Are you useful after the event?

Consider the web sites for organizations that provide events for your life, either in the sense of for example conferences which are events in themselves or places like museums where going is an event for you. All of the museum web sites that I know are useful when I am planning my trip. They tell me where and when to go, what it will cost, and what I can expect to see.

However, once I have been, they are useless. Even if you have been stimulated by the event to explore the topic in more detail there is no point in going back. And yet the organization is probably still complaining about the small numbers of returning customers.

It does not have to be this way. Museums typically show less than 5% of their holdings. Bletchly Park is an example where they have found a way to engage with the visitors after their visit, allowing people to explore the subject including the 95% hidden materials in much more depth.

Paul Mulholland and Mark Gaved from the Open University talked about Bletchly Park at a recent conference we organized for the RSA.

In this particular implementation, the main museum exhibits all have a short text code shown prominently on a sign. The idea is that visitors send the short-codes for the items that interest them most. When they get back home, they can visit a special site [2015 update: this site no longer exists], enter their mobile number, and instantly gain access to all the materials of the museum with the navigation organized around their interests.

The facility is used by 5-10% of all visitors. Since most people arrive in groups and usually select one person to text on behalf of the group, this number probably correspond to 20-40% of all groups. This compares well with the estimated number of 40% of visitors who would be interested and are comfortable using the technology (mobiles).

Most organizations are offering their customers some form of event experiences, be they shopping events, conferences, activities, or perhaps projects for a voluntary organization. How can you make your site useful after the event? And when you do, how much more recurring business are you going to receive from your customers?