What does a month in my life look like? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Short answer: It’s busy and – thankfully – involves a lot of cool projects with great organizations and people.
I loved reading Linda Norris’s “What AM I doing?” article wherein she shared what her life looks like as a consultant by revealing what she was up to during the previous month. I also get this question rather frequently, and Linda’s post got me thinking… My birthday is in early October, so, inspired by Linda’s post from the month before, I decided to metaphorically hit start on the “What am I up to this month?” button. As many of you know, I travel nearly every week for work (and often to more than one location). This is what I did last month – from October 16th (the last day of my birthday trip in Nepal) to November 12th, 2016. (That’s four weeks, folks.)
This month was particularly aquarium-heavy. Aquariums – as a visitor-serving organization type – play an important role in informing trends that we see for other types of museums and visitor-serving organizations. Aquariums tend to have smaller endowments and the less government funding than other visitor-serving entity types (such as performing arts or art, history, or science museums, for instance). They also have an added “conservation” mission – making them among the most for-profit (relying on the market) and nonprofit (mission driven) types of cultural organizations. Thus, many interesting trends affecting visitor-serving organizations often hit aquariums first. With that nerdy explanation aside, it’s worth mentioning again that this month was particularly aquarium heavy!
Here are the adventures of this cultural-center-loving fiend during the first month of a new year of life:
WEEK 1: From meditating to marine science
Meditating at a Buddhist Monastery (Kathmandu, Nepal)
I kicked off this new year of life by spending two weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal and living in a Buddhist monastery for ten days. It was the best birthday gift that I could have given myself. I got back on Sunday, October 16th and that’s where this monthly recap begins! (Photo: The view from my morning tea spot at the monastery where I celebrated my birthday)
Sharing data with the Virginia Aquarium (Virginia Beach)
I got back from Nepal and had a brief moment to adjust to US time zones before I was on my way to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. It was interesting to share data on this organization’s audience and meet (in my case, for the first time) the great folks at this aquarium. (Photo: Exploring he Owl’s Creek Path that connects the Virginia Aquarium’s two buildings.)
WEEK 2: From spooktacular to sea changes
Exploring the Connecticut Science Center (Hartford)
In preparation for sharing data with the organization in November, I visited the Connecticut Science Center to get a better sense of the visitor experience. There are several terrific benefits of my job, and getting to visit organizations for the first time is one of the most fun. The science center was celebrating their Spooktacular Science event weekend, and the place was filled with dressed-up little tikes taking part in special programming and activities. My first full-time job out of college was coordinating large-scale, public events at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, and one of my favorite events every year was Tricks, Treats, and Science Feats. It was a blast visiting the Connecticut Science Center at this time of year, and it made me a bit nostalgic for my science center staff days! In true museum-nerd fashion, I spent my final two hours in Hartford visiting the Mark Twain House. Overall, it was great experience doubling as a job perk. I’ll take it! (Photo: The Connecticut Science Center packed with costumed science explorers!)
Strategic planning with the Tennessee Aquarium (Chattanooga)
I went to Chattanooga to participate in IMPACTS’s facilitation of the Tennessee Aquarium’s strategic planning process. A little over five years ago, the Tennessee Aquarium hosted me during an AZA speaking engagement while I was still in graduate school. That particular conference – and the people at this aquarium – played an important role in my opportunity to work with IMPACTS. My heart gets a bit bigger when I get to see the people at this aquarium. To make things even better, the aquarium opened their brand new, beautiful Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute facility during this visit! The opening was a great success! (Photo: Opening event for the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s new facility and some familiar, friendly faces deserving of a big “CONGRATULATIONS!”)
National Aquarium board retreat (Baltimore)
I’m honored to be on the board of directors of the National Aquarium. We had a great board retreat over the weekend and discussed some of the meaningful and impactful and community and ecosystem-serving initiatives that this great institution is spearheading. I’m honored and grateful to be on the board of such a forward-facing organization with great leaders. (Photo: Ready for board retreating with great minds at the National Aquarium!)
WEEK 3: From faculty to flying elephants
Lecturing for the Developing History Leaders Course (Indianapolis)
I was honored to serve as faculty for the Developing History Leaders course for the Seminar for Historical Administration. It was an honor to share data and talk millennial engagement with eager and thoughtful minds from some of the best history organizations in the US. What a rush! (Photo: Outside of the Indiana Historical Society after talking millennials with the SHA course)
Sharing a new engagement metric at Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey)
As some folks who work specifically in digital engagement within cultural organizations know, I am itching to find a better way to measure social media engagement ROI using real-time market data to track how it affects public perceptions. I was joined by my fellow IMPACTS team members to debut a new social media metric at the Monterey Bay Aquarium this week. Stay tuned! We’re slowly bringing the metric to scale, and it is already demonstrating the strong correlation between social media content and changes in an organization’s public perceptions. One of the coolest parts of my job is working with great brains and trying to uncover new ways of doing things to help cultural organizations. This metric is a labor of love for IMPACTS, and I’m eager to share more as we grow this metric. (Photo: These engaged youngsters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are what it’s all about.)
Riding Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland (Anaheim)
Because sometimes a girl’s gotta chill…
WEEK 4: From talking artifacts to aging audiences
IMPACTS meeting (New York)
I went to New York for an IMPACTS VSO project update with colleagues. The IMPACTS VSO (those of us that work with visitor-serving organizations) team is cellular (i.e. we live all over and meet up on the road), so it’s great to get a moment to spend time with colleagues and put our brains together on behalf of our clients. During my time in NYC, I battled presidential election outcome stress by visiting one of my favorite museum “celebrities.” (Dum Dum give me Gum Gum, anyone? (I’m a huge nerd and I don’t even care.)) (Photo: Hanging with a celebrity at the American Museum of Natural History)
Sharing audience research on Baby Boomers (Palo Alto)
IMPACTS is working with a community center for aging adults in Palo Alto, and I traveled there with my colleagues to present data and learn more about this community’s programs and initiatives. In my line of work with cultural organizations, there’s an imperative to better cultivate millennial audiences. For this type of organization, however, it’s the Baby Boomers who represent the more immediate future. It’s exciting to consider the behaviors, perceptions, opportunities, and needs of this generation – especially as they continue to innovate and inform all of our inevitable futures as we age into our tomorrows. (Photo: A typical hotel scene – this one is taken in San Mateo as I prep for conversations the next morning.)
Though I spent a lot of time on the road, this is a rather typical month for me in terms of workload. For those following along: My month’s itinerary totaled 28 days, 18 airline flights, and 17 nights in hotels. It involved working with new clients and old ones, and coming up with new ideas to help move the industry forward. I was north, south, east, and west (and in Nepal). I think that it provides accurate insight into the kind of work that I have the opportunity to do and some of the great projects that I am working on. Of course, I did many other things for work, too! This list illustrates where I was and what I was doing or presenting – but in between this time, I wrote and published KYOB articles, had multiple calls with clients and spent a good amount of time preparing and arranging decks, edited KYOB fast fact videos, voted, solidified two keynote speaking engagements for 2017, and we elected a new soon-to-be president of the United States. (Okay, those election-related items are a tad atypical!)
When you next wonder, “What does she do everyday?!” Now you know! I know my own bone – and these are the types of bones that I gnaw, bury, unearth, and gnaw at still.