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Chapter 2 City and site guiding.

Chapter Objectives

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:

* List the advantages and disadvantages of being a guide.

* Explain what "guidespeak" commentary shares with conventional public speaking.

* List five strategies for overcoming fear of public speaking.

* Enumerate the peculiarities of guidespeak, both for city guiding and for on-site guiding.

* Describe the motorcoach environment and how it affects tour guiding.

* Discuss strategies for keeping performance fresh.


Have you ever taken a city bus tour? Or followed a guided excursion through a noteworthy building? If you have, you know that a good tour guide can bring a place alive for visitors. To do so in an entertaining and enlightening fashion, though, is no easy matter. Good tour guides are a rare and, some say, vanishing breed.

Very little attention has been given to the mechanics of effective tour guiding. Although this book focuses on tour conducting rather than tour guiding, a side excursion into the subject of guide work is quite relevant. A tour conductor needs many of the same skills as a guide, is often called upon to do double duty as a guide, and most certainly will work with numerous guides while managing a tour. Furthermore, many tour managers enter the travel industry by first becoming city, area, or on-site guides. Escort employers see guide experience as an excellent qualifying step on the road to the broader responsibilities of tour conducting.

The Advantages of Guiding

Although tour conducting holds a more glamorous place in the travel industry, many find tour guiding to be a most satisfying occupation. The demands of the job rarely require a person to be uprooted from his or her home in the way that escorting does. The stress is also far less. Though guiding is a people-oriented activity, a guide isn't responsible for the around-the-clock needs of a group as is a tour leader. And though the job is somewhat limited, it does offer two especially appealing opportunities: to be a center-of-attention "performer" and to be an "authority" who is deeply informed on a particular place.


The practical advantages of guiding are, in some circumstances, also attractive. Though city or area guides who work for local sightseeing companies often make only minimum wage, tips may increase their profits. Those guides who also drive the touring vehicle usually make a good salary, since their responsibilities are greater. Step-on guides--freelancers hired by an arriving tour company to come aboard its motorcoach--generally earn about as much daily as the average tour manager. Step-on freelancers also have the advantage of being able to work seasonally, at times of their own choosing. In those areas where summer months constitute prime tourist season, it's quite common for teachers, for example, to work as step-on guides to supplement their regular fall-to-spring assignments.

On-site guide salaries tend to be at or just above minimum wage. For this reason, attractions frequently hire high school or college students to fill these seasonal positions. On-site guides can earn more than minimum wage if they're government employees. For example, full-time United States Park or State Rangers are the tour guides at Hearst Castle (San Simeon, California), Yellowstone National Park, Alcatraz Prison (San Francisco), and Kitty Hawk (North Carolina). Outside of North America, guides at historic buildings, churches, or other important attractions are often mature scholars who, though low salaried, sometimes receive tips for their services.

The Disadvantages of Guiding

Both site and city guiding carry certain liabilities. The potential for boredom is very high. Guides must repeat the same information, often several times a day. The questions they hear are predictable. They must feign surprise at what a visitor may feel is a most original question. (Indeed, many guides remark that they welcome the challenge of a question they have never heard before.) If they're vehicle-driving sightseeing guides, they must concentrate on their narration and driving simultaneously. (In Japan, to offset potential safety problems with this sort of arrangement, three employees often accompany each tour bus--a guide-narrator, a driver, and an aide, whose responsibility is to help passengers on and off the bus and to assist the driver when parking in tight spots.)

Finally, in many cases technology is making guides obsolete. At some attractions visitors may rent a portable audio player. They then move through the site while listening to a taped commentary through earphones or a cell phone-like handset. At other attractions the visitor's presence in a room will automatically trip a taped audio narration or video monitor. City guides aren't irreplaceable either. A driver can now simply push a button on a dashboard cassette or CD player to activate a prerecorded commentary.

Tour guides, though, will never disappear entirely, for they personalize a visit in a way no machine can. You can't, after all, ask a tape recorder a question. But there's little doubt that technology will continue to threaten the job security of tour guides.


