There are three different stages in communicating with visitors:
- Before arrival – visitors need some basic information (e.g. how to get there, what are the costs, facilities and activities available). Before arrival the visitor would like to know what can be done and what cannot be done in the protected area he / she wants to visit. Protected Area Administration has the responsibility to create the right expectations for the visitors.
- On arrival – once they enter the protected area, the needs of the visitors are changing, becoming more complex. They will want to know more about the facilities available, so you need a visitor vetting and management about the activities, the permits and the places where they can take place and about the safety rules.
- During the visit – as their understanding of the protected area increases, the visitors have an increased interest in the natural environment, the culture of the communities living within or near the protected area. This is the demand that should be answered by interpretation. A well-planned interpretation should lead to the fulfillment of the experiences visitors for a wide variety of people.
While the information refers to the presentation of the facts, interpretation is more than that. Read all about it here. It must cause ideas, even open people to a new understanding of things that they have seen. Interpretation connects people to the place they visit and often reveals a new dimension of the site.
What is interpretation
Interpretation is a special communication tool that conveys visitors and the community local understanding of the valuable natural and cultural elements of the area. The special values of the protected area are identified are part of the “unique selling proposition” (USP) of the protected area.
For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unique_selling_proposition
These values are the main ingredients for any interpretation plan that will be developed around them. Essentially, interpretive planning helps to improve communication about the protected area. It also shows that we also think of what is happening outside the protected area, avoiding for example a situation where the same is said twice (e.g. avoiding thematic paths on the same theme inside and outside the protected area). For planning the interpretation, we need to think about the following aspects:
- why we want to communicate with the visitors;
- who are our visitors;
- what the area looks like and what it has to offer;
- what other things are around;
- what the place means;
- how and where we will say these things.
Responding to the question “how will we say these things,” we will actually choose the method of interpretation that will be used to communicate with visitors. There are two methods of interpretation.
Personal Interpretation – when communication comes directly from one or more people present (e.g. ranger, local guide, etc.). Examples of personal interpretation include: guided trips, on foot or by means of transport, through a site or region, visiting places where people live or work, trip to one of the brandy distillery, the day of open gates on a farm, tracking practical demonstrations of craftsmanship, listening to real-life stories or legends, participation in organized activities, such as learning how to identify birds or watching and / or participating in shows, a play.
Practical recommendations for interpretation techniques
To manage the interpretation process:
- Adjust the interpretation topics identified in the interpretation plan to audience;
- Train them on ranks or guides at least once a year (preferably at the beginning of the season);
- plan groups for guided excursions so as not to exceed fifteen people to a guide.
For personal guiding activities, see also here:
- speak to large groups, both indoors and outdoors;
- When speaking to a group, choose a good position in the center so you can have visual contact with each person in the group;
- first tighten all the group members and then ask them for explanations interpretation;
- make jokes and create a relaxing atmosphere;
- Build connections between what people already know and the new information you want them to assimilate them;
- Prepare and take with you a set of “props” to exemplify different items of natural;
- Construct the exposure carefully and ensure good programming over time to get the exposure of better effect;
- be relaxed in addressing obstructionist people and insistent questions;
- Adapt to different categories of visitors, to people with disabilities and to people