Everything I know about Interpretation I learned from the Cub Scouts

1) Be Prepared.

2) Keep it Simple, Make it Fun!


These are literally notes from an training session for interpreters, naturalists, or whatever you want to call those folks who guide the public at parks, natural feature attractions, on bus trips and otherwise into environments with which they are not familiar.

One Dozen Keys to Program Preparation Success.

Things to Think About in approximate order of importance:

1. How long do you have for the program?

2. Who, and how big, is your audience?

3. Where is it? Inside? Outside?

4. When? (Day/Night; what season, time of day?

5. What resources are available?

6. What do I hope to accomplish?

7. What is your topic/subject (one word)?

8. What is an appropriate theme or attitude?

9. Do you have any sponsor/institution limitations?

10. What can you do to make your approach novel or Unique?

11. Start research, assembly, playtesting.

12. Find your own style of prep and presentation!

How to Kill an Excellent Presentation.

Some examples of poor presentations, guaranteed to drive participants to stand up, walk away and never return.

1. Give a boring recitation of a memorized spiel on obvious information.

2. The Three-Hour Tour Syndrome: your theme/topic does not fit the allotted time-- too much or too little material.

3. Vocabulary and explanations: shooting over/under the audience kills no ducks.

4. Presenting ones' self as the only expert, not asking audience for input/what they think.

5. Refusing to say the three little words so hard to say: "I don't know."

6. Treating a group as a group, not as individuals.

7. Whining about extraneous things in your life. Not being a trouper.

8. Interpreting a concept, but ignoring the resource.

9. Scaring the visitors, or making them uncomfortable or worried because of your assertions. It's not funny.

10. Unconvincing historical recreation or skit.

11. Building up unfulfilled expectations. Better to change your presentation if a bear arrives, than tell the people you are going to see bears.

12. Being rude, barking orders, or overly negative.

Taking a Walk in the Woods

The basics of a nature hike, should you ever have to give one.

Size: Try to keep to 15 people per leader.

Time: A good nature walk is between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. Any more, and you'd better have a restroom stop.

Title: You need a snappy title for the walk, related to the theme you will be presenting.

Pace: Pace yourself to your slowest member. When you want to look at something, stop. It's better to either go slowly, or walk at a moderate pace with frequent stops than to put them on a death march. If you have to do fast hiking, you've not allotted enough time.

There will always be runahead kids and laggard. Stay in the middle and don't let them get to you, or lead, and drift back to the middle to talk.

Call for restrooms before you leave. Explain what to expect, to carry with you or any special hazards, and approximate time you expect to return.

Carry a small backpack. Trailside miracles can be worked with water, TP or tissues, a hand towel, duct tape and an appropriate field guide, if the latter is applicable.

If you have equipment to carry (nets, binocs, hand lenses, etc., don't be a pack animal. Ask for volunteers.

Advise people to turn off or leave Ipods and cell phones behind. They're not going to be out of reach that long, and they'll be unable to do much about an emergency call, anyway.

Spread your attention through the group.

Wear a watch and keep track of time.

Ask the participants to point out things of interest to them; then explain it to the entire group.

I hope these tips have proven useful. Questions? email: joschaper@socket.net.

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