Guide and escort applicants often forget that the job is, in fact, a form of public speaking. They arrive armed with facts, familiar with company procedures, wellversed in group management logistics, and then the hard reality hits. They must now speak to an audience of forty people. Their palms sweat, their hands tremble, and their upper lip begins to twitch annoyingly.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation? You're not alone. Surveys report that public speaking is what people fear most--more than heights, spiders, confined spaces, and even death.

That no one has ever died of public speaking (though there have been some rather deadly speeches given) is irrelevant. The fear of speaking before a group is a phobia with no connection to reality, an anxiety that, to at least some degree, afflicts 85 percent of us.

Fear-Dampening Strategies

In some ways guidespeak (many tour companies call it tour commentary or narration) is a very different form of public oration, one that is less fear provoking than traditional speaking. Yet there are just enough similarities to warrant a set of general, proven strategies to combat nervousness. These strategies may be useful to you as a guide, as a tour director, or in just about any situation where you must communicate to a group of people.

Focus on One Person. Good speakers often pick out one individual in the audience who seems especially sympathetic. They talk to that person, then expand their attention to others so as not to seem oblivious to everyone else. Other common strategies--especially if having everyone looking at you at once bothers you-are to unfocus your eyes, look at an area just above your audience's head, or even imagine your audience in their underwear.

Accept an Audience's Desire to Like You. People rarely show up for a speech in order to hate the speaker. People almost never take a tour in order to hate the guide--they're on vacation to have a good time. Exploit that good will. Know that they'll be happy with even a modestly successful performance.

View Nervousness As an Ally. Adrenalin may make you nervous, but it also energizes you, makes you alert, and helps sharpen your commentary. Furthermore, the people who surround you at a site, or especially, who accompany you on a motorcoach will probably be totally unaware of the nervousness that looms so large in your consciousness. Your tour participants would need a magnifying glass to see that twitch that feels to you like an earthquake.

Know That Experience Lessens Fear. Most guides and tour managers report that fear diminishes dramatically after one or two tours and that after a week or two it disappears altogether. In fact, some guides miss the edge that the initial adrenalin-provoked excitement gave them.

Take Strength in the Fact That You Know More Than Your Audience. Fear of public speaking is usually based on a dread of saying something wrong or stupid. Yet a guide almost always knows more than the tourists to whom he or she is speaking. Why else would they be there? Study and organize the points you want to make, the facts you wish to convey, and the anecdotes you want to relate. Once that's done, there will be no valid reason for fear. If someone should ask a question for which you don't have the answer, simply say so and promise to look it up.

What You Say

Paying careful attention to what you say will not only help you control your anxieties but, more importantly, will also ensure the quality of your commentary. The following points should guide your tour narration.

Be Specific. It's not enough to simply say that Calcutta's Howrah Bridge is always filled with people and traffic. It's far more effective to say that the Howrath Bridge is 1,500 feet long, 72 feet wide, carries 60,000 vehicles a day, and, considering the incalculable number of pedestrians who teem across its span, is widely believed to be the busiest bridge in the world.

This sort of precision piques a listener's interest and reinforces confidence in a guide's expertise. Tom Gorman, a licensed Washington, D.C., driver-guide, confides, "Very early on in any tour I make a point of giving the exact height (555 feet 5 1/8 inches) and exact cost ($1,187,710.31) of the Washington Monument, just to make sure that my passengers know that I know what I'm talking about. From then on, I ease off on the facts. The point has been made."

Also effective is to pepper one's commentary with entertaining trivia. That some of Waikiki's sand was imported from California, that the now century-old Eiffel Tower was built as a temporary world's fair attraction, and that the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel was a woman (Annie Taylor) aren't earthshaking facts, but they do enliven otherwise dry subjects.

Be Accurate. Where's the world's largest shopping mall? To listen to certain guides, it could be almost anywhere. One of the inside jokes of the industry is that every guide claims that his or her city has the biggest mall. (Depending on how you calculate, it could be either the Mall of America outside Minneapolis or the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada.)

Guides are, among other things, scholars, and scholars take great pains to ensure that their knowledge is factual and up-to-date. They know where to find information, and they know better than to take someone else's word for anything. For nothing undermines a guide's credibility more quickly than when a passenger discovers that a bit of information or an anecdote, told because it makes for an interesting story, is false. Remember: 68 percent of your passengers, according to a NTA study, "spend a lot of time reading about an area before traveling there." If you say something really inaccurate, someone in your group is likely to know.

