Skip to content

Striking the right pace in museum programmes: less is more

Striking the right pace how less is more creates engaging museum programmes

Welcome to episode 99, where I’m diving into the concept of pacing in museum and gallery programmes, with a particular focus on the idea that “less is more.”

Pacing directly influences the participant experience. A well-paced programme ensures that your participants stay engaged, attentive and receptive throughout their journey. 

By carefully managing the rhythm and flow of stops, activities and information, we can create a balance that keeps our participants engaged without overwhelming or exhausting them.

“Less is more” is a guiding principle that encourages us to intentionally selecting and presenting a smaller quantity of content, activities, or object, so that we can create more impactful and meaningful experiences for visitors. In this episode, I’ll share how this can be achieved by:

  • Streamlining content with a carefully curated selection of objects or artworks.
  • Being selective, intentional, and thoughtful in programme design
  • Incorporating different paces
  • Allowing time for participants to engage
  • Customising and adjusting pacing in the spur of the moment
  • Emphasising quality over quantity

Find out why pacing matters and how you can apply the principle of “less is more” in your own programmes to create a more focused and engaged experience for your participants.


Pacing is probably something that you’ve not thought about that much when you’re busy facilitating conversations or discussions with visitors around art and objects. After all, it’s all about the objects, right? 

Well, no. 

Pacing directly influences the visitor experience. So in that sense it plays a vital role in your museum and gallery programmes. 

A well-paced programme ensures that your participants stay engaged, attentive and receptive throughout their journey. 

By carefully managing the rhythm and flow of stops, activities and information, we can create a balance that keeps our participants engaged without overwhelming or exhausting them. 

Pacing is all about finding that sweet spot where the rhythm and flow of activities, objects, and information create a seamless and enriching experience

By carefully managing the pace, we can allow visitors to 

  • absorb knowledge
  • reflect on what they’ve learned, 
  • and engage in meaningful interactions


The principle of “less is more” can be a guiding light in finding the perfect balance.

Let’s begin by unravelling what I mean by “less is more”. 

In today’s fast-paced world, if we bombard visitors with excessive content it can overwhelm and dilute the impact we aim to make. 

By embracing “less is more” as a concept by which we design and facilitate our programmes, we can create more meaningful and memorable experiences.

In the context of museum and gallery programmes, “less is more” is a guiding principle that emphasises the value of simplicity and focus. 
It suggests that by intentionally selecting and presenting a smaller quantity of content, activities, or object, we can create more impactful and meaningful experiences for visitors.
So “less is more” is about quality over quantity

It’s about prioritising the most relevant and impactful content, ensuring that each element has a purpose and contributes to the overall goals of the programme. 

In essence, “less is more” challenges us to be selective, intentional, and thoughtful in our approach to our programs.

It invites us to create experiences that are powerful, focused, and leave a lasting impression on visitors, rather than overwhelming them with an abundance of information or distractions.


Streamlining content is key. Time is a precious resource on any guided tour or gallery programme. 

Instead of attempting to cover everything, it’s important to focus on the key messages and themes you wish to convey.

  1. Identify your core themes. Find the red thread that runs through your programme. What do you want visitors to take away with them? Having a core theme helps you to create a narrative that mores cohesive and ensure that visitors grasp the central ideas.
  2. Then, select objects accordingly: Instead of trying to cover everything and overwhelming visitors with a huge extensive range of objects or artworks, curate. choose a carefully curated selection that best represents the theme or story of your programme. Having a smaller number of high-impact objects allows visitors to engage more deeply with each one and this leads to more engaging and memorable experiences that go beyond the surface level.


First work out how many stops you make on a programme.

Once you know how many stops you make, then you need to work out how many objects do you cover within those ‘stops’? You could also track your movements on every programme over a period of time. Find out what your average is. 

Then think about, how long you spend at each object? Get a feel for it. One one tour, think about how long you spend at each object. This doesn’t have to be down to the last second, but you want to get a feel for the length of time you’re spending with all of the different objects on your programme. 

From this information, you can work out what your pace is. For many educators, it’s not something they think about consciously, pace is something that they just do. It happens. So, having this information will lead to new awareness which can then allow you to adjust your pace if necessary. 


how you would describe your pace to someone who was thinking of being on one of your programmes? 

  • Are you fast and energetic? Do you like to cover a lot of different objects in your tour? 
  • Are you moderate and balanced? With a steady progression through the galleries or the exhibition
  • Or are you slow and contemplative? allowing visitors to take their time and deeply engage with the artworks or exhibits

None of these are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and quite often we may employ a variety of different paces depending on the audience we’re with and the type of programme that we’re facilitating. You may also naturally lean towards one of these pace styles.

But the thing to remember is that the choice of pace should align with the program’s objectives, the intended audience, and the nature of the content. 

It’s important to consider the needs and preferences of visitors to create a engaging experience while maintaining a balance that allows for learning, reflection, and enjoyment.

So now I have 7 coaching questions for you to think about in relation to your pace. By thinking about your responses to these questions, you will have more awareness about how pace influences engagement on your programmes. 

1. Are you allowing enough time for visitors to engage with each artwork or activity?

Balancing the need to cover all desired content with allowing visitors enough time for meaningful interaction is crucial.

