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The difference between good enough and great: bringing interpretive best practices to life.


Effective interpretation may produce multiple positive outcomes for program attendees. These include enhancing their knowledge and/or appreciation for the resource, site, or agency, influencing their behavior both on-site and off-site, and providing inspiration, both in a general sense and a more specific sense to enhance desires to explore further, learn more, or otherwise take self-directed action (Ham, 2009, 2013; Ward & Wilkinson, 2006). These outcomes may result from high-quality orientation, skills-building, persuasive communication, and/or effective storytelling that creates meaningful cognitive and emotional connections (Ham, 1992, 2009, 2013; Tilden, 1957; Ward & Wilkinson, 2006). But what makes the difference between good, or adequate, interpretation and great interpretation? This article serves as the final article in this special issue and focuses on this distinction, both in terms of the outcomes that might differentiate the two and the characteristics that appear to influence those outcomes.

Our research team observed 376 interpretive programs across 24 units of the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), tracking 56 independent variables that we later tested for relationships with outcomes measured in surveys administered to program attendees (Stern & Powell, this issue). The results indicated that certain practices and interpreter characteristics were statistically linked with more positive visitor outcomes. Perhaps the most striking finding of the study, however, was that over 85% of the people we surveyed rated the program they had attended an 8 or above on a 0-to-10 scale depicting their level of satisfaction. This led us to conclude that our results based on visitor surveys could not clearly distinguish good programs from bad programs. Rather, they could only identify characteristics that appear to move the scale from good to better.

Despite these consistently high ratings, our team witnessed dramatic variability in what we perceived to be the quality of these programs. In this paper, we draw upon our qualitative observations and an additional subjective quantitative measure made in the field by the research team about the overall quality of each program in an attempt to draw a clearer distinction between "good enough" and "great" interpretive programs.

We first explore theory relevant to understanding visitors' generally high levels of satisfaction in the study, elucidating the role of visitors' expectations on their evaluations of the programs they attended. Second, we contrast visitor expectations with their experiences, drawing a distinction between what it means to meet expectations and what it means to provide a more meaningful experience. We then present analyses of the factors that drove our own judgments of each program. Finally, we provide examples from our field notes of the factors that appear to distinguish between programs sufficient to satisfy visitors' basic expectations and those that might do something more.

Meeting expectations vs. making meaningful connections

Visitors' expectations may play two primary roles in their assessments of interpretive experiences (del Bosque & San Martin, 2008). First, they provide a basis for assessing performance. That is, a visitor's satisfaction can, in part, be based on the comparison of their experience with their pre-conceived notions. If the experience meets or exceeds their valuation of that pre-conceived notion, we would expect a positive evaluation. Others suggest that expectations may also serve as a direct antecedent to satisfaction evaluations (Szymanski & Henard, 2001). This can be explained by Assimilation Theory (Sherif & Hovland, 1961) as well as the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (Festinger, 1957). Individuals suffer cognitive dissonance (psychological conflict) when their experiences do not match their pre-conceived notions. In these cases, individuals make efforts to resolve the dissonance they feel. One common response is to adjust (or assimilate) their perception of the experience to match their pre-conceived notions. An example would be a family that saved up for an annual vacation that didn't meet their expectations, yet convinced themselves that the vacation was still well worth the effort expended. Del Bosque and San Martin (2008) investigated these two roles of expectations in tourism satisfaction and found that expectations in this latter sense were the dominant drivers of satisfaction. Expectations in the comparative sense were linked to positive and negative emotions. However, positive emotions were more strongly based on expectations alone, rather than how well the program met those expectations.

Understanding motivations for program attendance can help shed light on the likely expectations of attendees. Stern, Powell, and Hockett (2011) explored the primary motivations of visitors at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for attending interpretive programs. The most common motivations included entertainment, a chance to see something the visitor might otherwise miss, accommodating others in the visitor's group, and learning more about a specific topic or place. Other researchers have uncovered similar motivations for program attendance (Veverka, 1978; Srisomyoung, 2000; Galloway, 2002; Irving, 1986; Packer, 2004). These motivations provide insights into the probable expectations of the program attendees in our recent study--that programs should draw visitors' attention to unique resources in an entertaining and educational way.

These basic expectations may be relatively easy to meet. As such, programs may not need to inspire, provoke, or have deep meaning for the visitor to achieve a basic level of satisfaction. Still, we witnessed during our time in the parks what we felt to be some dreadfully boring talks and others where the interpreter struggled to recall facts about the resources they were attempting to interpret. Del Bosque and San Martin's (2008) expectancy theory helps to explain why visitors might still rate a mediocre program with moderately high scores.

We also witnessed programs that brought visitors to tears or clear expressions of elation and/or epiphany. Other programs elicited obvious displays of satisfaction and clear expressions of what one might call "pleasant surprise" or basic "wow" moments indicative of interpreters' clearly exceeding visitors' expectations. Despite the clear differences we observed in visitor expressions, actions, and emotions on-site, only minor differences were apparent in quantitatively measured satisfaction and visitor experience and appreciation scores. However, our qualitative observations and the quantitative assessments shared in this paper indicate to us a meaningful difference between programs that produce basic short-term satisfaction versus those that might approach what positive psychologists call eudaimonic well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2001).

Hedonic vs. eudaimonic satisfaction

Ryan and Deci (2001) define two perspectives on assessing human well-being. The hedonic perspective is based on the short-term satisfaction of basic needs and desires (e.g., pleasure attainment and pain avoidance). The eudaimonic perspective is more akin to Maslow's (1943) concept of self-actualization and Tilden's (1957) concept of provocation. In the context of interpretive programming or other similar experiences, eudaimonic satisfaction goes beyond short-term pleasure and enjoyment toward touching the personal values and/or provoking the deeper thoughts of the audience member (Oliver & Bartsch, 2010; Wirth et al., 2012). Oliver & Bartsch (2010, p. 76) use the term "appreciation" to describe a eudaimonic audience response to a powerful movie as "an experiential state that is characterized by the perception of deeper meaning, the feeling of being moved, and the motivation to elaborate on thoughts and feelings inspired by the experience." This is similar to the psychological concept of elaboration, which is generally seen as a precursor to cognitive changes in a message recipient that can lead to long-term attitude or behavior change (Ham, 2009; Petty & Cacciopo, 1986). We posit that, like a great movie, excellent interpretation can lead to this eudaimonic state, and that this process delineates the space between adequate interpretation, which primarily satisfies short-term hedonic interests, and great interpretation.

In short, adequate, or even mediocre, interpretation may achieve substantial hedonic satisfaction, but great interpretation is also capable of achieving eudaimonic satisfaction. Like a great movie or work of art that stays with an audience in some form for days, months, or even years, great interpretation also has the potential to have meaningful influence on how audience members perceive the world after it (Ham, 2013). This distinction may be particularly relevant in interpretive programs in national parks, where visitor expectations may be quite basic for most interpretive program goers (Stern et al., 2011), particularly for those who have never been exposed to a "great" program.

While satisfying basic expectations (e.g., providing some degree of entertainment or satisfying a general curiosity) appears to be common (Stern & Powell, this issue), achieving more meaningful, eudaimonic impacts for the visitor may be more challenging. Yet, NPS training documents and various other textbooks, trainings, and guidance documents regularly reference the importance of meaningfully connecting audiences to resources in ways that go beyond mere knowledge provision (Brochu & Merriman, 2002; Ham, 1992, 2009, 2013; Knudson et al., 2003; Larsen, 2003; NPS Module 101; Lewis, 2005; Skibins et al., 2012; Ward & Wilkinson, 2006). Each program presents an opportunity to do so.

We focus the rest of this article on illustrating the characteristics that appear to differentiate programs that merely satisfy basic visitor expectations from those that seize the opportunity to move visitors toward eudaimonic satisfaction.

What makes a great program?

The research effort with which this paper is associated uncovered a number of specific practices that were statistically linked with enhanced visitor experience and appreciation, greater satisfaction, and even reported changes in behavioral intentions in some cases (Stern & Powell, this issue). These included both characteristics of the interpreter and of the program itself:

Interpreter characteristics

* Confidence (comfort, eloquence, and apparent knowledge)

* Authentic emotion and charisma (passion, sincerity, and charisma)

* Responsiveness of the interpreter to the audience's interests, questions, needs, etc.