To protect sightseers from dubious information or sloppy research, such cities as New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Montreal, and Niagara Falls put would be guides through a rigorous licensing procedure. (To be a tour guide in these cities without a license is illegal.) Washington, D.C., applies an especially rigorous accreditation procedure to its guides. A licensed Washington guide probably knows more about the United States capital than most professional historians. London's Beefeaters, perhaps the world's most famous site guides, are world-class authorities on the intriguing history of the Tower of London. In Russia, tour guides have to take a two-year course at Moscow University that includes special courses in history, art, architecture, and foreign languages.

Know Your Audience. The guide who fails to tailor delivery and information to each particular group is an ineffective communicator. A commentary that would work for a group of Wisconsin dairy farmers might be inappropriate for a tour of New York City doctors. A charter group from St. Mary's Catholic Church will definitely expect their city guide to point out the local cathedral. A tour made up of teenage girls will be thrilled when their Beverly Hills sightseeing van drives by the mansion of their latest rock star hero. And a tour group of foreign visitors will appreciate it if you give distances in kilometers, rather than miles.

A more subtle exercise in empathy would be for you to predict, then point out, sights that are exotic to visitors but to which you've become accustomed. American visitors to Eastern Canada, for instance, are often startled by that region's squirrels: they're jet black and, at first glance, appear to be skunks running through the streets. The number of people on bicycles always astonishes visitors to Beijing, no matter how prepared they are for the sight. Scandinavians arriving in Miami will immediately rivet their attention on its palm trees. Identify and comment upon such sights in your city and you'll be sure to enrich the experience of your tour groups.

Once you've found all the information you need, remember the following two things:

* Clients often like their information delivered as a story. San Antonio's Alamo is most fascinating when a guide retells its story in a dramatic and engaging way. If the guide talked only about the Alamo's architectural significance or merely recited dates and statistics, the tourist "audience" would soon fall asleep.

* Passengers find extra meaning in a tour if you can connect information given at one point in the tour with some other bit of knowledge given later. On a Los Angeles tour, the story of the city's development as an oil-producing center, explained as the motorcoach passed near an old oil field, becomes even more concrete and meaningful later in the tour when clients see the opulent mansion of oilman Edward Doheny.

Keep It Light. Nothing is more deadly than a too-serious guide. People travel for enjoyment. A guide who adds to their pleasure, who lightens the factual burden with humor and wit, will seem abler than an earnest, unsmiling colleague. Of course, don't force the laughs. You're not expected to be a stand-up comedian, just a guide who doesn't take himself or herself too seriously.

Keep It Positive. How would you feel if a city guide spent all his time telling you about what's wrong with his city? You'd probably come away with a sour feeling about the tour you just experienced.

Of course, someone taking a tour of Los Angeles, for example, wants to know a little about the earthquakes, riots, and brushfires. But clients will feel better about their visit if the guide counterbalances his or her commentary with what's good about L.A.--why so many people still choose to live there and how most Los Angelenos move past a crisis and find ways to make their lives even better.


Personalize Your Information. Andy Warhol once said, "In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes." For tour leaders and guides, that extends to a few hours or days. It's not surprising, then, that tour members are curious about their guide's personal and professional life. To be a guide is to be an instant, if only temporary, celebrity.

Guides can turn tourists' inquisitiveness to their advantage. A few unpretentious personal observations or revelations can humanize a tour. One sightseeing driver regularly pointed out his modest home as he drove his groups by it. The sight elicited one of the strongest reactions during the tour. A guide, of course, shouldn't get carried away with self-praise or preaching personal causes. Nothing irritates more than commentators who place themselves on a pedestal, in a pulpit, or on a soap box.
Where should you go for detailed information on a destination?

* Established guidebook series (e.g., Access, Fodor, Frommer, and
Rough Guide) contain information on accommodations and dining, in
addition to sightseeing and other background information. Some also
have Web sites.

* Travel-specific Web sites (e.g., Travelocity) offer (among other
details) current information on destinations, accommodations, and

* Local publications, obtained at the site or city in question,
provide a wealth of useful information. (Many tourist bureaus also
offer this information on-line.)

