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Stuck in a Tour Rut? 6 Tips to Refresh your Guided Tour

Stuck in a tour rut?

Are you looking forward to leading your tours again in 2020? Are you getting excited by the thought of the new season starting?  

If you’re not sure about your answers to those questions, maybe you need to shake things up a little. We have a responsibility to do so much more than just ‘inform’ on our tours – people want to be surprised, moved, connected, and even transformed when they book a guided tour in 2020. So, if you’re feeling jaded and uninspired, it’s time to make some changes.

First, get out of your comfort zone. 

If you continue leading your tour exactly the same way you led it last year, you will only end up feeling more stuck. I know from experience how easy it is to stick to the tried-and-tested formula, but tour participants can ALWAYS tell when a guide is bored of their tour or going through the motions. Making a few simple changes might make you discover your passion for your tour again and this renewed enthusiasm will ultimately come across to your groups too:

Change your Routine

Think about when you work and who you work for. Imagine your ideal working week. What does it look like? Now compare it to the hours you did last year. If there’s a huge discrepancy, you need to think about setting some boundaries this year. A regular day off, the chance not to work weekends, an afternoon off – whatever works for you, work towards achieving this. Plan your schedule and BLOCK OUT days you do not want to work so that you can perform at your best for the whole year.

Next, think about who you are working for? If you work for several organisations such as museums, think about your preferences  – which one do you prefer working at? Can you give preference to that organisation?

If you’re working for yourself, how can you get more of your IDEAL clients? Carve yourself out a niche? Invest in a training and specialise, specialise, specialise. Become known for your expertise in working with families or for how you engage people in objects and artworks and attract the clients that you want to work with.

Change your Route

Have you recently walked your tour route on your own without clients? Now is the time to look at it objectively and try and see the route through the eyes of your participants.

  • Go on your own or with a fellow guide and discuss.
  • Take a notebook or camera.
  • Take time to look up, down and turn around to see what you’re missing.
  • Don’t be tempted to speed-walk through the whole route, take your time and slow down.
  • Try deviating from your usual route.
  • What new things do you notice? Can you weave any of these new details into your tour?

If your tour route is set by the company you work for, give them feedback on any issues en route. Ask them if any changes can be made to the route to make it flow better for you and the participants.

Do a Stop Audit – Add, Edit or Retire

When you next have 10 minutes to spare, make a list of all the stops in your tour. Write down where you stand at each stop. Write down the distances between the stops. Write down how long you usually spend at each stop.

Why? To try and understand if you are using time wisely on your tour. For example, think about the distances between stops.

  • Are they reasonable? Too far, too short?
  • Can you swap any of them around to make the tour more cohesive?
  • Can you add a different stop to make the distance less?

Next, think about the time you spend at each stop. On average, spend anything from 5-15 minutes at each stop. There are no hard and fast rules to this, but do bear in mind that spending less than 5 minutes at each stop can make the tour feel rushed and lightweight (unless you’re on a super-speedy highlights tour) and conversely, spending longer than 15 minutes in any one place will result in participants starting to shuffle and look away as they lose concentration (unless you’re on a slow-looking tour!).

Finally, spend some time thinking about a stop that doesn’t work well on your current tour. Have a think first about ways to improve it.

  • If it’s not a ‘must-see’, maybe you can replace it with something else that works better?
  • Or maybe it’s a case of standing somewhere different so that your participants can see/hear better?
  • Or maybe you can bring along some new materials (laminate/iPad) to enhance understanding of what the site used to look like?

If none of these work and you’re still unsure about the stop, it’s time to put it into retirement and come up with something new. Maybe you can add a new stop or maybe you can spend longer somewhere else, but there is no point flogging a stop that just doesn’t work!

Share New Stories

For guides, information is never fixed or static. You never arrive at the point where you know everything. There is always more to learn, to find out, to add to your guided tour.

So, subscribe to a new blog, read some new articles or watch video clips will help to give inspiration on new pieces of information to share. Maybe you always talk about certain themes on your tour – could you introduce any new ones? Or focus on a certain historical figure? By looking at the themes and stories that you tell, you can start to see if you can make any adjustments so that you are not always talking about the same subjects and people. Stretching yourself to find new information or do new research could be the boost your tour needs to start receiving 5 star reviews every time.

Encourage Interaction

Have you ever found yourself in the same place, at the same time, saying the same thing?

One of the easiest ways to ensure that you never give the same tour twice is to encourage and promote interaction from your participants on your tours. Learn new techniques and tools to help you create enjoyable and inspiring discussions on your interactive guided tours. Ask open-ended questions or use thinking routines to jump-start discussions and make everyone feel part of the discovery process. Encourage everyone to speak by treating everyone’s comments fairly and paraphrasing for others to hear.

Make your guests so curious that they ask YOU questions about what THEY want to know. Using discussion-based techniques you will never find yourself in the same place, at the same time saying the same thing again. And who wants to actually do that anyway? The traditional lecture-style guided tour is dead, long live the interactive tour!

And finally…Don’t do it all alone

As guides, we’re often working alone or in parallel with other guides and our paths rarely cross. So, get advice from a colleague or talk things over with a fellow guide; shadow someone else’s tour or create a working group of a few guides to workshop new ideas for your tours together. Every person you talk to could potentially help you out of your tour rut.

Do you have any top tips to share about how you keep things fresh on your tours? What do you do to stay enthusiastic and passionate about your guided tours?