One of the most important practices in effective interpretation involves understanding your audience's background, interests and perspectives so you can use the most appropriate technique for making your message relevant to their lives. Ask them questions, observe how they interact with each other, or the exhibit or location, and learn more in advance about the characteristics of the visitors to your institution.
You can also draw on recent studies that characterize the American audience as it relates their attitudes about climate change. One of the most widely used studies is Global Warming's Six Americas: An Audience Segmentation, an ongoing study conducted by George Mason University and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. You can find an overview and the full study here.
NAI's Certified Interpretive Guide Training Workbook notes that people love to hear good stories, unusual facts, inspirational thoughts, quotes and gee-whiz information in terms they understand (analogy, metaphor). They respond to things that evoke emotional or physiological responses, such as scary, beautiful, sad, happy, and what's important to them. They don't respond to scientific data, doom and gloom and the same thing they've heard over and over about climate change.
Person-on-the-Street Interviews We asked random people in California and Alaska their feelings or thoughts about energy, ocean acidification, climate change, oil in the Arctic, melting glaciers and polar regions and how to address these issues.Here's what we heard. Can you identify the different types of audiences - skeptic, unaware, supporter? Notice the range of responses based on their own values and beliefs.
Arctic Decisions: Melting Glaciers
Personal Experiences with Climate Change: Episode 3
Additional audience videos:
- The Arctic: Oil, Decisions, Issues
- Arctic Decisions
- Climate Change Solutions: Episode 1
- Climate Change Solutions: Episode 2
- Climate Change Solutions: Episode 3
- Energy & Personal Experiences with Climate Change: Episode 1
- Personal Experiences with Climate Change: Episode 2
The lessons in this Unit showcase interpretive techniques modeled with a variety of audiences. Lesson 2.1 highlights ways to engage people who are skeptical about climate change and their role in solutions. Lesson 2.2 focuses on audiences who are not very aware of the details of climate change, while Lesson 3.2 features techniques for getting supporters to look at both personal and community solutions. In Lesson 4.2, interpreters reach out to children.