You’ve thought about it for months, you’ve envisioned the faces of all your guests when you conclude your tour, beaming with excitement and joy as they applaud you for the incredible experience you have built for them… but first you have to write your tour content. Let’s dive into the process of writing content that will elicit the reactions you are looking for.
Since you’ve already read our other piece on determining a route and the local attractions you’d like to feature, you are ready to take the next step.
How to write a tour guide script
It’s time to actually write and consider what you are going to say to your guests at each particular location that you have selected. How do you find stories, the history, and subsequently turn that into a spoken narrative at a given location that evokes an emotion in your guests that they will remember for years to come?
Step 1: Wikipedia is your friend
It goes without saying that Wikipedia is community sourced and not verified information, however using Wikipedia as a jumping off point to discover tips or facts that you can double check elsewhere makes it an excellent place to start your research. Wikipedia lends itself to brief overviews, which is a perfect place to get a good sense of the story that a certain location holds. You can easily deduct if there is enough content there to use it as a stop on your tour. You can also begin to get a sense of the larger story behind a location, who built it and when, was there any drama during construction, etc.
Let’s take an example of the Doulton Fountain in Glasgow, Scotland. Upon an initial Google search, we are taken to an article on Wikipedia about Glasgow Green, the current home of the fountain in question. In the first sentence, we get our first assertion, Doulton Fountain was moved from its original home at Kelvingrove Park to the Green in 1890. A quick fact check of this confirms it as accurate according to three other websites about the fountain. How interesting! How did they do that? Brick by brick? How did the surrounding community feel about its removal and how did its new neighbors feel about its arrival?
Step 2: So what is the story?
Quick facts and figures are interesting and can be used to add dimension to a story, however it doesn’t provide the real story of a location. Find an interesting tale, a fascinating resident, or ghost story about the very spot guests are standing on. Once you have this story, you can bring the location alive with your well honed ability to weave a narrative for a captive audience.
Finding the story to tell, and the way you tell it as the guide, are what people are truly excited about. Our ability to perform and weave a narrative is really what sets good guides apart from average guides.
How do we find the story?
Let’s go back to the Doulton Fountain in Glasgow, the quick facts and figures on the fountain are quite impressive; the largest terra cotta fountain in the world, moved twice in its 140 year history, and contains four life size statues that represent four corners of the British Empire… ok, great. So who was Doulton that the fountain is named after? Henry Doulton was part of the family that developed Royal Doulton, which, come to find out, was instrumental in bringing ceramic pipes to London.
This innovation helped prevent further cholera outbreaks in the 19th century. So the fountain we are standing in front of? Well, it's directly connected to cholera prevention in the 19th century! Doulton was also known for their quite fancy “decorative lavatories,” so perhaps there is a toilet joke in there somewhere as well… we will leave that to the experts though.
Our history and stories are all interwoven and connected, nothing exists in a vacuum, so find the connection and bring the stories to life!
Step 3: Weave the Narrative
So we have our facts and figures, and we have our fascinating narrative that we want to incorporate. Now we need to determine what we are going to say and how we are going to say it; we need to build the speech or create a speech pattern to effectively deliver the information. Building the story and finding ways to include all of the relevant details is paramount.
“So, what does the largest terracotta fountain and fancy London toilets have in common? One man, Henry Doulton…” You get the idea, a fact and part of the story interwoven, creating the larger narrative.
Step 4: Change is a constant
Just because we have finished writing our tour does not mean that the scripts and information should be ignored and repeated mindlessly for season after season. Naturally, all of the information that we share on tour should be open to change and adaptation. One of the best ways to determine new information to incorporate into our tours is by listening to the questions we get most often. On every tour, does someone ask what year a building was constructed? This is a perfect fact to begin to incorporate as it has been made clear that your audience is interested in that specific tidbit.
What’s the Secret?
Above all else, it requires passion and excitement for your topic. If the speaker isn’t excited about the information, then your audience won’t be either. Skip the stops that don’t inspire you to do in-depth research, that is usually a good gauge for your excitement level about a location. Once you’ve put it all together, give it a try and ask for feedback. See what is missing or which parts your audience really enjoyed. This type of feedback, both positive and negative, will help you when editing, rewriting, and creating future tour content. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve written!