Virtual Tours: How to Engage Guests

Read about the challenges in making a virtual tour interactive, and some solutions to help engage your guests better.

By
Nikki Padilla Rivera
|
April 13, 2021
Nikki Padilla Rivera
April 13, 2021

When switching to virtual tours, one of the biggest differences for a guide is the lack of live feedback.  


With your group in front of you, you can pick up on body language, and get a sense of the vibe.  Through a screen, you lose a lot of those cues, and it’s even more difficult when you’re not able to see or hear your guests, limited to reading their comments in a chat box.


This virtual barrier also makes it difficult to interact with them, even if you have the ability to speak and listen to guests. Language differences becoming more pronounced through fuzzy audio, questions are delayed after you’ve already moved on to the next topic…  But making an engaging and interactive virtual tour IS possible, so long as you modify it for the medium


In this article I’ll lay out the challenges in making a virtual tour interactive, and some solutions to help engage your guests, even if they’re on the other side of a computer screen.



Interacting through a screen.



Challenge: You have limited information on your guests.


If you’re doing a huge live stream, you might have guests joining in and out, sometimes more than you can count.  Other times, you only have the information of the person who booked the tour but have no idea who else might be watching along with them.


You’re also missing out on obvious information you could observe in person such as age, gender, relationships between your guests, what mood they’re in, etc.


Solution: Set aside the first 5-10 minutes of your tour to get to know your guests.  When in person, the first 15 minutes of your tour are the most important when it comes to collecting information, and virtual should be no different.


Announce to guests that you want to get to know each other quickly before you start and then keep it simple with one or two questions.


If guests can respond with their answer out loud, you might want to call on each one to take turns.  If you have a large group, have them type their answer into the comment section and read out a few.


Some questions you might ask;

“Let me know where you’re tuning in from and what made you choose this tour.”


“I’m curious to know where you are watching from and if you’re watching with anyone else today.”


“Let me know if you’ve ever been to my city or if you’re hoping to go in the future.”


This information can give you a little bit to play around with during the tour, and allows you to adapt slightly depending on things like the location of your guests or whether or not they’ve been to your city.


Afterwards, it’s the perfect segue to introducing yourself and kicking off the tour.



Challenge:  Virtual travelers tend to be a bit more passive, watching quietly or refraining from asking too many questions.


Guides are no stranger to the ‘shy guest’, but with virtual tours, it can seem like an entire group of shy guests.  Conversely, it might be difficult to have very chatty guests on a virtual tour as time delays can make it logistically tricky to interact in real time.


Solution: You can still engage your guests without them having to interject.


For example, whenever possible, relate things back to them so that they feel included.  An easy way to do that is by referencing the country or city they’ve told you they’re watching from; “This is a great ramen chain, there’s actually one in NYC, Maria, you should definitely check it out.…”


Or; “When your country  joined the war, it really made the difference to turn things around.…”


You can also use guests as example, by using their name; “So let’s say Lihn was a local here in Buenos Aires, hanging out with her friends at a park one Saturday.  If she were the one in charge of preparing the mate, she would put it together and drink the first cup…”


Or even make them historical figures; “For example, let’s say Sanjeeve was a young aristocrat here in Paris….”


You can even engage them through easy, low stake trivia, by asking your guests to guess a number or year before you give the answer; “So if you had to guess, do you think the Germans or the Czechs drink more beer per person on average?”




Challenge:  Guests aren’t there to tell you what they like.


In person, it’s very easy to ask guests what they’re interested in and get a sense of how to adjust the tour.  On a Virtual Tour, especially when you can’t see their faces, it’s really hard to gauge what they’re enjoying and when they’re drifting off…


Solution: Give guests A or B options whenever you can*.


One of my favorite virtual tours was of a famous temple in Taipei, Taiwan with Tour Me Away.  There were tons of gods in the temple and our guide let us each choose which one we wanted to hear about; “Ok so there is the god of medicine, the god of voyages, the god of study…”  And it made us feel like we had some control over the content, and certainly made us pay more attention when it came time to talk about the god we chose.


If possible, you could even give guests route options, “Ok so we can take the path through the park, where you’ll see a lot of locals hanging out, or I can go around the edge where you have a view of the city below, which would you prefer?”


*It’s important to note that you should limit it to two options max.  You want to make the decision easy for them.



Challenge:  Your time is limited.


Many virtual tours have a much shorter time limit than in-person tours.  And if you’re trying to cover a lot of area, it makes it stressful if guest cut in with questions at a time where you really need to keep moving.


Solution: Have set times for questions and make sure to communicate that to your guests.


I recently took a virtual Vietnamese coffee class on Virtual Trips and the guide did a great job of designating times for questions.  He told us at the very beginning that there would be two periods of brewing (where we would have to wait for the coffee) and during those times he would flip the camera around to his face (a great additional visual cue) and go through any questions that were put into the chat box.