* Audibility

* Avoiding a focus on knowledge gain as the program's central goal and communicating solely factual information

* Avoiding making uncertain assumptions about the audience

Program characteristics

* Appropriateness for the audience

* Organization (quality of introduction, appropriate sequence, effective transitions, holistic story, clear theme, link between introduction and conclusion)

* Connection (links to intangibles and universal concepts, cognitive engagement, relevance to audience, affective messaging, provocation)

* Consistency of tone and quality

* Clear message

* Appropriate logistics

* Verbal engagement

* Multisensory engagement

* Appropriate pace

To further explore the notion of separating good, or adequate, programs from excellent programs, we make use of an additional measure made by our research team in the field. Immediately following each program, the researcher observing the program scored its overall quality on a scale from 1 to 10. This score was based on two factors. The first was the researcher's personal opinion of the quality of the program. The second was based on the researchers' observations of audience responses. Did the interpretation achieve an appropriate response from the audience? Conversely, was the audience visibly disinterested? Each researcher witnessed more than 90 live interpretive programs over the course of the study. In an effort to ensure reliability, researchers were instructed to revisit their overall quality scores periodically throughout the field season to ensure that the scale provided adequate comparisons from program to program.

To keep consistent with our analyses of visitor responses (Powell & Stern, this issue; Stern & Powell, this issue), we limited this analysis to programs with five or more attendees. Scores ranged from 2 to 10, with a mean of 5.9 and a standard deviation of 1.9. Only three programs were rated a 10 out of 10. The research team collectively agreed that a score of eight represented a clear threshold for what we would consider to be excellent programs, as described in the eudaimonic sense above. Twenty-three percent of the programs we observed were placed into this category (scoring 8 or higher on the overall quality measure).

Our subjective assessments of overall quality were significantly correlated with each of the outcomes measured in the visitor surveys (Table 1). Moreover, scores above eight also showed strong statistical relationships with more positive visitor-reported outcomes, particularly for satisfaction and visitor experience and appreciation. As such, our subjective assessments were validated to some extent by the visitor surveys, yet they provide a far more sensitive measure of program quality, accounting for the enhanced expectations of more experienced interpretive program audience members.

Tables 2 and 3 show the results of t-tests and chi-square tests that examine the statistical differences in interpreter and program characteristics between programs that scored an 8 or above on our overall quality measure and programs scoring lower. Characteristics with statistical relationships are further explained in Stern and Powell (this issue) and in Tables 5 and 6. In Table 2, bold and italicized items are those with a "large" statistical effect on membership in the "excellent" category (Cohen's d > 0.8). In Table 2, bold and italicized items represent those with the smallest probability of occurring by chance (p < .001). These characteristics in each table generally mirror those that predicted better visitor-reported outcomes (Stern & Powell, this issue). In this case, however, they explicitly distinguish what we considered to be great programs from all others.

We conducted a stepwise binary logistic regression on all interpreter and program characteristics (Table 4) to determine how well the most parsimonious set of characteristics could predict an overall quality assessment of 8 or better. The characteristics in Table 4 predict with over 88% accuracy which programs scored above or below this threshold. We urge some caution in the interpretation of this model. Many of the characteristics observed in the field were highly correlated with each other. The absence of characteristics that were otherwise strongly related to our score of "excellent" does not lessen their importance. Rather, their covariance with the predictors that populated the final model precludes their inclusion. For example, connection is strongly correlated with authentic emotion and charisma, confidence, organization, and appropriate for the audience (r > 0.4 in each case). As such, these variables appear in its place in the model. The primary value of the model, we believe, is in demonstrating the strength of interpreter and program characteristics in predicting membership in the "excellent" category of programming.

We posit that the characteristics highlighted in the bivariate tests (shown in Tables 2 and 3), particularly those in bold italics, help to meaningfully differentiate programs that are adequate to satisfy visitors in a basic hedonic sense from those that may produce eudaimonic satisfaction. Our analyses suggest that each of these practices in various combinations may enhance outcomes across a majority of programs in which they were practiced. In other words, just like any other piece of art, there is no single recipe for success.

What do the practices look like?

Tables 5 and 6 provide definitions and examples from our field notes of the interpreter and program characteristics with the most powerful relationships to positive outcomes. We include only characteristics with strong statistically significant relationships (p < .01) with at least three measured outcomes (satisfaction, visitor experience and appreciation, behavioral intentions, and our own overall quality assessment). Positive examples in the tables reveal clear efforts to draw deeper connections to program attendees that go beyond mere entertainment and satisfaction of basic curiosity. The interpreters and programs exhibiting these traits seize the opportunity to go beyond the provision of basic hedonic satisfaction and move the visitor toward a more eudaimonic experience. This is not to say that all visitors to these programs experience life-changing moments, but rather the programs provide opportunities for visitors who are open to such provocation to make meaningful connections to the resources being interpreted.

We witnessed a number of brilliant programs over our three months of fieldwork. We've chosen one in particular to demonstrate the potential of interpretation to have meaningful longer-term influences on program attendees. This particular program scored an 8 on the overall quality measure.
   Following a thorough orientation to the program content and
   logistics, the ranger told us a little bit about what we were going
   to learn and why it was important to know. As we walked to the
   first stop, he also taught us some basic facts about the
   progression of the war, how it came to this site, and some key
   players in the battles that were fought here. This was the extent
   of the "history lesson" about the Civil War. The real meat of the
   program was the story of one young, unnamed man who lived in this
   town. We stopped at the house where he grew up, sat in the
   schoolhouse where he learned to read and write as a child, and
   visited the blacksmith shop where he learned his trade as a young
   man. At each place we learned about daily life during the time
   period: how meals were prepared in the oppressively hot family
   kitchen, the long walk to school and the cramped conditions inside
   the single room, the dangers of blacksmithing and the injuries that
   were regularly endured--all through the eyes of our main character.
   As such, we were able to frame the Civil War in a very tangible
   sense and see our character as a real person, similar to us, with
   real hopes, relationships, and struggles.

   As we moved onto the historic battlefield, the interpreter
   described how the young man saw the fight coming over the hill and
   rushed out his front door to join the Union, without enlisting in
   any official capacity. As we crossed the battlefield we saw the
   progression of the battle through the young man's eyes. We could
   feel his anxiety and excitement, his bravery and despair. As the
   tour neared its conclusion, we learned the young man's name. We
   also learned how he remained on the battlefield until the end,
   providing safe retreat for his Union Army comrades. His heroic
   actions saved the lives of many but cost him his own.

   We entered the National Cemetery, and the interpreter told us of
   many of the young men who had been buried here. We stopped. The
   ranger quietly paused and seemed to take it all in. Then he looked
   down at his feet and pointed out a grave stone near his feet--the
   final resting place of the young man we had spent the past hour
   coming to know. The audience's solemnity and sadness was palpable.
   The interpreter used few words to draw the connections between this
   young man's story and the magnitude of the Civil War's impact not
   only on our nation, but also on the people living so close to the
   battles. We had quite literally walked in this young man's
   footsteps as strong themes of sacrifice, beliefs, valor, and
   ordinary people unfolded. The audience stood in silence for quite
   some time after the program had ended.

This story, and many more like it, will stick with us for months and years to come. Like scenes from a great movie, a line from a song, or a favorite quote or poem, they arise in our minds and shape our decisions in ways that aren't always entirely tangible and for reasons we sometimes can't fully apprehend. Yet, they are there--a piece of our selves. Great interpretation provides this.

So what?

We've identified in both a statistical and qualitative sense throughout this special issue the characteristics of interpreters and their programs that appear to provide the most meaningful experiences for program attendees. We've attempted to demonstrate the difference between meeting basic expectations of the visitor and providing a truly exceptional experience. Sam Ham (2013) describes the endgame of interpretation as provocation, or "making people think and find personal meaning" (p. 62). Connection, stewardship, appreciation, understanding, revelation, inspiration, caring, motivation, and building support (or constituency) are other words commonly associated with the purpose of interpretation (Association for Heritage Interpretation, 2013; European Association for Heritage Interpretation, 2013; Interpretation Australia, 2013; Interpretation Canada, 2013; National Association for Interpretation, 2013; Stern & Powell, 2011; U.S. National Park Service, 2013). As such, satisfying the basic expectations of the visitor, such as orientation or entertainment, may be viewed not only as interpretive outcomes, but also as means to more meaningful and lasting ends (see Ham, 2013). Similar to Pine and Gilmore (1998), who urged the tourism industry to transition from a paradigm of service delivery to one of experience creation, we urge providers of interpretation to consider the potential of interpretation for meeting these more eudaimonic purposes in their planning and programming.

