2020 Breakout Sessions

The Museum Store Association is leveraging its trusted relationship within the nonprofit retail industry to gather industry experts to lead a variety of unique sessions designed to educate attendees on the best practices and most innovative new ideas for store promotions, marketing, sales, and more! These sessions will be led by the most forward-thinking leaders in the nonprofit retail industry, and will follow the MSA Knowledge Standards that highlight the core knowledge, skills and abilities needed to excel at the daily responsibilities of a nonprofit retail professional.

Take a look at these breakout sessions and see how they will help you improve your store or business. Sessions and speakers are continuously being added to this page as they are confirmed, so check back periodically for the most up-to-date list of speakers.

Saturday, April 25
9:15 am – 10:15 am

Van Gogh vs Versace

Brands like Versace or Gucci are fighting for your attention, they want brand recognition and they want to establish an identity that customers can connect with. These brands  spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to promote their brand. The “brand” of Van Gogh, Monet, or many of your Institutions themselves, are equal to and greater than any luxury brand in the world.  In this session, discuss actual steps and strategies you can use to elevate your store based on the brand recognition of your exhibits. Learn proven ways to increase distribution and revenue. 


  • Identifying the brand message and target customer for their store
  • Step by step process on how to develop a line of custom scarves for their store
  • How to work with PV to licensee works from their collection, making it easier to develop products for their stores and beyond
  • How to start earning royalties and expanding your distribution network

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Merchandise Planning, Strategic Management

Speakers: Jason Faulkner, Printed Village

How to be Digital (and not Alienate People)

Explore how the UK’s National Theatre uses e-commerce and social media in tandem to grow sales, increase their brand awareness, and have conversations with new audiences. All while keeping the drama confined to the stage.

Learn how the National Theatre has grown their online business, developed a new Shopify site, leveraged PR, along with the benefits and pitfalls of having a separate social media estate. There will be memes.


  • Growing an e-commerce business within the museum sector, especially for small to medium scale institutions with competing priorities and limited resources.
  • How to use, and have fun with, social to drive conversations, traffic, and sales.
  • Real life examples of what does and doesn’t work to drive traffic in our sector.
  • The benefits vs. negatives of having your own retail ‘brand’ social media and websites against using your home institution’s infrastructure.
  • How we navigate internal communications with colleagues in Marketing and Press departments to keep Commercial considerations a priority, whichever option you choose. Tips and tricks included.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing and Communications, Visitor Relations, Merchandise Planning,  Technology

Speakers: Thomas Dykes, National Theatre

Group Talk: Schools and Tours are Here!

This session will include insights, tips and tricks, and best practices from MSA stores who are particularly skilled at handling big groups weather it be school kids, tour groups, or any other type of group that walks through the museum doors.


  • Best practices for managing store sales from groups
  • Clear processes that can be tailored to each museum depending on size and interest
  • Recognizing the revenue stream from groups and how to manage that income and grow that part of the business

MSA Knowledge Standards: Visitor Relations, Merchandise Planning, Strategic Management, Operations

Moderator: Kelli Davis, Science Center of Iowa

Saturday, April 25
10:30 am – 11:30 am

A Guide for Vendors and Buyers Working ‘The Mingle’ and Driving Business

In this session, determine how leveraging your involvement with MSA and the valuable resources within the organization can take your business to the next level. Leave this session with several Dos and Don’ts with the feedback of a varied group of buyers on how to manage all things MSA.  How do we make those connections?   How do we create the best environment on the trade show floor?  And what about those chapter meetings?  What is the best way to follow up? Learn to effectively listen to buyers, recommend collaboration among trusted vendors, hear about volunteer opportunities available to MSA members, and much more! Effectively grow your businesses as a vendor while enhancing your relationship with buyers.  

This session will feature specific guidelines and a lively discussion to answer all your questions about working the MSA Mingle and driving business!


