Not everyone is a born tour guide. In fact, plenty of people are terrified of talking in front of groups of people (especially strangers). This is a fear that can be put to rest through practice. The second tour you give will feel better than the first, and the tenth will be that much better than the first. Some of this will come with knowing the material and a new familiarity to the process.
Other aspects will improve as you learn how tours go and how those on the tour are likely to act. However, there’s more to giving a good tour than just feeling comfortable with your material. You need to do what you can to make sure those on the tour leave feeling satisfied with the job you did. Much like the rest of the tour giving experience this will take some practice. Here are a few points of emphasis you’ll want to focus on in order to give the best tour possible.
Tips on How to Be a Good Tour Guide
Know the Environment
Have you ever been on a tour where, no matter how hard you listened, craned your neck, or where you stood, you just couldn’t hear everything the tour guide had to say? He could have told you the magic numbers to the lottery or the true meaning of life and it wouldn’t have mattered. When this happens it’s from a lack of understanding the environment.
It is the responsibility of the tour guide to make sure everyone in the tour can hear what’s going on. Yes, on occasion some unforeseen noise issues might creep up, but as long as you plan for everything and know the environment you’ll be able to avoid most problems.
If you’re giving a tour of a small office those you’re giving the tour to likely won’t have an issue hearing you. However, if you’re giving a tour of a noisy factory you won’t be able to get away with talking without the aid of amplification tools. So know the environment you’ll be touring in and have the right tour guide systems and communications systems ready so you can adjust accordingly. This will help you improve the overall quality of the tour.
Beyond the noise concerns, you’ll want to keep any possible safety concerns in mind as well. Depending on what you’re offering a tour of you might need to have some kind of safety equipment setup. If this is the case you’ll want to have the necessary hard hats and reflective vests on hand. You may also want to put out instructions that recommend certain kind of footwear for the tour ahead of time. This way those who normally wear heels or shoes with little traction can do what they can to wear the right sorts of shoes prior to arriving at the facility.
Know Your Audience
Much like the environment you need to know your audience. This will help you know what talking points to focus on. If you’re giving a tour of the plant to mechanics, they will likely be more interested in the machinery of the facility and not the thickness of the windows. If you’re giving a tour to investors they will want to know how efficient the facility is and how they will both save and make money. When you know what your tour guests are interested in you can hammer down on certain points.
This doesn’t mean you should completely abandon the information you normally give. Attempting to change your bullet-pointed script may throw off the entire tour. Instead, give the same information, but offer additional detail toward the interest of your particular group.
Hopefully you will know your audience ahead of time. However, if you don’t, the best way to find this out is to ask and interact.
Interact With Your Audience
Interaction is in fact the next step in how to be a good tour guide. Most tour members don’t want to just walk through an open space and listen. They are there because they want to learn. And they will want to ask questions. So do what you can to be open with your tours. Give members time to ask questions. And don’t be afraid to talk with individual members and ask them questions. Not everyone is great with asking questions while on a tour.
Over time, you’ll learn what information tours likely to know, and in which case you can begin to add this information into your tour. But whatever you do, make sure you have some kind of a personality while you interact with your audience.
A tour of an office building may not be the most lively or entertaining. You can at least keep it up beat with your personality. Be friendly, smile, walk at a comfortable pace for everyone, and do what you can to keep everyone involved and attentive.
Evolve Your Tour
You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t as you go along. Sometimes you don’t actually know what those on the tour want to learn until a few tours in. Perhaps certain tours keep asking the same question, or they find certain information more interesting than others.
At the end of every tour, try to jot down a few notes regarding the tour. This will help you remember what happened during the tour. Did guests on the tour respond to certain information more than other aspects of the tour? If you begin to see a pattern adjust the tour accordingly. You’ll want to spend more time on areas of interest and cut down the time on areas your tours aren’t as concerned about.
If you’ve ever been to an amusement park at Disney and have done one of the tours, you’ll find the tours will change slightly from one year to the next (in fact, many of the rides and displayed are tweaked on a regular basis). This is done to help improve the quality of the activity.
Becoming A Good Tour Guide
It doesn’t matter if you’re showing off a manufacturing plant or if you’re giving a tour of a local museum, the basis of a tour is the same. You want to provide insights and information in an easily digestible way. You want to leave room for questions throughout the door, and you want to interact with those on the tour. Remain upbeat and, most importantly, know what you’re talking about. The better your connection with the material the more confident you’ll become talking about it. Whatever you’re showcasing though, just remember that practice always makes perfect. So even if you didn’t have the best tour today, rest assured it will be that much better tomorrow.