To meet these ultimate goals, we suggest that interpreters and interpretive organizations, such as the NPS, might consider the findings of this study in light of their hiring, training, and organizational cultures and practices. Many of the characteristics identified within the research effort are already clearly identified in training materials and books used in classes on interpretation (U.S. National Park Service, 2013; Skibins et al., 2012). The influence of interpreters' expressed personalities and attitudes beg a deeper question, however, regarding how to train for, or otherwise influence, these characteristics.

Hiring and training

We focus in particular on the role of knowledge. We do this for two reasons. First, the hiring process for many interpretive agencies relies heavily on the self-reported knowledge, skills, and abilities (also known as KSAs) of potential hires. Second, we have witnessed interpretive training programs that we feel promote a potentially inappropriate role for facts and knowledge in communications with visitors. As discussed in Stern and Powell (this issue), the interpreter's knowledge of the subject matter is critical to the successful presentation of a program. However, knowledge should not necessarily be the focus of the communication itself. We rather posit that the knowledge of the interpreter serves a more important indirect role to successful communication through the development of confidence. This confidence frees the interpreter to be creative, emotive, and genuine in his or her communications instead of nervous or struggling to remember the correct facts and dates (Daly et al., 1989). Our data suggests that an over-emphasis on resource knowledge has the potential to hinder rather than promote positive visitor outcomes if it becomes the sole focus of the presentation (see also Stern & Powell, this issue).

Clearly, knowledge of the appropriate techniques and end goals of interpretation as well as knowledge of audiences and resources are critical for successful interpretation (Lacome, 2013). Our interviews with interpreters prior to their presentations revealed that those who aimed to provide visitors with new knowledge achieved less positive outcomes than those aiming to inspire visitors to gain a greater appreciation, change their attitudes, or desire to learn more (see also Stern & Powell, this issue). We argue that interpreters' understanding of these eudaimonic goals of interpretation may serve as a meaningful predictor of their success. As such, gauging beliefs about interpretation's appropriate outcomes in the hiring process might serve as reasonable predictors about how one might approach the task. Some assessment of general philosophies about the importance of story-telling and commitment to the mission of the organization might also be useful at this hiring stage. Each of these elements could also form the basis of meaningful training for all interpreters.

Knowledge of the resource, audience, and techniques can be further developed after hire on-site. Providing employees with the ability to spend time forming their own meaningful connections with the resources and stories they will be interpreting may be just as critical as time in the library or archives developing an understanding of the facts about the resource. Without these personal connections, it may prove quite challenging to provide similar connections for visitors. Without a holistic picture of a place or a resource, it may be quite difficult to develop compelling stories that reveal deeper meaning to audiences. Training can provide multiple versions of stories to interpreters, as they develop their own.

We have witnessed various approaches to training. Some have focused on accuracy and education through organizing facts into a coherent order for presentation, similar to what one learns in a college public speaking course--tell 'em what you'll tell 'em, tell 'em, and then tell 'em what you told 'em. While this approach can help with organizing information, it does not alone capture what is most important to interpretive communication. We argue for a more hands-on approach that begins with demonstration of the practices uncovered in our study as well as demonstration of drier, more factual presentations. Without experiencing each, it may be difficult to grasp the difference between mediocre and excellent interpretation. As interpreters practice their own programs, the list of characteristics uncovered within this study can serve as a menu of elements for experimentation and constructive feedback. Perhaps most important would be to stress the desired outcomes of programs to interpreters. Currently, most park units' long-range interpretive plans in the NPS place emphasis on subject matter themes rather than desired outcomes for visitors. A slight shift in what is most prominently communicated to interpreters from the organization could make a meaningful impact.

Organizational support

Elements of organizational culture have been long identified as important drivers of employee performance (Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992; Judge et al., 2001; Schein, 2010). We focus on the concepts of employee empowerment and adaptability, critical task, and attitudinal organizational commitment (AOC). Our study revealed that interpreters tend to produce better outcomes for visitors when they are excited and positive about their work (Stern & Powell, this issue). Similarly, a large body of research suggests that happy employees tend to perform better (Judge et al., 2001). Organizational culture can have a strong influence on such feelings (Ouchi & Wilkins, 1985).

We posit that interpreters who feel empowered and supported by their organizations will be most successful in producing positive visitor outcomes. Our qualitative observations, interviews, and casual conversations with interpreters in the field strongly support this notion. The proposition is further supported in the management literature, where the empowerment of employees is equated to feelings of competence, self-determination (freedom to choose how to get the job done), a sense that the work is important, and a belief that the work will have a meaningful impact on the larger goals of the organization (Kirkman & Rosen, 1999; Spreitzer, 1996). Such empowerment, and the adaptability that is associated with it, has been empirically equated with better performance in multiple studies (e.g., Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992; Stern & Predmore, 2012). In our study, elements of confidence and authentic emotion served as critical ingredients of outstanding programs.

Multiple studies reveal that adaptability at the individual level is most predictive of success in organizations and work units that have a clear and consistent sense of mission and a strong organizational culture (Wilson, 1989). Wilson (1989) argues that a clear sense of mission emerges not necessarily from a mission statement, but from the articulation of a "critical task" that is widely accepted and endorsed by employees. A critical task involves the clear definition of the specific outcomes that employees can produce to accomplish the overall mission of the agency. A strong and healthy organizational culture can be defined as one where employees share consistent views about this critical task. They also share relatively consistent views that the organization emphasizes both its human resources and goal accomplishment (Hansen & Wernerfelt, 1989; Gordon & DiTomaso, 1992). This combination can influence high levels of AOC, which indicates the relative strength of an employee's commitment to and identification with an organization (Deery & Iverson, 2005; Mowday et al., 1982; Riketta, 2002). The stronger the AOC, the stronger the employee's motivation to pursue the agency's goals and improve its status (Riketta & Landerer, 2005).

With all this in mind, certain elements of organizational support may be particularly helpful in enhancing interpreter performance: a recognition and articulation of clear (and meaningful) objectives for interpretive outcomes for attendees, training and immersive time with the resource to enhance feelings of competency, freedom to develop programs creatively with organizationally important outcomes in mind, and appreciative support and recognition from supervisors and managers. In our study, each park unit appeared to have its own unique organizational culture. Our qualitative observations indicated strong influences in some cases of less than healthy organizational cultures upon interpreter performance. While the mood of individual interpreters on any given day may be largely independent of organizational culture, unhealthy cultures may predispose interpreters to falling short of providing the best programs within their abilities. Meanwhile, healthy, empowering cultures may influence higher levels of confidence, passion, and creativity in interpreters, enhancing their connections to both the resources they interpret and the audiences they engage.


The research reported within this special issue suggests that certain characteristics of interpreters and their programs may make the difference between mediocre, or adequate, experiences for visitors and exceptional experiences. In this article, we have tried to delineate the differences between the outcomes of each type of program. Most programs in the study attained positive levels of satisfaction from attendees, suggesting that basic expectations were typically met. Some programs, however, likely influenced attendees in far more meaningful ways, similar to the way a great work of art or movie might be revelatory or inspirational, or provide some new insight or viewpoint that remains long after the experience. We urge interpretive organizations to consider the findings presented within this manuscript and the rest of this special issue when developing and/or revising training for interpreters. We also urge interpretive organizations to reach toward more eudaimonic experiences for visitors by clearly articulating goals that go beyond merely satisfying visitors' basic expectations. Interpretation provides the opportunity to accomplish much more, not only in terms of visitor experiences, but also with regard to building constituencies for the interpreted resources and the organizations that protect them. Finally, we urge interpretive organizations to consider that training alone may be insufficient to create the conditions that produce great programs for visitors and that organizational culture may have powerful influences on visitor outcomes.


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Tilden, F. (1957). Interpreting our heritage (3rd ed.). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

U.S. National Park Service (2013). Interpretive development program. http://idp.eppley. org/. Accessed June 20, 2013.