  • How to make the most effective use of your MSA membership.
  • How to get things done at the chapter level — working with trade show management as well as MSA board and staff.
  • How to engage with buyers outside of the realm of the “sell”, addressing product development practices as well.
  • How to engage with fellow vendors to achieve positive results for the MSA.
  • How to get the most “bang for your buck” from the opportunities that are presented to us.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Visitor Relations, Strategic Management

Moderators: Mary Lind Mahmud, WorldFinds and Daedre Berryman, Studio Daedre

Speakers: Stephanie Fridge, Museum of the Bible; Michael Silverman, Oakland Museum of California; and Ann Nicknish, Figge Art Museum

Success with Consignment Vendors: Incorporating Local Artists Into the Store Mix Can Help Build Community Support and Build Store Profits With No Initial Investment

In this session, discuss the best process for selecting artists whose work reflects the mission of your institution to build community involvement within your store. Discuss the importance of having all artists on a consignment agreement that clearly discusses payment terms, length of agreement, separation terms and more. Learn to easily manage the inventory, payments, and replenishing stock with the consignment vendors on a monthly basis. Attendees will receive sample documents that will aid them in implementing this process in their stores.


  • At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to develop criteria for selecting items and consignment vendors relevant to their museum’s mission that will help increase store profits.
  • At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to develop a plan on how to compose agreements, compile sales, and distribute payments
  • At the conclusion of this session, participants will be able to plan store events, and cross-promoting social media strategies with local artists that help promote their exclusive merchandise
  • At the conclusion of this session, participants will walk away with examples of how to build relationships with local artists as consignment vendors and gain community support

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Visitor Relations, Merchandise Planning

Speakers: Aylin Tito, Boca Raton Museum of Art

Packing a Punch: The Ins and Outs of Museum Retail Packaging & Collateral

Store packaging plays an important role in the marketing mix for museum retailers. Distinctive and consistent museum retail packaging is not only an important extension of an institution and store’s brand, but it also acts as the physical embodiment of the institution and store in the customer’s hand and home. Well produced and designed packaging contributes highly to the overall impression that your museum store leaves on the minds of your customers and visitors. In this session, museum packaging experts and suppliers will discuss the ins and outs of strategically developing and realizing consistent museum retail packaging and related collateral that delivers brand impact with functional ease.


  • How to strategically plan for developing museum retail packaging that uniquely reflects your institution while delivering key marketing messages
  • How to work with internal stakeholders and external service providers to determine design, formats, pricing, and production
  • How to supplement packaging with related promotional and marketing collateral and why this is important
  • How to maximize sales through product placement, signage, and selling tips
  • How to plan for budget, project purchase quantities, and estimate usage

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning, Marketing & Communications, Visitor Relations, Operations

Speakers: Stuart Hata, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Colleen Higginbotham, Chrysler Museum of Art; Sandy Bastone, Prime Line Packaging

5 Corporate Retail Merchandising Secrets to Boost Sales

When sales are low, a lot of people are quick to put blame on poor customer service, inadequate training, low traffic, the list goes on. However, the slightest changes visually can increase your sales. If something is not selling well sometimes just the slightest tweak can have the greatest impact. Far too often managers within a nonprofit retail environment do not think they can compare themselves to a corporate retail store. We know our niche and our audience, BUT what we can do is learn from the corporate retail stores, and apply their visual merchandising tips and tricks to our nonprofit retail store.


  • Sticker everything
  • 3 easy tricks to tell a color story
  • 5 ways to engage the customer’s senses
  • Window display 101
  • 5 steps to take your signage to the next level

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning, Operations

Speaker: Amberly Brislin, American Saddlebred Museum

Monday, April 27
9:15 am – 10:15 am

Do Museums Need Stores?

With Amazon dominating most retail markets and concessionaires aggressively pursuing museum retail operations, why do museums need stores at all? Victor Oliveira will share thought provoking ideas and talking points for communicating with your administration about maintaining an independent retail operation.


  •  Talking points to share with their institutions and administrators
  • How to present their operations as a benefit to their organizations
  • The importance of museum retail as part of the visitor experience

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Visitor Relations, Strategic Management

Speakers: Victor Oliveira, Peabody Essex Museum

Museum Product Photography with a Smartphone

In a follow up to DIY Product Photography, presented at MSA FORWARD 2019, this session will show attendees how to take their photography skills to the next level so that they can produce museum-quality photos on a budget. Learn how to use your everyday smartphone to produce classic, “studio” product photography and build a professional photo studio for under $100 and in 15 square feet. Expand the reach of your product photos using social media and learn how to build a brand, gain followers, and grow sales via Instagram and Facebook.