This allows you to better control the flow of your tour as you’ll have built in space ahead of time for questions.


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When switching to virtual tours, one of the biggest differences for a guide is the lack of live feedback.  


With your group in front of you, you can pick up on body language, and get a sense of the vibe.  Through a screen, you lose a lot of those cues, and it’s even more difficult when you’re not able to see or hear your guests, limited to reading their comments in a chat box.


This virtual barrier also makes it difficult to interact with them, even if you have the ability to speak and listen to guests. Language differences becoming more pronounced through fuzzy audio, questions are delayed after you’ve already moved on to the next topic…  But making an engaging and interactive virtual tour IS possible, so long as you modify it for the medium


In this article I’ll lay out the challenges in making a virtual tour interactive, and some solutions to help engage your guests, even if they’re on the other side of a computer screen.



Interacting through a screen.



Challenge: You have limited information on your guests.


If you’re doing a huge live stream, you might have guests joining in and out, sometimes more than you can count.  Other times, you only have the information of the person who booked the tour but have no idea who else might be watching along with them.


You’re also missing out on obvious information you could observe in person such as age, gender, relationships between your guests, what mood they’re in, etc.


Solution: Set aside the first 5-10 minutes of your tour to get to know your guests.  When in person, the first 15 minutes of your tour are the most important when it comes to collecting information, and virtual should be no different.


Announce to guests that you want to get to know each other quickly before you start and then keep it simple with one or two questions.


If guests can respond with their answer out loud, you might want to call on each one to take turns.  If you have a large group, have them type their answer into the comment section and read out a few.


Some questions you might ask;

“Let me know where you’re tuning in from and what made you choose this tour.”


“I’m curious to know where you are watching from and if you’re watching with anyone else today.”


“Let me know if you’ve ever been to my city or if you’re hoping to go in the future.”


This information can give you a little bit to play around with during the tour, and allows you to adapt slightly depending on things like the location of your guests or whether or not they’ve been to your city.


Afterwards, it’s the perfect segue to introducing yourself and kicking off the tour.



Challenge:  Virtual travelers tend to be a bit more passive, watching quietly or refraining from asking too many questions.


Guides are no stranger to the ‘shy guest’, but with virtual tours, it can seem like an entire group of shy guests.  Conversely, it might be difficult to have very chatty guests on a virtual tour as time delays can make it logistically tricky to interact in real time.


Solution: You can still engage your guests without them having to interject.


For example, whenever possible, relate things back to them so that they feel included.  An easy way to do that is by referencing the country or city they’ve told you they’re watching from; “This is a great ramen chain, there’s actually one in NYC, Maria, you should definitely check it out.…”


Or; “When your country  joined the war, it really made the difference to turn things around.…”


You can also use guests as example, by using their name; “So let’s say Lihn was a local here in Buenos Aires, hanging out with her friends at a park one Saturday.  If she were the one in charge of preparing the mate, she would put it together and drink the first cup…”


Or even make them historical figures; “For example, let’s say Sanjeeve was a young aristocrat here in Paris….”


You can even engage them through easy, low stake trivia, by asking your guests to guess a number or year before you give the answer; “So if you had to guess, do you think the Germans or the Czechs drink more beer per person on average?”




Challenge:  Guests aren’t there to tell you what they like.


In person, it’s very easy to ask guests what they’re interested in and get a sense of how to adjust the tour.  On a Virtual Tour, especially when you can’t see their faces, it’s really hard to gauge what they’re enjoying and when they’re drifting off…


Solution: Give guests A or B options whenever you can*.


One of my favorite virtual tours was of a famous temple in Taipei, Taiwan with Tour Me Away.  There were tons of gods in the temple and our guide let us each choose which one we wanted to hear about; “Ok so there is the god of medicine, the god of voyages, the god of study…”  And it made us feel like we had some control over the content, and certainly made us pay more attention when it came time to talk about the god we chose.


If possible, you could even give guests route options, “Ok so we can take the path through the park, where you’ll see a lot of locals hanging out, or I can go around the edge where you have a view of the city below, which would you prefer?”


*It’s important to note that you should limit it to two options max.  You want to make the decision easy for them.



Challenge:  Your time is limited.


Many virtual tours have a much shorter time limit than in-person tours.  And if you’re trying to cover a lot of area, it makes it stressful if guest cut in with questions at a time where you really need to keep moving.


Solution: Have set times for questions and make sure to communicate that to your guests.


I recently took a virtual Vietnamese coffee class on Virtual Trips and the guide did a great job of designating times for questions.  He told us at the very beginning that there would be two periods of brewing (where we would have to wait for the coffee) and during those times he would flip the camera around to his face (a great additional visual cue) and go through any questions that were put into the chat box.


This allows you to better control the flow of your tour as you’ll have built in space ahead of time for questions.