with Professor Pocock
2nd in a series of Thinking Outside the Box . . . Topic: Tour Guides
How often are you asked to give tours to families moving the area? Obviously these families are evaluating which school district fits their needs so they know where to buy their home. And have you given much thought to your standard tour? Who gives them? What do they say about your school? How do they engage the guests?
I had the chance to think more specifically about tours recently. I was asked to spend a half-day with the students hired to be tour guides at Hope College this year. These kids complete a rigorous process to earn these prestigious positions. And while my assignment was to inspire them to perform well this semester, I was the one who ended up learning the most.
I spent time brainstorming with these students about which route to take. We identified information they needed to know and discussed techniques on how to organize content. But things got really interesting when I asked the students (about half of whom had been tour guides in previous years) to share ideas for what makes a great tour.
I hate that question
Here are their top three ideas that I encourage you to copy:
• A list of questions I’d hate to be asked. One student pulled out a 3×5 index card on which she had listed the questions she hated being asked in her previous years as a tour guide. What a great idea! We spent time as a group practicing how we’d answer those questions. And having done so, all the tour guides left with a renewed sense of self-confidence: If I can answer these questions, I can tackle anything I might be asked.
• A pocketful of stories. People remember stories. They forget facts. Several students had learned this lesson early on in their tour guide careers and had started assembling a library of stories to tell about buildings, professors, traditional events,
athletics, etc. As some of these stories were told I saw light bulbs go off above the heads of everyone in the room. They suddenly thought of stories they adapt to be their own and sharing during their tours.
• A tour souvenir. One student pulled out his iPhone and proudly showed us several pictures of people to whom he had given tours last year. He admitted he didn’t take a picture of every student; only when it seemed natural (good idea!). But here’s the icing on the cake: he then asked if he could email the picture to the guest. What a great idea! In the process he secured the guest’s email to stay in contact; he gave the guest a picture of themselves on campus so they could “see themselves” there as a student on our campus, and he made a personal connection with that family.
So here’s one last idea: Buy a bunch of prism scopes. Buy them in the your school colors. Then give one to each student who visits with a reminder that at your school, people are encouraged to look at things just a little differently. And that’s exactly why you’d love having them enroll with you when they move to town.
photos by bluesmoon & Baltimore Heritage