  • Attendees will learn how to utilize their smartphone to create captivating photos to use to promote their store and products.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Merchandise Planning, Marketing & Communications, Technology

Speakers: David Graveen, Popcorn Custom Products

How To Attract & Hire Great Workers In 2020

What motivates job seekers most in 2020? How can you get the workers you need when it seems like everyone is already working? Quickly improve your job postings based on nine things that attract today’s worker more than pay and benefits. Discover five “leaks” in your hiring process that scare the best workers, and see a complete hiring funnel that will help you attract better workers. Discover how to better utilize tools like Facebook and LinkedIn to attract potential employees, and get better quality results from Indeed and other online recruiting platforms.


  • What motivates job seekers most in 2020
  • Five hiring process mistakes that scare away workers
  • Social media hiring strategies

MSA Knowledge Standards: Human Resources, Operations

Speakers: Cathy Nagle-Ervin, Eastern National

Collaborating to Create Sales

Collaboration between buyers and vendors can unlock the key to many positive results for museum stores – new product development, joint promotion, integrated social media campaigns, unique and tailored merchandising, and so much more.  The challenge is figuring out the answers to these key questions.  Who can we collaborate with? What can we collaborate on? How do we get started?  Most importantly, how do we ensure it works for both of us? Well planned and executed collaborations can lead to greater customer engagement, increased sales, increased reach, higher customer satisfaction, and indeed increased job satisfaction! So what is there to lose?


  • To be able to assess if collaborations can benefit their store
  • To understand how to identify vendors with which they can collaborate
  • To understand the process of planning a collaboration
  • To understand the resources (time and financial) that can be required
  • To understand the potential impacts and how to assess them

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Visitor Relations, Merchandise Planning, Strategic Management

Moderator: Nicola Doran, Design and Crafts Council of Ireland

Monday, April 27
10:30 am – 11:30 am

Wag More, Bark Less – Reducing Negativity in the Workplace

Deal with difficult people? Spend too much of your day handling personality conflicts among staff? Explore 14 different ways people express negativity and learn a tip for dealing with each one. You’ll learn effective skills on handling a broad spectrum of negative personality styles – and see how you can adjust your own attitude to help stay positive and improve organizational excellence! Receive tips on exactly what to say to whom, so you can go back to work and do something different immediately. After participating in this program attendees, on average, said their ability to handle negative situations in the workplace improved 28%. This program is intended for attendees who lead other people.

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Human Resources, Operations, Strategic Management

Speaker: Karen E. Purves, M.A., International Speaker

One Hit Wonders, Or Retail Rock Stars? Best Practices for Creating and Engaged and Motivated Sales Team

Your most valuable asset is your staff. If hiring, managing, and motivating your sales associates has you singing the blues, this session is for you. Learn ten key metrics for assessing your sales associates’ performance and expand basic “customer service training” into proven professional development strategies that build your team’s strengths and keeps them engaged.


  • Learn ten key metrics to track sales associates’ performance over time
  • Learn best practice strategies for their staff’s professional development
  • Access to tools to track their staff’s progress, and other resources for professional development

MSA Knowledge Standards: Marketing & Communications, Financial Management, Human Resources, Operations, Strategic Management

Speakers: Jay Thomson, Chrysler Museum of Art

Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of Opening an Additional Store

This session is for those that want to present the idea of an additional store in a new location but need help on execution and how to start such a vast project.  Regardless of the size of the store, careful planning is key to success.  This session will address how to make a plan, broach the subject with upper management, determine staffing, work with contractors, and more!  


  • Understand how working with other departments is important to proper execution
  • Increase store volume and store operations
  • Use financial management to successfully integrate and add value to your institution

MSA Knowledge Standards: Financial Management, Operations, Merchandise Planning, Strategic Management

Speaker: Alicia Catalano, Cantigny Park