* Encyclopedias and almanacs are reliable sources for the history
and background of a destination.

* Travel videos (e.g., Video Visits, Travelview, and Fodor) enable
you to see the destinations that you'll be visiting.

* The Guiness Book of World Records is a trustworthy reference for
more offbeat facts.

How You Say It

In ancient Greece, a group of poets and public speakers concluded that effective, persuasive expression was an art form in itself. They began to study the elements and structures of speaking styles, to find ways to please the eye, ear, and mind. Their science became that of rhetoric. Their overriding belief was that how you say things is as important as what you say.

There's a rhetoric to guidespeak that is distinctive and critical to a successful presentation. A few of its tenets are basic to all speechmaking: vary your pace, speak distinctly yet naturally, be aware that time passes more quickly for the speaker than for the audience, and avoid overusing a particular word or phrase. Guidespeak, though, has certain peculiarities of presentation that bear special discussion.

Walking Tours

Walking tours present a very unusual speaking context. Here are some of the factors you must consider when you deliver a walking tour:

* An on-site guide moves from place to place during the course of his or her presentation, as does the audience. There's less chance for group boredom or lethargy to set in as the group strolls down paths or corridors, up or down staircases, through outdoor gardens, or into majestic rooms. Fatigue, though, can be a factor, both for the guide and the group. An on-site guide must walk quite slowly. Some group members may be slow, while others, looking around, may lose track of the group's movement. A common occurrence is for a guide to lead a group in a leisurely manner yet find that those bringing up the rear are racing to keep up.

* An on-site guide profits from very dramatic "audiovisual aids"--the actual sights that surround the group. A tour of an attraction has far more immediacy than any conventional speaking event could ever have--even one supported by slides or films. Indeed, the environment's impact is so great that a guide must constantly vie for the group's attention through voice and positioning. (One solution is to speak from the top of a set of steps.)

* An on-site guide must learn to project his or her voice. An on-site guide has to forever compete with distracting voices and the sound-diffusing nature of a large space. A guide must, for example, repeat questions before answering them. The inquiry almost certainly will not have been heard by many group members. Another important strategy is to herd the group into a semicircle. This configuration maximizes the visitor's ability to hear and concentrate on commentary. Above all, guides must learn the from-the-diaphragm speaking skills that professional orators use to project their voices. Certain attractions provide guides with small, portable public address systems, which can help offset weak voices.

* On-site guides must avoid memorizing their "guidespeak." Memorization or detailed notes seem to be just the sort of tool you need to protect yourself from public-speaking anxieties. Not so. What happens when you lose your place in a rote-learned spiel? What will it look like if you must forever refer to your notes? The effect will undermine your professionalism. A few reminders or a brief outline on an index card would be acceptable for a first-time on-site guide. After that the information should be fully absorbed and then delivered in a natural, unstructured way.

On-Coach Speaking

Because they work from motorcoaches, step-on guides, tour managers, and those on-site guides who operate from trams or buses encounter peculiar public-speaking conditions. In such a situation, eye contact with an audience is difficult or impossible. One of the first questions that faces novices is where to position themselves while speaking through a motorcoach's public address (P.A.) system. Do you stand next to the driver, facing forward? Do you face the group, with your back to the passing sights? Perhaps you should sit in the front row behind the driver or on a step or portable chair in the aisle between the two front seats.

There's no easy answer. Standing is a precarious, often dangerous practice. Standing in front of the white line that marks the beginning of the passenger section is usually illegal, though standing behind the line, in the passenger aisle area, is generally permissible. Sitting on the dashboard, as some guides do, is far worse--it blocks the driver's view of the road and side mirror and promises instant injury in a collision or rapid braking maneuver.

A common solution is to sit in the seat directly behind the driver or, if available, on a well-anchored drop seat that folds down in the aisle, next to the first passenger row. Of course, the guide will now lose eye contact with his or her audience, and client attention may easily drift away from the disembodied voice of the guide. In addition, to appropriate part of the first row deprives a client of prime seating.

On the other hand, a front row seat enables the guide or tour director to spot attractions easily and converse with the driver when necessary. If group attention begins to wander (a great deal of chatter usually signals this), a guide can momentarily rise to stand in the aisle in order to reestablish eye contact with the group.