You don’t have to see everything.

As you would in a restaurant, you wouldn’t order everything from a menu but a select few dishes to satisfy your needs. Think about applying the same principles to your museum and gallery programmes. You don’t have to cover everything.

And if you try to, you’re skimming the surface level at each object, the end result will be a lightweight programme. 

2. Are you rushing through content or overwhelming visitors with excessive information?  

If you always feel that there is so much to cover on a tour, that there’s so much to see, then it’s time to reassess.

If you feel it’s too much for you to cover, then it will definitely leave your participants overwhelmed too.

Covering too many objects or too much information will leave you and your participants feeling exhausted.

Find out where you can kill your darlings. Killing your darlings means getting rid of parts you really like but are not necessary or helpful for the overall programme. It’s about making tough choices to improve the quality of your programme.

If you feel that there is so  much to cover, you need to make some choices. Less stops or less information delivery. Something has to give.

It can feel painful to ‘kill our darlings’ (that’s why they are called ‘darlings’), but it’s essential to give your programme the air it needs to breathe). Less is more. Repeat it to yourself. 

3. Are you allowing for questions and discussion during your programmes?

I’m not talking about asking ‘any questions’ at the end of your talking for 5 mins about an object here. Create a culture of questioning where you ask questions regularly and encourage questions from your participants too.

Allow participants to take an active role in their learning. Stop thinking about questions as a drain on your time in your programme. By scheduling fewer stops, you have time to explore what you are seeing in a deeper way with your participants. 

4. Is your pace varied and dynamic or the same throughout?

You want to be creating a diverse and engaging experience by incorporating different paces within the program.

Visitors have varying attention spans and preferences, and as a facilitator you can cater to their needs by offering a range of experiences.

A varied and dynamic pace keeps participants engaged by offering a mix of different rhythms, transitions, and levels of interaction.

This prevents monotony and enhances the overall experience. You don’t want to be spending the same time at every object.

You should bear in mind the ‘arc’ of the programme and pace accordingly.

For example, participants are most ‘warmed-up’ in the middle of a programme so you could plan for a longer stop in the middle, whereas at the end people are more tired and this may call for either shorter bite-sized stops or a slower, winding down exercise depending on the group and how you want to finish the programme. Be mindful of the beginning, middle and end when considering pace. 

5. Are you observing the reactions and responses of our participants? How can you adjust our pacing based on their engagement levels or interests?

This is crucial. You want to be observing the reactions and responses of particiaptns to create a responsive and engaging programme.

By paying attention to their engagement levels and interests, you can adjust the pacing accordingly. See Episodes 42 and Episode 69 respectively for more information about reading a group and body language.

It’s about being responsive and flexible in the moment and being able to customise your pacing based on the needs of the group. You can also tell a lot by listening to the group’s responses. You can gauge the group’s level of engagement, adapt the speed of delivery, and allocate more time for exploration or discussion if desired. 

This customisation and flexibility creates a more personalised and tailored experience, ensuring that the pace aligns with their interests and allows for a deeper level of engagement.

6. Are you providing moments for pause, reflection and contemplation?

We’ve just covered silence and pause recently so I won’t say much about these, go and check out Episode 95 and Episode 96. Providing moments for reflection, silence and pause is essential in creating a holistic and meaningful museum or gallery programme.

These pauses allow participants to absorb any information, process their thoughts, and make personal connections. And pauses allow your programme to breathe

7. Are you reviewing and reflecting on the pacing of your programs regularly?

This is about improving and refining our approach to better serve our visitors. As part of your reflective practice, set aside time after your programmes (or at the end of the day) to reflect and review what happened, what went well and what you could work on for next time. As part of this process, don’t forget to reflect on pace too. If you want to know more about developing a more reflective practice listen to Episode 29 and there’ll be lots about this in my book too coming out in September. But in the meantime, here are 5 reflective questions to ask yourself:

  1. How did I perceive the pace of the program as an facilitator, and how did it affect my performance?
  2. What was the overall experience of the participants regarding the program’s pacing? Were they engaged and attentive throughout?
  3. How did the pacing allow for natural transitions, pauses, and breaks?
  4. How did I effectively manage time and prioritize key themes without rushing or overwhelming participants?
  5. What adjustments can I make to improve the pacing and better meet participants’ needs?


Pacing plays a crucial role in museum and gallery programmes, directly influencing the visitor experience. 

By carefully managing the rhythm and flow of stops, activities, and information, we can create a balance that keeps participants engaged without overwhelming them. 

“Less is more” becomes a guiding principle, emphasising the value of simplicity and focus. 

Think about streamlining content, and killing your darlings to create a more engaging experience for everyone. 

Remember, it’s not about covering everything, but about creating meaningful connections and allowing participants to actively engage with the content. 

So, next time you’re planning a programme, take a moment to reflect on your pace and strive to find that perfect balance that leaves a lasting impression on everyone. 

Let’s end with a question. 

Ask yourself this:

How can you apply the principle of “less is more” in your own educational programmes, and what strategies will you implement to create a more focused and engaged experience for your visitors?

Remember, small changes can make a big difference in enhancing the visitor experience.