Veverka, J. A. (1998). Interpretive master planning: the essential planning guide for interpretive centers, parks, self guided trails, historic sites, zoos, exhibits and programs (2nd ed.). Tustin: Acorn Naturalists.

Ward, C.W., & Wilkinson, A. E. (2006). Conducting meaningful interpretation: A field guide for success. Golden: Fulcrum.

Wirth, W. Hofer, M., & Schramm, H. (2012). Beyond pleasure: exploring the eudaimonic entertainment experience. Human Communication Research, 38: 406-428.

Marc J. Stern

Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech

Robert B. Powell

Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and School of Agricultural

and Forest Environmental Sciences, Clemson University

Kevin D. McLean

Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech

Emily Martin

Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Jennifer M. Thomsen

Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, Clemson University

Bethany A. Mutchler

Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech
Table 1. Relationships between visitor-reported outcomes and
researchers' overall assessments of program quality.

                         Pearson        Comparisons of visitor-
Visitor-reported         correlation    reported outcome scores with
outcomes                 with           programs rated "excellent"
                         researchers'   ([greater than or equal to]
                         assessments    8) or less than excellent
                                        (<8) by research team

                                               Overall score

Satisfaction (0 to 10)   .543 **        [greater than or equal to] 8

Visitor experience and   .412 **        [greater than or equal to] 8
appreciation (1 to 5)                               <8

Behavioral intentions    .218 **        [greater than or equal to] 8
(1 to 5)                                            <8

                         Comparisons of visitor-
Visitor-reported         reported outcome scores with
outcomes                 programs rated "excellent"
                         ([greater than or equal to]
                         8) or less than excellent
                         (<8) by research team

                         Means   t     p        Cohen's d

Satisfaction (0 to 10)   9.36    7.6   < .001   0.97

Visitor experience and   4.54    3.7   < .001   0.56
appreciation (1 to 5)    4.37

Behavioral intentions    3.08    2.3   .024     0.34
(1 to 5)                 2.87

** p < .001

Table 2. Independent samples t-tests comparing means of
characteristics for programs that were rated by the
research team as "excellent" ([greater than or equal to] 8)

 or "less
than excellent" (< 8).

Characteristic                              score

Authentic emotion and          [greater than or equal to] 8
  charisma (1 to 5)                          <8
Connection (1 to 5)            [greater than or equal to] 8
Organization (1 to 5)          [greater than or equal to] 8
Confidence (1 to 4)            [greater than or equal to] 8
Appropriate for the            [greater than or equal to] 8
  audience (1 to 5)                          <8
Humor quality (1 to 4)         [greater than or equal to] 8
Clear central message          [greater than or equal to] 8
  (1 to 4)                                   <8
Verbal engagement (1 to 5)     [greater than or equal to] 8
Multisensory engagement        [greater than or equal to] 8
  (1 to 3)                                   <8
Self-reported level of         [greater than or equal to] 8
  excitement of the                          <8
  interpreter prior to the
  program (0 to 10)
Humor quantity (1 to 5)        [greater than or equal to] 8
Surprise (1 to 3)              [greater than or equal to] 8
Responsiveness (1 to 3)        [greater than or equal to] 8
Novelty (1 to 3)               [greater than or equal to] 8
Multiple activities (1 to 4)   [greater than or equal to] 8
Personal sharing (1 to 4)      [greater than or equal to] 8
Appropriate logistics          [greater than or equal to] 8
  (1 to 4)                                   <8
Consistency (1 to 3)           [greater than or equal to] 8
False assumption of the        [greater than or equal to] 8
  audience (1 to 3)                          <8
Formality (1 to 5)             [greater than or equal to] 8
Physical engagement (1 to 4)   [greater than or equal to] 8

Characteristic                 Means     t       p       d

Authentic emotion and          4.38    12.1   < .001    1.57
  charisma (1 to 5)            3.34
Connection (1 to 5)            3.42     8.7   < .001    1.29
Organization (1 to 5)          3.94     8.2   < .001    1.24
Confidence (1 to 4)            3.66     9.2   < .001    1.21
Appropriate for the            4.47     7.2   < .001    1.12
  audience (1 to 5)            3.78
Humor quality (1 to 4)         2.59     6.5   < .001    0.94
Clear central message          2.82     6.3   < .001    0.90
  (1 to 4)                     2.02
Verbal engagement (1 to 5)     3.15     6.1   < .001    0.87
Multisensory engagement        2.70     5.8   < .001    0.84
  (1 to 3)                     2.30
Self-reported level of         8.55     4.7   < .001    0.75
  excitement of the            7.08
  interpreter prior to the
  program (0 to 10)
Humor quantity (1 to 5)        2.44     4.5   < .001    0.65
Surprise (1 to 3)              1.26     3.5     .001    0.60
Responsiveness (1 to 3)        2.96     4.8   < .001    0.58
Novelty (1 to 3)               1.39     3.6     .001    0.57
Multiple activities (1 to 4)   1.37     2.9     .005    0.50
Personal sharing (1 to 4)      1.95     3.5     .001    0.49
Appropriate logistics          3.41     2.9     .004    0.45
  (1 to 4)                     3.02
Consistency (1 to 3)           2.97     3.3     .001    0.38
False assumption of the        1.08    -2.5     .013   -0.34
  audience (1 to 3)            1.20
Formality (1 to 5)             2.98    -2.4     .018   -0.34
Physical engagement (1 to 4)   1.61     2.4     .019    0.34

Not statistically related to achieving an excellent outcome
rating ([greater than or equal to] 8): Prior experience of
the interpreter, audibility, sarcasm, multiple viewpoints,
quality of the resource.

Table 3. Differences in binary characteristics of programs that the
research team scored as "excellent" ([greater than or equal to] 8)
or "less than excellent" (< 8).

Characteristic                    Pearson        P     Direction of
                                [chi square]           relationship

Interpreter identity: friend        35.7       <.001     Positive
Interpreter identity:               13.6       <.001     Negative
Fact-based messaging                13.5       <.001     Negative
Appropriate pace                    11.3        .001     Positive
Interpreter's intended               9.8        .002     Positive
  outcome: get audience to
  want to learn more
Program 20% shorter than             8.0        .005     Negative
Props                                6.6        .010     Positive
Pace too slow                        5.2        .023     Negative
Interpreter's intended               5.0        .026     Negative
  outcome: increase knowledge
  of audience

Not statistically related to achieving an excellent outcome rating
([greater than or equal to] 8):Location of park (urban vs. urban-
proximate vs. remote), indoor vs. outdoor program, program 20% longer
than advertised, pace too fast, questionable information,
other intended outcomes (see Stern and Powell, this issue),
whether interpreter was a volunteer, park ranger, or paid
concessionaire, professional appearance, inequitable treatment of
audience, impatience, interpreter identity: authority, bias, false
attribution, unexpected negative or positive circumstances.

Table 4. Binary logistic regression model predicting an "excellent"
overall score ([greater than or equal to] 8) by the research team
(Nagelkerke [R.sup.2] = 0.57).

                                        Predicted score
                               < 8   [greater than or equal to] 8

Observed score   < 8           191              12
[greater than or equal to] 8    19              40

                                     Overall Percentage

Predictors:                                   p

Authentic emotion and                       < .001
Confidence                                    .034
Organization                                  .005
Appropriate for the audience                  .010
Verbal engagement                             .006


Observed score   < 8             94.1%
[greater than or equal to] 8     67.8%


Predictors:                    Exp ([beta])

Authentic emotion and             4.2
Confidence                        3.9
Organization                      2.9
Appropriate for the audience      2.6
Verbal engagement                 1.8

Table 5. Qualitative field notes describing interpreter
characteristics observed during programs with statistically
significant relationships with measured outcomes.

Characteristic              Examples

Characteristics comprising "confidence"

Comfort of the              HIGH: The interpreter used a very
Interpreter Degree to       conversational tone when interacting
which the interpreter       with the audience. At each stop he would
presenting the program      sit down on a fence post or lean against
seems comfortable with      a sign while continuing his story. He
the audience and capable    asked visitors to stop him with
of successfully             questions and to suggest answers to
presenting the program      various questions he posed. Following
without apparent signs of   engagement with the audience (or any
nervousness or self-doubt   type of interruptions), he would
(Lewis 2005; Moscardo,      continue his story seamlessly with
1999; Ward & Wilkinson,     effective transitions.