It may be comforting to note that the minimal eye contact between group and guide on a motorcoach tour makes this form of speechmaking less intimidating than more conventional forms of public speaking.

Another prime consideration on a motorcoach sightseeing tour is the audience's energy level. That level varies according to the time of day. Groups are most alert in the morning and least alert just after lunch. (A guide will often look back at a group that has just finished a meal and find their heads bobbing and mouths agape. The most exciting commentary cannot offset the effects of a heavy repast.)

Experienced guides and tour leaders deploy an arsenal of tactics to energize a drowsy group:

* Make occasional photo-taking and bathroom stops. The maximum amount of time a group should remain on a city sightseeing bus without stops is about forty-five minutes.

* Give the group time for shopping after lunch. Hunting for bargains and souvenirs does wonders to pep people up.

* Rather than show a group something from the motorcoach, take them off the bus to see it. Many Toronto guides enliven their tours by taking groups out of their motorcoaches to see the city's famed, odd City Hall. In the midst of the building's forecourt (Nathan Phillips Square), they describe its curving forms and startling, saucer-shaped City Council Building. They point out the numerous lofty skyscrapers that surround the square, then remark, "Had you been here thirty years ago not one of these skyscrapers would have been here." That comment, delivered out-of-doors, powerfully and directly underscores Toronto's explosive growth.

A guide or tour conductor must also be alert to weather conditions. If the gardens and fountains of Italy's Villa d'Este are on the afternoon's agenda and the weather forecast isn't favorable, perhaps shifting that visit to the morning or to another day is a good idea. Museums and other indoor attractions are best kept for inclement days. A common joke among Washington, D.C., guides is that if it's raining, it's time for the Smithsonian.


One final on-coach speaking consideration: a city guide must always be mindful that passing attractions dictate delivery and pacing. A cardinal guiding error is to point out something by saying, "And over there ..." you must be specific, since your passengers are looking at the sights, not at you. Use precise directions ("to your left," "to your right") and indications ("The tan building to your left is ..."). Time yourself carefully by leading your comments. A little before you arrive at a point of interest, begin talking about it ("And coming up on your right is ..."). By the time your group has redirected its attention, the attraction will be outside the motorcoach window. You can also use leading to build anticipation ("In a few minutes, after we round this bend, you'll see the renowned Sphinx of Egypt. It's 240 feet long ...").

Leading sounds simple, but it's not. Beginners often mention a sight too early--by the time the vehicle gets there, they're on to something else--or too late, when it's already passed by. With practice, though, it becomes second nature.

Two other related challenges confront every novice city guide. First, the speed of the motorcoach, not the amount of information, must determine pacing. Traffic, road width, and driver habits all have an impact on a guide's delivery. You must be prepared to pare down or stretch out your remarks according to the vehicle's movement. Remember: you don't have to say everything you know. Second, your route may include long stretches with absolutely nothing of real interest. Generalized discussions--of cultural uniqueness, major industries, leisure activities, and the like--are best saved for these times. Your ability to conjure images where none exist may also prove useful. Guides assigned to the Gettysburg National Monument, with its rolling but featureless plains, do a remarkable job, through words alone, of eliciting in the mind's eye the sights and sounds of the great Civil War conflict that took place there. Here is where storytelling really works.

Two final considerations deserve attention. First, should a guide speak constantly through a city or onsite tour? Probably not. Speaking about 80 to 90 percent of the time is best. Constant, unpaused commentary will soon overwhelm your listeners. They'll stop paying attention to half of what you say. If you talk less than 80 percent, though, you will lose their attention. They'll begin to rely on the comments of their seating companions rather than on yours.

Second, should a city guide put information on note cards, to be consulted as the motorcoach progresses on its route? Never. More than one beginner has dropped cards on the motorcoach floor or looked up to find that he or she has totally lost track of what was going by.
Tour guides must become adept at using a motorcoach's public
address system. P.A. systems are finicky pieces of technology. The
ones in motorcoaches are especially temperamental, as they are
rarely of high quality. To make matters worse, the guide must
compete with engine and air-conditioning noises.

