Lead the Tour

July 12, 2023

Over the past few years, I’ve toured several college campuses with my kids. It’s been great to “kick the tires” and check out the latest offerings in higher education.

Typically leading these tours are friendly college seniors, doing their best to answer questions, while walking backward and pointing at buildings. 

Some have left me wondering. Do these students, or ANYONE chosen to lead a tour group for a school, a company, or an organization, recognize the importance of making a positive net impression?

Simply stated, net impression is the feeling you leave behind. And why is that important? Because people make decisions based on net impression.

“Will I attend this college?”

“Do I trust this nearby production facility?”

“Should I purchase this company’s products?”

Think about it. When you lead a tour group, you become the FACE of your operation. And everything you say and do communicates a message. Are you pleasant and inviting? Do you make good eye contact with each member of the group? Do you project with your voice so that everyone can hear you clearly? And what are the key messages you want your audience to know? 

But before you take a single step as a tour leader, you need to make a positive FIRST impression. In our Wixted & Company training sessions, we coach our clients to begin by sincerely and warmly thanking their audiences.

Next comes common ground. This is about determining and acknowledging how your tour group is feeling about your company or organization. Instead of “Well… let’s get started,” imagine the impact a college tour group leader could have by kicking things off this way:

“Good morning, welcome, and thank you for your interest in the University of ABC here in Educationville. For students, we recognize you may be feeling a little anxious about choosing your home for the next four years. And for parents, I would guess that learning about cost and safety are priorities for you today. Let me assure you that at ABC State, we are committed to providing the best possible education, at a fair cost, in a safe and welcoming environment.”

See the difference?

Let’s talk next about what most tour group leaders fear the most – questions. Yes, there’s always some risk in inviting your audience to ask questions. But remember this. If you’ve been asked to lead tours, you are more than likely an expert, and you’re perfectly capable of handling questions.

In fact, you can probably guess what many of the questions will be. For more complex questions, consider using a technique we call “bridging.” In its simplest form, bridging is answering the question, and then adding information to your answer.

What if you don’t know the answer to a question? Admit it. Saying, “I don’t know the answer to that question, but let me put you in touch with someone who does,” is perfectly acceptable.

One more piece of advice when it comes to Q&A: Have a couple of questions ready to ask yourself. That way when there’s nothing but crickets, you can lead with, “One question I’m often asked…” Not only will this fill the awkward gap, but it can also trigger other good questions from your tour group.

And finally, wrap things up with a heartfelt thank you and one more reminder of your main message – that one, big idea you want your audience to know and remember, long after the tour has ended. 

Blog by Jeff Johnson