can, if it's a lower budget, and it's sort of scrappy, and you aren't having to meet certain expectations, that was to me, can be the most exciting.

Unknown Speaker 1:01:09
So my, my big thing, I think, is in the vision category, I, I really think that that content is most successful. If it starts in the land of yes, this is my thing, I like to create a meeting, I don't call it a meeting, I call it a visit to the land of Yes. And sometimes we lay on the floor and we close our eyes and we shout things out. And sometimes the I do a bunch of different kinds of things. But I like to divorce the vision a little bit at the beginning from what the final thing is going to be to kind of maximize creativity and just, you know, if we had the biggest budget in the world, if we had no constraints, if we could make it this for every single person that walks in, if we could just make this bespoke for every single person in the museum. What would that look like? What if it was a movie and not an audio guide? What if it was an amusement park ride instead of an audio guide? You know, so I like to just create an environment for one meeting, except it's not a meeting, it's a visit to the land of Yes. Where whatever you say has no stakes, it because it really frees people up to think outside of the constraints of the thing that they're delivering at the end. So does that make sense? It's kind of my cookie mine.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:38
Okay, so what we said, right, whatever else, okay.

Unknown Speaker 1:02:43
Do you guys have any things that really resonated with you that Brad should write on the on the thing because, you know, we have to report back to the Overlords of the conference that you guys got something out of this or something,

Unknown Speaker 1:02:52
you'll actually maybe if you're in a museum, or if you're in a production group, or something, you'll take back and say, Okay, I went to this thing, we sat in the room for a long time. This is the one thing that struck me that I'd like to try,

Unknown Speaker 1:03:07
I would say cultivating transparency in the relationship.

Unknown Speaker 1:03:11
And how would that happen? What would you do to make that happen?

Unknown Speaker 1:03:17
Let's say most of it happens already. But I think you know, we were talking about scope, creep and budget creep. And that kind of thing is sort of instead of beating around the bush about it, or you know, little passive aggressive emails, but not that I would ever do such. Hey, guys, where we're going? And I mean, the truth is that I find one way to build a relationship on trust is to also say, Give us feedback. And things aren't going well. Don't wait until the end of the project for it, you know, sometimes, sometimes there's a little too much. We just got to get through this. And instead of sort of maybe having some version of a business plan, yes. And halfway through, like, Let's lie on the ground and talk about what ain't gonna go great.

Unknown Speaker 1:04:13
You know? I do think yeah, so in other words, use your words. Yeah. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 1:04:26
So then you're developing something together, and then a relationship done based on?

Unknown Speaker 1:04:31
Okay, that's great.

Unknown Speaker 1:04:32
I definitely think that how you deal with conflict is as important as how you deal with success. And there's a lot of times that we see a conflict or there is a conflict and we don't or we see a problem or we seeing an obstacle and we kind of don't want to address it head on and then it becomes a huge problem. If it's sort of like the fear of not addressing it. Like increases exponentially, because it actually gets problematized later. So it's never as scary to say, hey, you know, actually, I know that you want to add these two amazing artists into your audio guide, but it's actually going to cost a shit ton of money. And so we need to talk about that right now. Do you want to take it out of some other place? Or can we actually live without it? Instead of just being like, Sure, we'll do that. And then it becoming a big problem, because you go way over budget?

Unknown Speaker 1:05:29
Is there maybe one more

Unknown Speaker 1:05:33
day? The idea of having the manifest of the projector that we don't know, we don't do. So I think this is one of the things that because this is one of the thing that I wrote a few

Unknown Speaker 1:05:45
Italian, you should know all about manifesting. You invented them. We don't

Unknown Speaker 1:05:51
do it for projects. So I think it's a good idea to have it as a cover of the project.

Unknown Speaker 1:05:57
And then also, it's a way that everybody is forced to be together and to lay it out and hash out the stylistic differences, everything

Unknown Speaker 1:06:05
Yes, things. Maybe you have the feeling that clean, things are clear, but maybe they're not. So when they're written down, okay. And the second thing is the having them weekly.

Unknown Speaker 1:06:17
Standing, yeah,

Unknown Speaker 1:06:19
gathered and making a brainstorming in between, because when you know better about the project. So these are the things that I'm bringing home.

Unknown Speaker 1:06:28
Great. Anybody? Anybody else? Last call? Yes.

Unknown Speaker 1:06:35
Something that I picked up from actually another area that recently was making an event of the kickoff that includes possibly going off site. I think in particular, taking people out to us again to another location helps remove all the institutional blinders and offers

Unknown Speaker 1:06:58
additional sessions. Great with food.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:02
I was gonna say that, that I'm going to take that away, people, people get along better when there's food.

Unknown Speaker 1:07:10
Okay, well, thank you, everybody, if anybody I mean, I invite you to take pictures of that for your action item and definitely

Unknown Speaker 1:07:15
check out everybody's comments because it was really enlightening for

Unknown Speaker 1:07:19
us. So we're going to take lots of pictures. Thank you, everybody.