                            LOW: The interpreter was clearly
                            unnerved by a large crowd consisting of
                            a mix of adults and very distracted
                            children who were bored by the
                            historical topic of the talk. He
                            mentioned that Civil War history was not
                            his area of expertise and struggled to
                            remember certain numbers and facts. He
                            was unable to answer most visitors'
                            questions and did not maintain the large
                            group very well when moving from
                            location to location. He tried several
                            times to stop visitors from leaving the
                            program and looked clearly saddened each
                            time more people left.

                            LOW: The interpreter seemed very nervous
                            and was visibly shaking and had to pause
                            several times to collect thoughts and
                            recall what came next. The interpreter
                            apologized frequently for forgetting
                            what she had scripted and relied on "um,
                            yeah, and like" to fill in the gaps.

Apparent Knowledge          HIGH: Not only did the interpreter know
The degree to which the     facts and scientific details about every
interpreter appears to      plant, but also stories about their
know the information        connection to humans and how people have
involved in the program,    used them in the past. She answered
the answers to visitors     every question posed by visitors,
questions, and has local    including scientific names, habitat
knowledge of the area and   ranges, and various vascular functions.
its resources (Ham &        She never paused before answering and
Weiler, 2002; Lewis,        appeared entirely confident in every
2005; Ward & Wilkinson,     response she gave.

                            LOW: The interpreter attempted to tell
                            us the name of the man who designed a
                            certain memorial, the date it was
                            commissioned, and who funded its
                            construction, but could not remember any
                            of these things. He referred to his
                            notes continually throughout the program
                            and sometimes spent an extended period
                            of time looking through them, searching
                            for a particular fact to share. When
                            visitors asked questions, he would again
                            refer to his notes and even then could
                            rarely provide an answer.

                            LOW: The interpreter mentioned halfway
                            through the program that it was her
                            first time giving it, which was
                            evidenced by her difficulty recalling
                            facts/figures, her regular use of notes,
                            and long walks between stops without
                            talking to visitors at all while she
                            reviewed her notes.

Eloquence                   HIGH: Each story told by the interpreter
The extent to which the     was clearly illustrated through a strong
interpreter spoke clearly   vocabulary and a purposeful use of
and articulately, and did   words. Pauses were only used when
not mumble or frequently    necessary for effect and the interpreter
filler words such as "um"   never seemed unsure of what to say next.
or "like" (Lewis, 2005).    The manner of speaking was concise and
                            to the point but conversational enough
                            to not feel explicitly scripted.

                            LOW: The interpreter said "like" often
                            and used "um" as filler every time he
                            paused or tried to think of an answer.
                            He commonly used the phrase "y' know,"
                            followed by long pauses. He mumbled at
                            times when he didn't seem confident in
                            what he was saying. Visitors were
                            visibly confused.

Characteristics comprising "authentic emotion and charisma"

Passion                     HIGH: The interpreter explicitly told us
The interpreter's apparent  that he was excited to share information
level of enthusiasm for     with us about the natural resources
the material, as opposed    found within the park. He said things
to a bored or apathetic     like "let me tell you why I love this
attitude toward it. The     plant so much" and "I bet you can see
overall vigor with which    why this is such a cool place." He had
the material is presented   the audience look at things and feel
(Beck & Cable, 2002; Ham    them, tell the group what they liked
& Weiler, 2002; Moscardo,   best about it, and share their own
1999).                      reasons why the park was so special to

                            HIGH: The interpreter told us why the
                            park makes him feel inspired, what he
                            loves most about it, and makes him come
                            alive. He had us reflect on our own
                            feelings about the place by sharing
                            stories. He jumped from rock to rock
                            with an obvious excitement in his step
                            and clearly couldn't wait to share his
                            next story. When the topic called for a
                            more somber and reflective tone he
                            slowed down subtly, removed his hat, and
                            reminded us why we should care about
                            this place.

                            LOW: This interpreter shared facts about
                            the battles that unfolded in the park
                            with a flat tone of voice, very quietly.
                            At one point she apologetically said,
                            "the Civil War isn't really my area of
                            expertise, but it's worth knowing
                            something about." She would point out
                            things along the way and say "I think
                            this is where happened" or "some people
                            find this interesting."

Charisma                    HIGH: The interpreter was kind and
A general sense of the      smiling throughout the program, like a
overall likeability/        sweet grandmother figure telling stories
charisma of the             about her childhood. The audience leaned
interpreter, commonly       in to hear what she had to say and
recognized by seemingly     observe what she was doing. Both the
genuine interaction with    interpreter and audience had smiles on
the visitors, including     their faces throughout the program.
smiling, looking people
in the eye, and having an
overall appealing
presence (Ward &
Wilkinson, 2006).

                            HIGH: The interpreter had a deep laugh
                            that put smiles on the faces of
                            visitors. He used friendly, casual
                            banter throughout the program to keep
                            visitors engaged and to inquire about
                            their specific interests and hobbies.
                            Visitors were clearly engaged throughout
                            the program because of his interactions.

                            LOW: The interpreter had a very abrupt
                            manner of speaking to visitors and
                            sounded annoyed to have them on the
                            program. He ignored questions entirely
                            and clearly hurried through the program.
                            He made no effort to engage the audience
                            or carry on a conversation; rather, he
                            seemed focused on presenting what he had
                            prepared and getting away from visitors
                            as soon as he was finished.

Sincerity The degree to     HIGH: While leading a tour of a war
The degree to which the     memorial, this interpreter maintained a
Interpreter seems           very solemn and respectful demeanor
genuinely invested in the   throughout. He told us about the hard
messages he or she is       work, sacrifice, and heartache of people
communicating, as opposed   at home and abroad that made the war
to reciting information,    effort possible. Upon entering the
and seems sincere in the    memorial, he removed his hat and stood
emotional connection they   silently for a moment to take it all in.
may exude to the message    As he talked about each feature of the
and/or the resource. In     memorial he would touch it gently and
other words, the extent     slowly shake his head. His emotional
to which the                connection to the resource was clearly
interpretation was          demonstrated.
delivered through
communication (Ham,         LOW: This interpreter spoke in a very
2009).                      monotone, droning manner. At each stop,
                            she listed several facts and then moved
                            on to the next stop. She didn't wait for
                            visitors to observe or enjoy the various
                            resources and seemed to have no interest
                            in looking at them herself. She seemed
                            bored. Her cold and scripted delivery of
                            facts and numbers about the battle that
                            took place there made her seem almost
                            callous to the topic.

Individual interpreter characteristics

Humor Quality How funny     HIGH: The interpreter poked fun at the
is the interpreter          notorious love life of a Civil War
overall? Does the           general. He told us about pranks that
audience react positively   soldiers would play on one another and
to the interpreter's use    had us laughing. This helped the program
of humor and seem to        not only avoid being far too sad/
enjoy it? (Ham & Weiler,    somber, but also connected us with the
2002; Knapp & Yang, 2002;   fact that these were regular people just
Regnier et al., 1992).      like us.

                            LOW: The interpreter tried to use corny
                            jokes and silly metaphors throughout the
                            program to get laughs out of the
                            audience. The audience clearly did not
                            find these funny. He relied so heavily
                            on these jokes that the rest of his
                            program was largely devoid of worthwhile
                            information. The audience seemed tired
                            and uninterested by the end of the
                            program, but he kept cracking bad jokes

Responsiveness The extent   HIGH: The ranger talked to people ahead
to which the interpreter    of the program to ask them about their
interacts with the          specific interests in the tour. He
audience, collects          addressed these particular interests on
information about their     the tour and actually addressed the
interests and               people by name who were interested in
backgrounds, and responds   the topic to engage them directly. When
to their specific           asked a question, the ranger gave both
questions and requests or   the factual answer and another question,
non-verbal cues             which caused the visitor to think.
(Jacobson, 1999; Knudson
et al., 2003; Lewis,

                            LOW: When a member of the audience
                            raised their hand, the ranger simply
                            said "Please hold all questions until
                            the end of the program."

