Virtual tours often lack a certain energy or connection that comes with an in-person experience.
Guides tend to naturally be personable and energetic, which doesn’t always translate through a live-stream or Zoom call.
When that very physical wall (of computer screens and distance) is put between the guide and the guest, it makes it very hard to do a lot of things that guides naturally do; read the body language of guests, project (or even out) their emotions as needed, etc.
Suddenly everything you knew about being a spectacular guide is no longer totally relevant and that can make it really hard to figure out how to adapt your tours, or train a guide team.
In this article, I’ve put together a checklist of things to consider to pull off an engaging, memorable, and logistically smooth virtual tour.
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Five things to consider for your Virtual Tour.
Lighting- Do some research to make sure you are lit up in a flattering way (nothing kills a tour faster than ‘creepy dark basement vibes’). Be creative with the lamps, lights, and windows you already have.
Sound- You might be limited in terms of what microphones or headphones you have access to (quick tip- regular phone headphones are ideal in a pinch) but you’ll also need to think about exterior sound such as roommates or noise from the street.
Framing- Do you want to be standing? Farther away from the camera? Perhaps you have your camera propped up, or someone will be filming you. Or do you want to be close to the screen so you can read comments and click through your slideshow? Also- what’s behind you in the frame? Guests might be easily distracted by the view out your window or the titles on your bookshelf.
Props- Are you going to use physical props such as photographs or maps? Where can you place those so they are within reach?
Being in the moment and improving off the energy of a group doesn’t work the same way with virtual events. This is a new space for most guides, so it’s important to think of it as a new skill, which will take practice.
Things you will want to test out ahead of time;
- Technical aspects such as moving from your face to your presentation slides (if you’re doing a screen share)
- Timing (you’ll want to keep Virtual Tours short & on time. If groups can get restless on a regular tour, imagine how much more restless they’ll be sitting at home watching a screen)
Don’t underestimate the power of a ‘practice tour’.
Every single presentation or workshop I’ve given, I’ve given first for my Mom. It helps me catch any remaining typos on the presentation and allow me to time myself. Very often I’ll also realize something I’m saying is clunky or confusing. If nothing else, it gives me that extra boost of confidence knowing I’ve gone above & beyond to prepare.
Housekeeping (pointing out important information at the start of the tour such as safety, logistics, etc. which tends to be un-exciting non-tour content) is even more important on a virtual tour as guests are even less likely to be paying attention if they’re at home on their couch.
As with any tour, you’ll want to introduce yourself, give your credentials (why are you the best person to give this tour? What are you passionate about that relates to this tour?), and set expectations by telling guests what to expect throughout the experience.
Specifically for Virtual Tours, you’ll need to give them permission, and explain how, to interact. Can they ask questions as you go? Maybe you’ll encourage them to interact with each other?
As with in-person tours, make sure to repeat these important logistics throughout the experience.
Avoid the temptation to simply give a lecture or webinar (unless that’s the format). This is a TOUR, which should be more experiential by nature. And virtual tours need to be much tighter than in-person.
Make sure your tour has a concise theme and a solid finish*.
I highly recommend scripting your Virtual Tour (at least somewhat) in order to keep this structure. You don’t have to memorize it, but it will keep you on time, on topic, and result in a well-thought-out experience. Remember, a guide going on a tangent can be endearing in real life, but when you don’t have the ability to read the body language of guests through a computer screen, it’s an easy way to lose your audience virtually.
Extremely important is to consider how you want to structure in questions. Will you be monitoring the chat, or having people unmute as they wish so that you can take them as they come? Or will you have designated points in the tour for people to ask their questions?
There’s no right answer but know exactly how you want it to go so that you can communicate that to your guests.
*Read more about the importance of a strong beginning & ending with the Peak-End Rule.
5. Your Guiding Style.
Now is a great time to evaluate your personal style as a tour guide. Are you more of an educator or an entertainer? What is it that you’re really passionate about?
Being aware of your tour guide style will be important to recognize so you can do any needed adapting while on-camera. For example, if you’re a guide with a big personality that relies a lot on wit and jokes, it might be TOO big on a small screen. In this case, you might choose to frame your whole body to accommodate.
Think about other things you typically do during your tour that you’ll have to be creative to translate online. For example, if you always connect guests with each other during the tour, how can you do that through the comment section?