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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

One of the most significant differences for a guide is the lack of live feedback when switching to virtual tours.  

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

This virtual barrier also makes it difficult to interact with them, even if you can speak and listen to guests. Language differences become more pronounced through fuzzy audio, and 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 tour guests.

If you’re doing a substantial 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 has 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 for collecting information, and virtual should be no different.

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

If guests can respond with their answers aloud, you might want to call on each one to take turns. If you have a large group, 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 travellers tend to be 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 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 one in NYC, Maria, you should check it out...”

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

You can also use guests as examples by using their name; “So let’s say Lihn was a local here in Buenos Aires, hanging out with her friends at a park on 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 Sanjeev 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 answer; “So if you had to guess, do you think the Germans or the Czechs drink more beer per person on average?”


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

In person, it’s effortless to ask guests what they’re interested in and get a sense of how to adjust the tour or experience. However, on a Virtual Tour, especially when you can’t see their faces, it’s tough 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 favourite 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. This is because 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 experiences. And if you’re trying to cover many areas, it makes it stressful if guests cut in with questions at a time where you 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. For example, he told us at the very beginning that there would be two periods of the brewing (where we would have to wait for the coffee). During those times, he would flip the camera around to his face (a fantastic visual cue) and go through any questions put into the chatbox.

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

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One of the most significant differences for a guide is the lack of live feedback when switching to virtual tours.  

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

This virtual barrier also makes it difficult to interact with them, even if you can speak and listen to guests. Language differences become more pronounced through fuzzy audio, and 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 tour guests.

If you’re doing a substantial 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 has 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 for collecting information, and virtual should be no different.

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

If guests can respond with their answers aloud, you might want to call on each one to take turns. If you have a large group, 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 travellers tend to be 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 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 one in NYC, Maria, you should check it out...”

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

You can also use guests as examples by using their name; “So let’s say Lihn was a local here in Buenos Aires, hanging out with her friends at a park on 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 Sanjeev 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 answer; “So if you had to guess, do you think the Germans or the Czechs drink more beer per person on average?”


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

In person, it’s effortless to ask guests what they’re interested in and get a sense of how to adjust the tour or experience. However, on a Virtual Tour, especially when you can’t see their faces, it’s tough 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 favourite 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. This is because 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 experiences. And if you’re trying to cover many areas, it makes it stressful if guests cut in with questions at a time where you 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. For example, he told us at the very beginning that there would be two periods of the brewing (where we would have to wait for the coffee). During those times, he would flip the camera around to his face (a fantastic visual cue) and go through any questions put into the chatbox.

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

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