False Assumption of         PRESENCE: The interpreter regularly
Audience (negative          referred to names and dates very
impact) At any point        specific to events during the Civil War.
during the program, did     These were used without any further
the interpreter make        explanation. The interpreter rather
assumptions of the          assumed that the audience already had a
audience's attitudes or     fairly thorough knowledge of the Civil
knowledge that could have   War. There was a small group of war
easily been false?          "buffs" who seemed to follow and enjoy
                            the program, but most of the rest of the
                            audience seemed somewhat lost and
                            disconnected without this extra

Table 6. Qualitative field notes describing program characteristics
observed during programs with statistically significant relationships
with measured outcomes.

Characteristic              Examples

Characteristics comprising "organization"

Intro Quality               HIGH: Interpreter began the program by
Degree to which the         saying "It is the morning of the first
introduction captured the   battle of--. It's hot and muggy. You've
audience's attention and    just finished breakfast and you're
oriented (or pre/           preparing for a long march over these
disposed) the audience to   fields you see before you. But before
the program's content       the day is done, half of your company
and/or message (Brochu &    will be brought down by confederate
Merriman, 2002; Ham,        cannon and musket fire ..." This captured
1992; Jacobson, 1999).      our attention, set the tone for the
                            program, and led directly into the theme
                            of the program.

                            HIGH: As the program began, the ranger
                            asked the visitors to close their eyes
                            and imagine themselves transported back
                            in time. She painted a picture with
                            words, describing a battle at sea and
                            the sound of munitions exploding all
                            around. She caused visitors to jump when
                            she yelled "Man overboard!"

                            LOW: The interpreter arrived just in
                            time to start the program and did not
                            interact with the audience at all or
                            provide any information about the
                            program before it started. The first
                            thing he said to the audience was "OK,
                            let's get started," at which point he
                            walked off to our first stop. When we
                            arrived at the first stop, while much of
                            the group was still walking, he started
                            talking about trees and listing facts
                            about them. There was no introduction to
                            the talk, nothing to capture our
                            attention, and nothing to let us know
                            that we were even on the right program.

Appropriate Sequence        HIGH: This program was about the life
Degree to which the         cycle of a giant sequoia tree. The
program followed a          program itself followed a storyline that
logical sequence (Beck &    described the life of a tree and
Cable, 2002; Ham, 1992;     everything it saw during its lifespan.
Jacobson, 1999; Larsen,     Each stop was related to the next stage
2003).                      of life and provided a clear example of
                            that stage. We moved from an area full
                            of cones and seeds, to a stop with
                            several tiny saplings, to young trees,
                            and on up to full size giants. We
                            followed the growth of a sequoia from
                            birth to death and understood everything
                            it must overcome in the process.

                            HIGH: The interpreter discussed several
                            different animals that lived within the
                            park, using the food chain to pair an
                            animal to each corresponding stop on the
                            walk. Transitions were provided between
                            each stop that described how each animal
                            had an impact on the next, giving the
                            program a clear sequence and appropriate
                            clarity and demonstrating the complexity
                            and hierarchy of the food web.

                            LOW: The talk provided a random
                            assortment of facts and stories about
                            both the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
                            Each stop was disconnected from the next
                            and jumped back and forth between the
                            two wars. There was no logical sequence
                            to the stops and seemed to be
                            representative of whatever was on the
                            interpreter's mind at the time. At a
                            single stop we talked about iron clad
                            battleships during the Civil War and a
                            tavern that was located on the grounds
                            during the War of 1812 with no
                            connection drawn between them or any of
                            the other stops.

Transitions                 HIGH: As we prepared to leave each stop,
Degree to which program     the interpreter said "I want you to be
used appropriate            on the lookout for __ as we head to
transitions that kept the   our next stop and think about how it
audience engaged and did    relates to __." This kept the visitors
not detract from the        curious, engaged, and thinking about the
program's sequence (Beck    theme of the talk even while the
& Cable, 2002; Brochu &     interpreter wasn't talking. These
Merriman, 2002; Ham,        transitions provided a logical flow from
1992; Jacobson, 1999;       the topic of one stop to the next.
Larsen, 2003).

                            LOW: At each stop, the interpreter would
                            talk for a bit and then just stop. We
                            would walk to the next stop in silence
                            and then he would pick up right where he
                            left off. It felt very much as if he
                            were stopping halfway through a
                            paragraph, waiting a bit, and then
                            continuing without any explanation of
                            why we had moved. It likely would have
                            been more effective to just stay in one
                            place and deliver a talk, as these long
                            pauses left the audience bored and
                            distracted from the program itself.

Holistic Story              HIGH: This interpreter used the unique
Degree to which the         and sometimes valuable natural resources
program aimed to present    of the park to illustrate why native
a holistic story (with      people originally settled here, why it
characters and a plot) as   inspired people to move westward, how
opposed to disconnected     they used these resources to settle and
pieces of information       live off the land, how this led to their
(Beck & Cable, 2002;        over-exploitation, and ultimately to
Larsen, 2003; Tilden,       their protection. Each stop taught us
1957)                       about a new resource (trees, rock,
                            grazing fodder, minerals, water, etc.)
                            that played a part in this story. As we
                            moved along, so too did the plot of the
                            story being told.

                            HIGH: The interpreter made it very clear
                            that he wanted to tell us a story during
                            the program to help us understand the
                            people who once lived here. He
                            introduced different historical figures
                            (generally fictionalized composites of
                            people from the time period) and told us
                            a bit about them. He then used them as
                            vehicles to demonstrate the historical
                            significance of what happened in the
                            area and how the daily lives of people
                            were affected by these events. The story
                            progressed linearly through time and
                            each stop represented a new time period.
                            Every stop was tied back to the central
                            theme and was relevant to the story
                            being told. He used the repetition of
                            certain ideas and interactions with the
                            audience to build a story that came to
                            its conclusion at our last stop.

                            LOW: The talk was a jumble of dry facts
                            about an otherwise interesting animal.
                            There were several moments of "Hmm, what
                            else can I tell you ...  "

                            LOW: During the tour of a historical
                            home, the interpreter listed off
                            different facts and stories as we walked
                            through each room. A piece of furniture
                            or book would cause her to say "Oh, this
                            reminds me about ... " None of what she
                            told us seemed to be connected, and
                            although the facts were interesting, she
                            did not tell us a story about the place
                            or why it was worth preserving. The
                            greatest focus was on which furniture
                            pieces were original or reproductions
                            rather than on the people who lived
                            there and their stories.

                            LOW: As we wandered along the path of
                            our guided walk, the interpreter pointed
                            out random trees, buildings, or objects.
                            Each one was described in a manner
                            unrelated to the last. There was no
                            clear topic or point to the talk and
                            visitors seemed disconnected and bored
                            by the talk.

                            LOW: The ranger provides a description
                            of a native species that can be found in
                            the park, detailing its appearance,
                            unique traits, and status as a
                            threatened species. The ranger continues
                            working his way through species after

Clear Theme                 HIGH: This program focused on the power
Degree to which the         of this particular site and the
program had a clearly       influence it has had in so many people's
communicated theme(s). A    lives throughout time. The interpreter
theme is defined as a       described how it had a spiritual power
single sentence (not        for native people, was a place of
necessarily explicitly      unrivaled beauty and reflection for
stated) that links          early explorers, and a place of
tangibles, intangibles,     relaxation and escape for people today.
and universals to           Every stop supported the idea that the
organize and develop        park is a unique and powerful place
ideas (Beck & Cable,        worth preserving, which he reinforced by
2002; Brochu & Merriman,    reminding us that future generations
2002; Ham, 1992;            have a right to experience and gain from
Jacobson, 1999; Knudson     this place.
et. al, 2003; Larsen,
2003; Lewis, 2005;
Moscardo, 1999; Sharpe,
1976; Veverka, 1998; Ward
& Wilkinson, 2006)

                            LOW: The interpreter on this program
                            told us explicitly that he was going to
                            tell us why a historical building was a
                            unique place. We then walked around and
                            through the hall. He told us where
                            various treaties were signed and where
                            historical figures sat. This was the
                            extent of the program. He did not tell
                            us how those documents have shaped our
                            history, what role those figures played
                            in founding our country, or why
                            preserving the building itself should
                            matter to us. The program was a
                            collection of dates and names, but
                            little more.

