Every tourist can tell stories of that time when his or her tour guide was the person who made the trip special but also the times in which the tour guide was a waste of money and time. Much of what makes a good tour guide and a good tour experience is preparation. Here are five must-do guide training tips that will help you to become a great tour guide even before the tour begins!
1. Plan in Advance.
Even the best tour guide shouldn’t just wing his or her tour. If you’re new to the tour route or industry, be sure to prepare by completing a through inventory of the site or trail that your tour will cover. You should know your tour route completely and know what amenities are available to tourists, such as restrooms, cafes, and gift shops. Even if you’re experienced at giving tours, you can always learn more. Conduct in-depth research of your tour material. Learn all there is to know regarding the tour; your tourists will look to you as the expert. Lastly, practice, practice, practice. Nothing will calm your nerves and prepare you like practicing your tour dialogue for an audience. Ask family or friends to listen to your tour and pepper you with difficult questions. If you will be conducting the tour in a non-native language, it will be beneficial to practice speaking and to pay close attention to pronunciation.
2. Provide Necessary Information.
Your tourists will likely be unfamiliar with the area and excited for your guided tour. Help them to prepare appropriately by providing logistics and rules in advance of the tour. Be sure that the location, time, and length of the tour are clearly communicated to all participants. Let them know what clothing is appropriate for the trip, keeping in mind any cultural and safety considerations, as well as what they should bring (such as money, jackets, sunscreen, bug spray, water bottles, cameras) and what they should not. Make sure that you emphasize any park or site rules in advance (such as no photos or no picnics).
3. Have a “Message.”
Wrap your tour around a single, simple message. This is the main point that you hope to get across to visitors. It may cover the history, wildlife, architecture, ghost stories, cuisine, or many other themes of your city, site, or park. Be sure that the message is original and keep it one simple full sentence. By structuring your tour around one theme, your tour will be easier to follow for visitors, and the content will be more cohesive. All the material covered in your tour should revolve around or relate to the visitors’ understanding of this message.
4. Prepare a Structure.
Plan the structure of your tour in advance by formulating a written outline for your tour. Begin by brainstorming a catchy introduction. Next plan the stops on your tour; be sure that each stop has scenic views, interesting history, or contributes to your message. Figure out what you will say at each stop. Be sure to consider whether your stop is shaded, has benches, and other comfort factors for tourists. Prepare a short conclusion that wraps up the “message” of the tour and thanks your tourists for joining you.
5. Carry Appropriate Equipment.
A key component to preparing for your tour is to carry all appropriate equipment with you. While planning your tour, make a list of all of the items that might be useful to communicating your message or would make the tour more comfortable or enjoyable for visitors. In terms of communication, if you have a large tour group, a wireless microphone or headsets may be needed. Be sure that you are carrying a phone or walkie-talkies to make sure that visitors have a way to contact you both before and during the tour. For comfort, perhaps your visitors would appreciate printed itineraries of the sites they will visit, or, if the weather will be hot and sunny, water bottles and a bottle of emergency sunscreen may be wise. It is also wise to keep basic first-aid equipment on hand. Consider the logistics of what equipment you can reasonably carry throughout the tour, as you can certainly bring more if you will be traveling by truck rather than on foot for instance. Carrying the appropriate equipment will improve your tour communication and your visitors’ comfort, ensuring a better tour!
By preparing in advance, providing necessary information to tourists, composing a “message” for your tour, keeping a clear tour structure, and carrying basic equipment, your tour will be off to a good start even before it begins! To learn more, visit Solimar International’s website and download “20 Characteristics of a Good Guide.”