Setting the Scene

This post is really a ‘help’ for a discussion we are having elsewhere. It is just easier for me to put my thoughts together here. (If this is of interest, I’ll fix it.)

The questions are – How do we set the scene (individual scene, over-all scene or group of scenes) for visitors? How do we visually signify what the situation is? How do we make a scene accessible to visitors, inviting them to participate in discussion?

I think we need to set a scene or visual story that invites visitors in. I want to interact with them. This means they need to feel welcome to talk, ask questions, make comments, pick things up.

I do think this is much easier interpreting out of a building because I can control a scene easier with my set-up inside walls and an open door already says “come in.” In a camp situation, one very important part of saying “welcome” is making an area easy to walk into and around in. To me, this means easy, flowing tent placement. This can be straight lines or horseshoes or even a spiral. It can not be haphazard with tents placed every-which-way. An area needs to feel safe to families with smaller children. This means keeping fires, ropes, axes/hatches, etc visitor safe. Yes, just the sight of a campfire area can keep a family with pre-school children away. So, placing that fire out of the path between visitors and you is important.

Once you have people in your area, you want them to feel comfortable and safe in your particular “space”. This, again, requires attention to tent placement and ropes as well as furniture. Most of us need a personal space and an interaction space when we set a tent up. Some of us need a clear distinction, some of us do not. Keep this in mind when you create your visitor space. (Personally, I don’t like having to get in and out of my tent over and over. I try to keep what I need neatly at hand or within very easy reach just inside. At the same time, I also need my mid-day nap space.) I’m sure you’ve seen the tall gentleman trying to talk while the edge of the fly is right in his face, or the school-age child leaning on the tent pole trying to see inside. Neither of those are inviting or pleasant.

For your visitor space, think about where your table, work or conversational pieces are. Do their placement give people enough space to stand (or even sit) while you talk/demonstrate/interact? Think about the “display” table. We normally want the visitors to come up to the table, right? What about when we are the interactive display? We want them to come up to us right? They need to have space to do this. They also need to feel comfortable doing this. For me, this means:

  • Giving the visitor space to be there
  • Facing where they enter from (they also like seeing where you are when they approach, whether we are talking a building or tent area.)
  • Greeting them with an appropriate and inviting manner. For beginners or for someone who needs to keep the visitor focused, have an introductory piece prepared. (don’t make it too long because there is a fine line between non-interactive presentation and interaction.)
  • Giving them a moment to look, think, and ask. -Not too long of a moment though. Watch them. Watch where their eyes go. Watch what the kids might move towards or want to pick up.
  • Respond to the visitor – This means respond to their verbal question or their action. Or, lead the visitor – if there is no indication or if there is confusion, direct the conversation by explaining what you are doing or talk your story.

So, what do I mean by visual clues or talking objects??? In my case, when I do my millinery impression in the shop, ideally, I have several types of bonnets displayed, samples of fabrics, ribbon, straw, etc., fashion images, etc. For a scene of a group of ladies making comfort bags, piles of the items going into the bags as well as bags already packed and even a crate of bags ready to send out would be good. For interactive purposes, I see the pieces you are working with and the pieces the visitors can handle. For something like comfort-bags, I would love to see kids be able to help fill one.

So, this is where I wanted to put a bunch of photos grazed from the internet pointing out what I think are good examples. Well, finding some is not as easy as I thought. So, this means either people aren’t taking photos of civilian areas enough, aren’t visiting civilian areas enough or are just catching the not so great examples. Or, it could mean those good instances are so very captivating, visitors don’t think to take photos. (I’ll keep looking)

Okay, this is an original image rather than one from an event. But, take a look at where these ladies are placed. This works well for a photo and would work well for visitors. The arch of people and table create a space for visitors to come up, see what is on the table and talk with the people. The strongest interactive person would sit adjacent to the table while those who may be less confident would sit off to the side.

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Published in: on February 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I think I fixed it.

  2. Great article! So often the visitor spaces aren’t so well thought out and people balk at “invading” the space because it doesn’t look welcoming. Or you get lots of traffic at a few well-set booths while others get no one at all because they are hidden or everyone is staring out from behind a table like the Inquisition. I really like the image you found of the U-shape seating arrangement. I think the fact that it is a period photo makes it even better! With a few extra chairs (visitors like to sit, too), that would be a very lovely place to display wears or handicraft techniques.

  3. Thanks Liz. I have this mental picture of my ‘ideal’ type of set-ups. I need to find a good way of getting that across.

  4. This sure gives us different things to think about. The details are so important and the focus on comfort to bring about good conversation. Just beginning to think through all of this! Thanks!


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