You must allow the P.A. system to work for you. Holding a
microphone a foot away from your face and speaking loudly is
pointless. Keep the microphone close to your mouth and let the
system amplify your voice. Be sensitive to how your voice carries
through the motorcoach and adjust the volume control accordingly.
Beware of feedback, the irritating whine that occurs when a
microphone is in direct line with a loudspeaker. Angle your mike
(often abbreviated as mic) so it never directly faces an overhead
bus speaker. Consider purchasing your own quality microphone. Make
sure that the one you buy has a lengthy extension cord and a plug
that is compatible with a motorcoach P.A. outlet.

You might consider getting a clip-on mike or a head-set, like
singers use. Such microphones allow you to talk without having to
keep a button pressed, as hand-held versions require. Another
possibility is a wireless mike. If you do purchase your own mike
(clip-on, wireless, or whatever) make sure that someone
knowledgeable in microphones helps you. Some complicated
adjustments may be required to make the mike you purchase
compatible with the motorcoach's sound system.

The Motorcoach Environment

Though almost everyone has spent at least some time on buses, few people pay much attention to their layout, features, and idiosyncrasies. Guides and tour conductors, however, must be extremely aware of the motorcoach environment, for their group, even on an intermodal trip, will spend a great deal of time busing from place to place.

Types of Motorcoaches

The variety of motorcoaches is virtually endless. (The industry prefers the term "motorcoach," since it conveys the relative luxury of today's $275,000 vehicles.) These vehicles can be divided into five basic types: city buses, bare-boned commuting vehicles that are rarely used for tours; school buses, also seldom used for anything but school outings; minibuses or vans, downsized vehicles that accommodate small groups; sightseeing buses, large coaches with broad window areas expressly designed for local tours; and over-the-road coaches, large, well-powered vehicles that can transport groups and their luggage over long distances. The versatility of over-the-road motorcoaches makes them the preferred vehicle for escorted tours. They're often also used for local sightseeing, transporting charter groups, and regular intercity transportation.


In North America, motorcoaches have long been beefy, no-nonsense affairs that can accommodate anywhere from thirty-five to fifty-three passengers. Manufactured by Motorcoach Industries (MCI), General Motors, or Prevost of Canada, they're capable of high speeds and cushy rides and are usually equipped with lavatories and voluminous luggage space. (See Figure 2-1.) Westours even has a fleet of extra-long (60 foot) coaches that accommodate sixty or more passengers. (To permit going around corners, they "bend" in the middle. Such vehicles are labeled "articulated" coaches.)

Elsewhere in the world motorcoaches tend to be more luxurious, with huge windows, superb P.A. systems, plush interiors, and dramatic designs. This approach is often called "Eurostyling." Because many tour companies in the United States have begun to import their coaches from abroad, U.S. bus makers have increasingly taken a "Eurostyled" approach in newer models. Other rather astonishing vehicles exist: a double-decker German bus that has sleeping quarters, showers, and cooking facilities for its passengers; a Japanese motorcoach that boasts wall-to-wall carpeting and chandeliers; a "super bus" in which the driver rides in a truck cab up front while the passengers are towed behind in a 46 foot trailer (used for touring the twisting roads of Catalina Island, California); motorcoaches with small "lounge" areas in the back; and the French "Cityrama" double-decked behemoths from which nearly a hundred people can view Paris while listening to narration, via earphones, in any of several languages.


Guides and tour leaders must pay special attention to several unusual aspects of motorcoach touring. Though subtle, these factors can dramatically affect a client's enjoyment of a tour.

Line-of-Sight Difficulties

One great advantage of taking a motorcoach tour: because the vehicle is so big, passengers sit higher than they would in a car. As a result, they have a better view of things.

But certain necessary design elements do limit what a tourist can see from a motorcoach. Guides must adjust for these limitations. For example, passengers, except for those in the first few rows, can't see out the vehicle's front windshield. To point out something straight ahead is a futile action--you must wait until it's to the left or right of the coach. Tall objects close to the motorcoach's side are also a problem. If you're passing immediately by the Empire State Building, don't expect anyone to see its higher levels unless the vehicle is one with windows that wrap up and over the coach's roof. Wait until it can be viewed from a distance. Passengers sitting in the last two rows, to the left of a lavatory, will see nothing pointed out to the right--unless the lavatory has transparent walls (an unlikely feature). (See Figure 2-2.)