Intro/Conclusion Linkage    HIGH: Before our first stop, the ranger
Degree to which program     told us a bit about what we were going
connected conclusion back   to learn and why it was important to
to the introduction in an   know. He taught us some basic facts
organized or cohesive way   about the war, how it came to the area,
(i.e., program "came full   and some key players in the battles, but
circle") (Beck & Cable,     mostly he focused on the story of one
2002; Brochu & Merriman,    young man and how the war affected him.
2002; Larsen, 2003)         We stopped at the house where the young
                            man grew up, learned about the kind of
                            education he received, and the trade he
                            learned in his youth. Our final stop
                            took us into a large cemetery, where the
                            ranger pointed out all the other young
                            men who had been buried there. Then he
                            looked down at his feet and pointed out
                            the grave we were standing around: the
                            final resting place of the very man we
                            had spent the past hour learning about.
                            The sadness we all felt was very real
                            and he had taken us full circle to truly
                            connect us to the people and events

                            LOW: The interpreter went so far past
                            the designated end time of the program
                            that he did not get the chance to wrap
                            it up in any way. Visitors had to leave
                            the program while he was still talking
                            so they could catch the bus back to the
                            visitor center.

                            LOW: While it seemed like the
                            interpreter was in the middle of his
                            talk, he simply stopped, looked at the
                            audience, and said "ok, well that's it."
                            The program ended very abruptly, with no
                            conclusion at all, leaving the audience
                            wondering what the point of the program
                            was. He had all the opportunity in the
                            world to tie things together and leave
                            us with a lasting message to think

Characteristics comprising "connection"

Cognitive Engagement        HIGH: The interpreter asked visitors to
Degree to which the         consider whether former inhabitants
program cognitively         could have imagine what this valley is
engaged audience members    like today and whether the audience
in a participatory          could imagine what it would be like in
experience beyond simply    the future. The interpreter asked us to
listening; i.e. calls to    picture how the valley has changed over
imagine something,          time and how strange and foreign it
reflect;, etc. (Knudson     would look to us 100 or 1,000 years from
et al., 2003; Moscardo,     now.
1999; Sharpe; 1976;
Tilden, 1957; Veverka,

                            HIGH: The walk focused much of the
                            audience's cognitive abilities on
                            imagining what the landscape used to
                            look like, what features used to be
                            there and how they played a role in the
                            battle that took place there. At each
                            stop and walking between them, the
                            interpreter regularly reminded visitors
                            to imagine themselves in the places of
                            the soldiers who were there, walking the
                            same lines that they did, and
                            considering the emotions/decisions they
                            faced during the battle.

                            HIGH: The interpreter took time to
                            describe what we would have seen if we
                            were sitting with our family having a
                            picnic and watching the battle, or
                            what it would have looked like from the
                            perspective of one of the soldiers.

Relevance to Audience       HIGH: The interpreter clearly made it
Degree to which the         a priority to connect with and learn a
program explicitly          bit about each program participant. He
communicated the            carrier on conversations with various
relevance of the subject    visitors between stops, using the
to the lives of the         information he gathered to shape what he
audience (Beck & Cable,     talked about next. He related each story
2f C2; Brochu & Merriman,   he told to something of particular
2002; Ham, 1992, 2013;      interest to someone in the audience.
Jacobson, 1999; Knapp &
Benton, 2 004; Lewis,
2005; Moscardo, 1999; NPS
Module 101; Sharpe, 1976;
Tilden, 1957; Veverka,

                            HIGH: The interpreter compared people
                            coming together in the 1800s after
                            events at this historical site to people
                            coming together after September 11, 2001.
                            and other recent events. The
                            interpreter described the Civil War as
                            something that took place in back yards
                            and town squares, had us imagine what
                            life would be like now if war broke out
                            in the United States.

                            HIGH: The interpreter's main approach
                            was connecting complex geology to
                            something most people would understand:

                            LOW: The interpreter provided massive
                            amounts of factual information about the
                            battle that took place here and the
                            strategies used by either side to gain
                            the upper hand. However, the program was
                            entirely a lecture. The interpreter made
                            no effort to connect the visitors to the
                            resource, either through something of
                            particular interest to them or by
                            creating some relevance between what
                            happened here and the lives of the

                            LOW: The interpreter attempted to
                            connect black bears breaking into cars
                            for food to how desperate we would be
                            if we were hungry f you've ever been
                            starving hungry, you know that you'd be
                            willing to break into a store or steal
                            somebody's lunch ... the audience's
                            reactions suggested that this analogy
                            did not connect at all.

Affective Messaging         HIGH: The interpreter discussed with us
Degree to which the         the heartache and suffering that went
program communicated        into sending a son off to war or finding
emotion (Jacobson, 1999;    out; that a loved one had been killed in
Lewis, 2005; Madin &        action. He spoke of the dedication to
Fenton, 2004; Tilden,       each other and to country that these
1957; Ward & Wilkinson,     soldiers displayed, the determination
2006].                      with which they fought, and the
                            camaraderie on which they relied to
                            keep their spirits up and keep
                            fighting. He lowered his voice and
                            explained the importance that their
                            service should have to us. Rather than
                            focusing on numbers or specific dates/
                            battles, he focused on the emotional
                            toll that war took on everyone.

                            LOW: This interpreter relied solely on
                            historical information to tell the story
                            of FDR and his presidency. He told us
                            the various offices FDR held, explained
                            what polio was, and gave us descriptions
                            of the design/construction of the
                            monument itself. He told us about the
                            impact that war and economic depression
                            had on our country but only in terms of
                            money and powder. He did not include any
                            emotional connection to the struggles of
                            poverty, the despair that people faced,
                            the joy we felt after winning the war,
                            or the emotional toll that polio must
                            have taken on FDR and those around him.

Provocation                 HIGH: The interpreter told a very
Degree to which the         emotional story about how the coast
program explicitly          Miwok tribes were torn away from their
provoked participants to    homes and lifestyle. He reminded us
personally reflect on       that their descendants are still alive
content and its deeper      today and that they can no longer visit
meanings (Beck & Cable,     the historic sites of their families.
2002; Brochu & Merriman,    He asked us to think about the impact
2002; Knudson et al 2003;   this must have on their culture and
Tilden, 1957]               pride.

                            HIGH: The ranger spent the majority of
                            the program talking about different
                            cultural groups that had populated the
                            area throughout time. He gave us a
                            glimpse into their daily life, their
                            religions, and the things that were most
                            important to them in life. He used vivid
                            descriptions to get the audience to
                            imagine the imagery of the time periods
                            being described. He asked what we had in
                            common with these people and how we were
                            different. At the end of the program, we
                            sat and watched the sunset, while the
                            ranger asked us to think about our daily
                            lives, what we are contributing to the
                            world around us, and the things that
                            make us feel truly alive.

                            LOW: At one point during this program,
                            the interpreter mentioned that urban
                            sprawl is slowly taking over habitat and
                            surrounding national parks in different
                            places across the country. This was  as
                            a fact and then he moved on to the next
                            subject Rather than digging deeper or
                            encouraging us to think about the effect
                            that this might one day have, he just
                            mentioned it and did nothing more with
                            it. there with it.

Connection to Universals    HIGH: During the program, the ranger
Communication that          told stories about the daily lives of
connects tangibles to       early native people. At each stop he
intangibles and universal   asked the same poignant questions: "What
concepts. Intangibles are   did life mean to these people? Why was
stories, ideas, meanings,   this place important to them? What made
or significance that        them feel alive?" As we worked our way
tangible resources          to the last stop of the walk, the ranger
represent. Universals are   pointed out that we (the visitors] were
concepts with which most    now the inhabitants of this park. As we
audience members can        quietly watched the sun set, he asked us
identify (NPS Module 101;   those same questions: "Why were we here?
Beck & Cable, 2002;         Why was this place special to us? What
Brochu & Merriman, 2002;    made us feel alive?" He connected us on
Ham, 1992; Knudson et       the deepest levels with the people who
al., 2003; Larsen, 2003;    had once inhabited this park and with
Lewis, 2005; Moscardo,      the very essence of what made it
1999; Tilden, 1957; Ward    important to us as visitors.
& Wilkinson, 2006].

                            LOW: The ranger provided a description
                            of a native species that can be found in
                            the park, detailing its appearance,
                            unique traits, and status as a
                            threatened species. The ranger continued
                            working his way through species after
                            species and did not field any visitor's
                            questions or try to connect the topics
                            to them in any way. He did not seem
                            particularly interested in the topic,
                            but instead like he was reciting a
                            series of facts he had memorized. No
                            attempts were made to reveal deeper
                            meanings or connect us with the wildlife
                            found in the park.

