Episode 239: Meghan Curran talks about looking nature in the eye, balancing education and entertainment and making guests feel welcome

Guest Experience, Marketing, Non-Profit, Podcast, Women of Influence

Meghan Curran is the Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Upon graduating from the University of Illinois, Meghan joined Chicago Creative Partnership as an account supervisor. After being exposed to the world of creative marketing and the concept of understanding customers to create better experiences, she took the next step and joined the Shedd Aquarium team. With all the job experiences that Shedd has provided over the past 20 years for Meghan, she takes pride in her philosophy of making sure the guests are heard to provide better experiences and serve their interests to the maximum capability. In this interview, Meghan talks about the value of looking nature in the eye, the balance of education and entertainment, and how important it is to make guests feel welcome.

Looking Nature in the Eye

“Personal interactions deliver people who are willing to take more action for animals.”

Guests come to the aquarium for an experience. The experience of seeing a beautiful creature while having a team member talk about the troubles, triumphs, and experiences of that animal can generate a new type of feeling for many. Many animals can not control their fate, however, by using experiences to inspire people to make a change could change the course of various species of wildlife, whether it be in Lake Michigan or even the middle of the Pacific. 

Delivering that call to action with groundbreaking interactivity and participation can make guests feel moved and inspired, the main goal of Shedd Aquarium. By analyzing the guest experience, changes can be made to provide a more memorable visit. These memorable experiences will eventually develop into a word of mouth outreach, inspiring more people to visit the aquarium and cause a massive chain reaction of inspiration and action for aquatic life around the world.

Balancing Education and Entertainment

“People won’t protect what they don’t understand or what they don’t connect to.”

Education is an important part of any themed experience. Whether it be for a call to action or understanding a different culture, walking out of an experience with a new understanding is vital to the industry. For aquariums, it is important that people understand why they need to change their ways in order to protect aquatic life. One of the main ways to accomplish that is to create a connection.

The balance of education and entertainment is essential to creating that connection and call to action that Shedd Aquarium strives to have every guest experience. Connection and understanding are the two most important variables to create that call to action. Without proper education, people will walk out of the experience happy, but without understanding why that experience was created. With too much education, guests will not retain it in a meaningful manner. Having that perfect ratio generates a meaningful and emotional experience that can change lives, human or aquatic life.

Making Guests Feel Welcome

“A lot of what we’re doing with this experience is trying to make sure that people feel in control.”

Sometimes, experiences can be overwhelming. By simplifying things, guests can feel more in control and happier with their visit. If a place is overwhelming, it takes away from the experience itself. When guests lose in the first moments of their experience because of the overwhelming nature, it can leave a sour taste and take away from the true value behind the experience. Not only this, but instead of having an attendant at an exhibit, somebody now has to explain the nearest route to the exit, taking away valuable resources to generate those experiences. 

Making things simple is the perfect way to take away the need to have people to tell guests what is obvious. In addition, it makes the guest feel welcome and in control. By avoiding these unnecessary routes and strange floorplans, guests win in their first moments of the experience. By having guests in control, team members can now explain the real confusing parts of the building, the fantastic aquatic life.

To learn more about Shedd Aquarium and their commitments, visit www.sheddaquarium.org.

To reach out to Meghan directly, you can visit the About Us section of the website for more information about her as well as her contact information.

This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
  • Branding and design by Fabiana Fonseca
  • Summary by Mason Nichols

To connect with AttractionPros: attractionpros@gmail.com

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