As more and more people decide to pursue authentic adventures around the world, there is a growing demand for amazing guides to deliver this experience.
Here are 7 ways for tour guides to deliver a truly awesome experience and turn your "so-so" tour into "oh-my-goodness-this-tour-is-amazing".
1. Figure out what tours work best for you
Since it is an experience that you are selling, you need to find out what sort of experiences you are most suited to deliver. Do you see yourself leading a walking tour? Or a more exclusive private tour? Or maybe even a tour that involves very specific knowledge, for example a street art tour or one about communism in central Europe.
Another aspect of the tour to think about is the audience you'd like to be talking to. Do you prefer getting to know backpackers from all over the world? Or perhaps you'd prefer showing off your town to families? Knowing who you want to work with can help you create better experiences for your clients.
2. Tell a great story
When I think about some of the best tours I've been on, they were always the ones with memorable stories with had valuable lessons to learn and apply to this day.
Your guests did not fly across the world to listen to you spew facts about this cathedral or that castle, they came to learn about the lives of people who once lived in these places and the ones who still live on. They want stories they can relate too, stories about heros, war, strife, love, family; not a dry lecture about the 50 nails used to build this door.
Use stories to get your information across, weave facts and figures into a larger narrative to draw your audience in and keep them wanting more. Use props and pictures if you need to.
Once you've got a story down, remember that practice makes perfect. There's just no way around it. You want to be able to speak confidently and be at ease, not stumbling over your words or stuttering every other second.
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3. Use your stage voice
This is particularly so for guides who lead big groups of travellers. It's almost impossible to engage your audience if they can't hear you. Speak up. Stand on a bench if you must. Just make sure that everyone can hear you.
4. Break the ice, get people talking
To get people feeling more comfortable on your tours, you should consider running a short ice breaker. This is especially so if you run a tour where people just show up, sometimes in small groups, sometimes in pairs and other times, individually.
Apart from introducing yourself at the beginning of the tour, you could get people on your tour to introduce themselves to the rest of the group. It also helps if you share a bit more about yourself in the beginning, including previous jobs or why you decided to become a tour guide. It really helps create a friendly environment for your guests.
5. Get people involved
Having your audience participate on the tour is another great way to engage them. Since most travellers want an authentic experience, having them take part in something unique and fun will definitely give them that experience.
On one of my first solo trips, on a tour in Dublin, our guide taught us one of Ireland's favourite songs - Molly Malone. After teaching us the chorus to the song, she began singing the verses and would signal for us to join in at the chorus. To our surprise, every other person on the street where Molly Malone's statue stood joined in. It was fun and memorable and before we knew it, our group was holding hands and waving them in the air as we swayed to the song. I still smile every time I think about it.
Of course you don't need to burst into song to get people involved, you could do the same thing by encouraging people to ask questions, teaching them a phrase or two in the local language and asking them to repeat it to someone they don't know, or by simply incorporating social media into your tours.
You shouldn't be afraid of experimenting with what works and what doesn't. You could even test your ideas on your friends beforehand.
6. Know your stuff and be prepared for questions
In a recent article we published about attracting baby boomers to your tours or activities, we noted that baby boomers want to be intellectually stimulated. This will most probably come along with a lot of questions and you should be prepared for them.
In the event hat you are unsure about something, there's no harm in admitting so. It would be useful if you could refer people to couple of resources if they would like to learn more about the topic at hand.
7. Really love the place you're showing off
All over the world, travellers are searching for travel experiences that are immersive and that allow them to experience the culture and destination like a local. The best way you can do this is by truly loving the destination you are introducing to travellers.
If there's a particular street painting that you like and it happens to be on your route, don't hesitate to point it out. If there's a specific dish that you think everyone in the world should try, make sure you tell your group about it (and maybe include a vegetarian alternative). If there's some interesting fact about the pictures on your currency, tell people about it.
Let your enthusiasm shine through. Genuine enthusiasm is infectious and you should share it with your audience.