Individual program characteristics

Appropriate Logistics       HIGH: The interpreter arrived before the
Degree to which basic       program was scheduled to begin and
audience and program        announced several times what the program
needs were met (i.e.,       was and when it would be starting. This
restrooms, weather,         gave everyone the chance to get ready
accessibility, shade,       and know they were in the right place.
etc.] (Jacobson, 1999;      Once the program began, the interpreter
Knudson et al., 2003].      told the audience how long we would be
                            gone, what we would be doing, and what
                            supplies they should have. He reminded
                            everyone to use the bathroom before we
                            went out on the trail and to wear
                            sunscreen. Once on the trail, he made
                            sure to keep the group together and
                            maintain a reasonable pace. We stopped
                            at spots along the trail that were out
                            of the way of other hikers, quiet, and
                            cool. Once the program ended, he walked
                            with the group back to where we had

                            LOW: The interpreter kept the audience
                            standing in the very hot sun for
                            extended periods of time despite ample
                            opportunity for shade.

                            LOW: During the walk, we stopped at a
                            historical structure and the interpreter
                            allowed the group to explore inside the
                            building and around the grounds for an
                            extended period of time. This broke up
                            the flow of the program and left 15-2 0
                            people behind as we moved on to the next
                            spot. The interpreter made very little
                            effort to round up the group and did not
                            announce when we would be leaving.

                            LOW: The interpreter showed up to this
                            program three minutes after its
                            designated start time. He told the group
                            that it was his first time ever giving
                            it and that he wasn't sure exactly what
                            we were supposed to be doing. The
                            program was scheduled for an hour, but
                            only lasted 30 minutes. The tour only
                            had two stops, one at the parking lot
                            and one about 100 yards away, even
                            though it was advertised as a walking

Appropriate for the         HIGH: The ranger made an explicit effort
Audience                    to gear this campfire program toward the
Degree to which the         mix of families and older adults in
program aligned with        attendance. The ranger included songs
audience's ages,            and activities that everyone could enjoy
cultures, and level of      and made content relatable to children
knowledge, interest, and    and adults alike. The content was
experience (Beck & Cable,   relatable to children, but also included
2002; Jacobson, 1999;       novel stories and facts that adults were
Knudson et al., 2003].      unlikely to know. For parts of the
                            program, adults were given specific
                            roles helping to guide the kids through

                            LOW: There was only one woman with two
                            very young children on the tour. The
                            interpreter did not adapt the program at
                            all to the kids and instead seemed
                            impatient when one was running around.
                            She dealt with the matter by picking up
                            the child and holding her.

                            LOW: Some gory descriptions of Civil War
                            soldiers, their injuries, and medical
                            treatments of the time period may have
                            been too graphic for some of the younger
                            children in the audience.

                            LOW: Although the audience consisted of
                            a dozen adults and only one child, the
                            interpreter spent the entire program
                            speaking only to the child. He used very
                            basic language and got down on one knee
                            to tell her certain things. This was
                            certainly a great experience for the
                            child, but left the rest of the group
                            wanting more. The program was advertised
                            as a history of FDR's life and his role
                            in preserving the United States during
                            war and economic depression, but
                            everything was limited to a very basic

Multisensory Engagement     HIGH: Visitors were actively engaged in
Degree to which the         the program in a number of different
program intentionally and   ways. Their hands and backs were used to
actively engaged more       complete tasks around the farm and help
than just basic sight and   the ranger close up for the day. They
sound (Beck & Cable,        could smell the fire in the fireplace,
2002; Knudson et al.,       feel the roughness of the handles they
2003; Lewis, 2005;          were meant to use, and had to struggle
Moscardo, 1999; Tilden,     to see certain things in the fading
1957; Veverka, 1998; Ward   light. It truly immersed all of their
& Wilkinson, 2006].         senses in not just seeing, but also
                            experiencing life on the farm and
                            understanding where it has gotten us

                            HIGH: The interpreter told people to
                            stoop down and feel the sidewalk,
                            because that's how smooth the carved
                            faces of the presidents are.

                            HIGH: The interpreter organized her talk
                            around the five senses, providing
                            opportunities throughout the talk to
                            smell, see, hear, feel, and even taste.

Verbal Engagement           HIGH: After sharing and explaining
Degree to which the         different sets of data on the giant
program verbally engaged    video sphere, the rest of the program
audience members in a       was treated like a discussion session
participatory experience;   with the audience members talking about
i.e., two-way dialogue      what may be causing trends in climate
(Knudson et al., 2003;      change and how the trends may be
Moscardo, 1999; Sharpe,     reversed.
1976; Tilden, 1957;
Veverka, 1998].             HIGH: Visitors sang along with campfire
                            songs, answered questions, and were
                            allowed to tell stories of their
                            experiences in the park.

                            HIGH: Visitors participated in an
                            exercise similar to what schoolchildren
                            would have done in the schoolhouse where
                            the program took place. We answered
                            questions and repeated lessons back to
                            the "teacher."

                            LOW: The interpreter asked only
                            rhetorical questions that didn't
                            encourage visitor involvement.
                            Eventually the audience stopped thinking
                            about answers to her questions because
                            we knew she'd answer them right away.

Central Message             HIGH: This program focused on climate
Degree to which the         change and the impact that it can have
program's message(s] was    on our lives. We were told over and over
clearly communicated;       again throughout the program to think
i.e., the "so what?"        about why we should care. No matter what
element of the program      the science or politics say, the changes
(Beck & Cable, 2002;        that have already occurred are something
Brochu & Merriman, 2002;    that will affect us and that we should
Ham, 1992; Jacobson,        be thinking about. The interpreter used
1999].                      powerful illustrations of flooding,
                            storm damage, and drought to keep us

                            HIGH: The interpreter used powerful
                            emotional language ("the struggle for
                            freedom," "the ultimate sacrifice," and
                            "the value of our freedom"] to remind us
                            of why this monument exists and why it
                            should matter to us. He convinced us
                            that it deserves our respect and
                            reverence, not because of what the
                            monument is, but because of who it

                            LOW: During the course of this program,
                            the interpreter talked about boats,
                            earthquakes, sea life, and gold. He was
                            very interesting to listen to and taught
                            the audience a lot of things they likely
                            didn't know before. However, these
                            random topics together did not convey a
                            central message. Rather, it left the
                            audience with a feeling of "huh, that
                            was interesting," but without any
                            particular take-home message.

Consistency                 LOW: The program seemed oddly split; the
Degree to which the         first half was a very engaging, tactile
program's tone and          program about buffalo, and the second
quality were consistent     half was an abrupt switch to plant
throughout the program      identification, presented in a
(Beck & Cable, 2002; Ham,   scientific manner on the hot prairie.

Fact-Based Messaging        HIGH: This program, about the flora
(negative influence) The    found within the park, provided an
program was exclusively     abundance of facts and scientific names.
factual (Jacobson, 1999;    It did not touch upon why these plants
Lewis, 2005; Tilden,        mattered or what relevance they had to
1957; Ward & Wilkinson,     us. The interpreter simply listed fact
2006].                      after fact for the duration of an hour
                            long program. After a point, everything
                            began to blend together and lose its

Appropriate Pace            TOO FAST: The ranger seemed hurried
Degree to which the pace    throughout the scheduled program. One
of the program allowed      visitor continued to ask detailed
for clarity and did not     questions about the topic. The ranger
detract from the program    responded with short, generally
(Jacobson, 1999].           unhelpful answers, and even cut him off
                            entirely on a few occasions. When a
                            child in the group tried to ask a series
                            of questions, he told the child he
                            needed to hold his questions until the
                            end so that he didn't "bother the other

                            TOO SLOW: The interpreter kept the
                            audience standing in the very hot sun
                            while stumbling through long moments of
                            silence punctuated by statements such as
                            "Let's see," and "what else can I tell
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Article Details
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Author:Stern, Marc J.; Powell, Robert B.; McLean, Kevin D.; Martin, Emily; Thomsen, Jennifer M.; Mutchler,
Publication:Journal of Interpretation Research
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2013
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