Experienced guides often solve such problems by designing a route that doubles back along important, sight-filled streets. This way clients on both sides of the vehicle get a clear view of significant attractions.



No one ever seems satisfied with a motorcoach's temperature. Each client seems to have his or her own ideas as to what constitutes comfort. The front of a motorcoach tends to be cooler than the back. The vehicle's west side becomes hotter in the afternoon--the sun angles fiercely through all that glass.

To make matters worse, bus climatization systems are frequently primitive. The air-conditioning (AC) is either on or off, and the heat is either on or off--there's nothing in between. If both systems are shut down, the coach interior gets stuffy with alarming speed.


Though it's terribly manipulative, the best solution to a client complaint (unless the entire group is complaining) is to pretend to adjust a thermostat in the driver's area (there may even be one). This trick often has a placebo effect--the client thinks the temperature has improved.

Safety Considerations

From time to time, clients will wish to stand up and stretch in the aisle. This is generally permissible, as long as it doesn't go on for a long time. Although often legal, standing in the aisle is perilous in the case of an accident or a sudden change of speed. You'll find yourself traveling the aisle often, especially on intercity trips. Fortunately, tour managers gain a motorcoach equivalent of "sea legs." With practice, they can adjust quite easily to the vehicle's constant little movements. Novices, though, should beware. A beginner hasn't yet learned how to brace quickly to a sudden movement. The constant motion takes a toll on the feet and legs.


A guide or tour leader must carefully guard passengers as they enter or exit the motorcoach. You must assist them by the arm or hand--a bus step is quite high for some people. For this reason, some drivers carry a step box with them to place in front of the coach door. Newer motorcoaches have a hydraulic step that extends when the door is opened. You must also direct clients away from traffic. Crossing the street in front of a motorcoach is a risky thing, since the vehicle's bulk obstructs the view of oncoming traffic.

Special safety considerations come into play when accommodating physically challenged passengers on a tour. The Americans with Disabilities Act stipulated that physically challenged clients must have full access in almost all situations, including motorcoach tours. Bus manufacturers are now equipping their coaches with wheelchair lifts. Some, to accommodate the disabled, have created more space in the coach's first row. Both tour operators and guides have become increasingly sensitive to the fact that physically challenged clients have as much of a right to enjoy a tour as anyone else.

Logistical Matters

You should always board a motorcoach before clients arrive to check its condition. Are all seats upright? Is there any trash on the floor or the seats? What is the temperature like? Memorize the coach number and have your passengers learn it, too. The average person returning to a parking lot full of coaches may become totally confused. Take a head count of the passengers on board at the tour's beginning. You'll need to check during the tour to make sure no one is missing. Ask the driver if he or she will stay with the motorcoach at stops along the way or will lock the door while away from it. If not, counsel your passengers to take their belongings with them. At the end of the day (or at the end of a multi-day tour), remind passengers not to leave anything in their seats or in the racks above. When the coach is empty, check to make sure nothing has been left behind and fill out a motorcoach report form, if one is required (see Figure 2-3).


Keeping Your Commentary Fresh

So far we've focused primarily on those factors a novice tour guide needs to know. But what problems do veteran guides face? There's only one: keeping one's performance fresh.

Constantly repeating the same information can rapidly lead to boredom. Here are strategies that can help you maintain enthusiasm and keep your presentation lively:

* Keep researching your subject. New insights can give new energy to your commentary.

* Strive for constant improvement in your performance.

* View what you're sharing through the eyes of your "audience." Have you ever noticed how explaining something to a child often excites you, no matter how mundane it may be? It's because you see it again, fresh, through their eyes. The same can happen through your clients, who probably are experiencing what you show them for the first time.

* Draw your energy from the audience's reactions. This is precisely what a stage actor does. How else can a performer keep dong the same play right, day after day, sometimes for hundreds of performances? A guide is indeed a sort of actor. Think of yourself as one, and you may find renewed and invigorating tactics to make yourself not simply a good guide but a great one.


Compared to tour conducting, guiding has both advantages and disadvantages. Guides are public speakers and must rise above the fear of addressing groups. Like all speakers, guides must be specific, accurate, knowledgeable, organized, and adept at keeping their delivery light, positive, and personal. The kind of speaking a site or city guide practices is unique in several ways. Both city guides and tour managers must be especially aware of motorcoach design and how it affects the guide's performance and client satisfaction.


