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Paul Creighton has held management positions at numerous Expos and has gained an in-depth appreciation for what works and what doesn't. His unique perspective and insights are highlighted in the two articles which are posted here:

The Reinvention of World-Class Expositions in the United States
Value Transfer at Public Attractions

VALUE TRANSFER AT PUBLIC ATTRACTIONS

by Paul Creighton;

A great deal of consideration must be given to value transfer. The definition of value transfer is basically an exchange of the public’s perceived or expected value for the realized value of the experience at a public attraction. The public exchanges money (admission fees) for the value of the attraction, which is it’s venues and events.

 

The public always has a mental perception of what value they are willing to exchange for an experience prior to actually experiencing it. The mental, expectation can be influenced and directed, to a degree, by promotion and advertising as defined under the general heading of marketing. Marketing is simply helping the public with their expectation of what the realized experience might be. We tell the public, through our marketing efforts, what they might expect as it relates to our particular attraction or event.

 

When the public has been motivated to exchange their money for the experience the delivery process starts taking place. Of course, the delivery is the key element in success or failure of the event. We have motivated the public to try our event. In other words, they have exchanged their money and have a certain level of expectation about what they are going to experience. In essence, the public has put their money at risk; and, in a sense, have bet that you will deliver the experience according to their expectation. Otherwise, they would have been unwilling to initiate the value transfer process.

 

The public, when having completed the value transfer process, makes a mental decision..."did I receive the value that I expected when I exchanged my money for the experience?" The public reacts to that decision sometimes passively and sometimes actively. They react either positively or negatively to the degree that reflects their personal perception of the value exchange. Did they get more or less than they expected for their money?

 

If the delivery process and the actual experience were less than the expectation, the public will be displeased and react accordingly. The attendee will feel that the value exchange was not in his favor. He exchanged too much of his value (money) for too little experience, according to his perception. In effect, he has measured his expectation against the actual realization of the experience. Typical reactions are: "it’s not worth the money"..."I am going to tell my friends not to go and do them a favor in the process!"..."I am not going to do that again and neither are the kids! There was nothing there!" These, and other reactions are a simple measurement by the public that the experience did not fulfill the expectation. When this happens, the event or attraction faces failure. If it is a one-time event, it is an immediate failure. If it is an on-going attraction or event, it will fail over a period of time...but it will always fail because the experience did not equal or exceed the expectation. In other words, the value transfer was not in favor of the public according to their expectation.

 

The public is always right. If management chooses to disagree, it doesn’t alter the course of failure, but will tend to speed it up unless corrective actions are taken immediately. When experiences are negative, it is relatively easy to change the experience as opposed to changing ingrained expectations. An example would be a new restaurant in the same location as the old one, which had a low value. The new restaurant continues to have problems with expected value until they are well established and have raised the experience level above the expectation level.

 

On the other hand, when the value transfer is positive, the public receives more experience than they expected relative to the money paid; success becomes inevitable. When remarks such as "Wasn’t that great!"..."We will be back when we have more time"... "We must be sure to tell the neighbors about this"...are heard, you will have increased attendance and access to the best marketing tool of all...positive, favorable word of mouth.

 

Experience "add-ons" relative to expectations must include some basic elements. Expectations are what we think about something that has not taken place in our experience. They are received through the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Sight and sound are overworked senses therefore, they don’t make a major significant change on the difference between expectation and experience unless they are out of the ordinary. Witness the wild props that rock groups use in presenting their music. When you begin to utilize the under worked senses of taste, touch and smell, you begin to create significant positive differences between the expectation and the reality of the experience. A favorable reaction takes place and the value transfer is positive. Taking a test drive, pursuant to a new car purchase, employs four of the five senses. Looking at a new car only uses one sense. The use of as many senses as possible in presenting an attraction or event creates a very positive distance between expectation and the reality of the experience. This is just what you want!

 

Hands-on exhibitry interactive events and participatory entertainment should be designed and implemented to broaden the use of the senses, particularly touch, taste and smell. This type of action can not help but increase the level of experience over expectation. This is the unexpected, which adds value but doesn’t increase the price. Witness a group of five year-olds in a kindergarten class. They constantly employ as many senses as possible in their learning experience. They make noise, touch everything in sight, taste the paste and smell the roses. That is, until we adults prohibit them from acting "like a bunch of kids". The Disney story, when carefully examined, certainly uses as many of the senses as possible in their presentations. Children’s Science Centers are successful models of sense deployment. Museums have existed for years on the sense of sight. Declining interest and attendance is now moving them into the area of better and more use of sense awareness.

 

One may conclude that good planning and proper management will dictate the creation of exhibits, events and attractions that provide a positive distance between the expected value and the actual experience. The value transfer will be favorably advanced to the public. Let it be noted that the experience add-ons can be constructed and operated in such a manner that they are not a material cost factor in relation to the admission price. Thus, in the overall scheme, the add-ons make a major contribution to profits.

 

It is recommended that new events, exhibits and attractions which are adopting the value transfer concepts conduct a series of focus groups or small public meetings to get an idea of what the public expectation levels might be relative to the price charged. With these types of studies as a base, one can plan and execute the experience level above the expectation level. When you know what the customer wants for his money, it is much easier to execute an experience that is beyond his expectation level.

 

A case history of how the value transfer concept works in a positive manner was the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, British Columbia. The fair attendance was initially projected at 13,500,000 visits. It finished with 22,700.00 visits! Why? Because the experience was much greater than the expectation in the minds of the attending public, People received more than they expected relative to the money paid. This was proven by the extraordinary word-of-mouth positive publicity that was received by the fair in the opening two weeks. The "scouts" were reporting back to the neighborhoods at home, that this fair was a good deal and it should not be missed. The fair simply delivered more than was expected.

 

On the other hand, the New Orleans World’s Fair in 1984 was different matter. That fair had a projected attendance of 12,000,000 visits and received 8,500,000 visits. Why? It delivered much less experience than was expected. That, and very poor pre-fair publicity, sealed it’s doom early in the first two or three weeks. Poor word-of-mouth spread throughout the country and the results were devastating. Pre-fair promotion and publicity promised an experience level that was not delivered.

 

The above examples are true case histories. One was a tremendous success. The other went bankrupt. The basis for both outcomes was the effect of the value transfer concept and it’s implementation.

 

When one measures exhibits, events and attractions as to why they succeed and why they fail, using the value transfer system for comparison will generally lead to desired results and success at a considerably lo

Paul Creighton can be contacted via email at paulcreighton215@comcast.net