1. Why do some people prefer to be a guide rather than a tour director? What are some of guiding's liabilities?

2. Give five general strategies for coping with fear of public speaking.

3. List six ways you can ensure that what you say has clear, solid content.

4. Discuss four peculiarities of guidespeak when a person is giving a walking tour of a particular site.

5. List five ways in which the delivery of a city sightseeing bus tour is unique.

6. Discuss the physical positioning problems that face a guide delivering a motorcoach tour talk.

7. What tactics can help a site guide be heard by his or her group? What can a city guide do to keep up a group's energy level while on a tour?

8. Describe five types of buses or motorcoaches. Which one will an escort or guide encounter most often?

9. What line-of-sight difficulties face a guide giving a sightseeing tour from a motorcoach?

10. Define the following: AC, MCI, P.A., mic, Prevost.

* Tour guides are good speakers, but they must also be good
listeners. Assess your listening ability by taking the test
below. Your instructor will help you analyze the results.

* Answer each statement by circling the number that applies.
At the end, count up your point total.

      Never   Occasionally   Often   Usually   Always

        1         2            3       4         5

1. When I'm listening to someone, I pay attention, rather than
   let myself drift off.

        1         2            3       4         5

2. While listening to someone, I pick up on the feelings and
   attitudes of the speaker as well as the words.

        1         2            3       4         5

3. I block out distractions when listening to somebody.

        1         2            3       4         5

4. If I disagree with a person, I manage to avoid letting my own
   attitudes block out what is being said.

        1         2            3       4         5

5. I pick up on "nonverbal" cues that may communicate what the
   person is saying over and above his or her words.

        1         2            3       4         5

6. I try to avoid interrupting the person talking.

        1         2            3       4         5

7. I succeed in paying attention to slow, rambling, or boring

        1         2            3       4         5

8. I refrain from thinking of what I am going to say to someone
   before they are finished talking.

        1         2            3       4         5

9. I keep eye contact with the person who is talking to me.

        1         2            3       4         5

10. When the person is finished talking, I verbally indicate that
    I've understood (or not understood) what they've said.

        1         2            3       4          5

Total: --


Choose a notable building or other attraction with which you are acquainted or which is nearby. Pretend that you are a guide there and must give groups an introductory talk of about five minutes. Research your choice. Then outline your presentation below, citing at least one research source at the bottom of the outline. (Be prepared for your instructor to ask you to deliver your talk without notes or outline.)


* One of the best ways to do something right is to watch someone else do it first. If they do things well, you can model your own performance on theirs. If they do things poorly, you can learn from their mistakes.

* Seek out an opportunity to take an on-site or city tour. Observe the tour guide closely. Take notes if you can. Then fill out the following:

The tour I took:

What the guide did right:

How could the guide improve his or her performance?


* You've been hired to be a London city Blue Guide. Blue Guides are considered to be among the world's most knowledgeable tour guides. You're in the early research phase of your job--you haven't given a city tour yet. Using reference books and/or the Internet, answer the following questions regarding sights you'll have to be informed about.

1. Who designed St. Paul's Cathedral?

2. Where is the Rosetta Stone?

3. What is Piccadilly Circus?

4. Where is London Bridge?

5. Whose statue is in Trafalgar Square?

6. What is the London subway popularly called?

7. In front of which London palace does the Changing of the Guard take place?

8. Who lives at 10 Downing Street?

9. Where was Anne Boleyn beheaded?

10. Which river flows through London?

11. Where is Chaucer buried?

12. What is Harrods?

13. In which palace, begun by Cardinal Wolsey, is there a famous maze?

14. At what time of the year does the Wimbledon tennis tournament take place?

15. Where are England's crown jewels kept?

Your research sources:

Marc Mancini, Ph.D.


Department of Travel

West Los Angeles College
COPYRIGHT 2001 Delmar Learning
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Mancini, Marc
Publication:Conducting Tours, A Practical Guide, 3rd ed.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Previous Article:Chapter 1 What is tour conducting?
Next Article:Chapter 3 Multi-day tours.

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