There are certain skills that every campus tour guide is required to have. Some of the obvious include good communication skills, customer service, organization, and an in depth knowledge of the university. A tour guide needs to give a good impression of the school to put it at the top of prospective student’s lists. But besides the basic resume requirements, what is going to make your campus tour and your university really stand out to visitors?
Personal connection. Every unique skill that we can suggest to you ties closely to the personal connections you make with the people on your tour. When students feel excited and upbeat walking around campus, they will want to come back. Jared, a tour guide from UW Oshkosh, says that his campus tour philosophy is “it needs to be relaxed and entertaining.” Visitors remember more information when the experience is informative and fun. This all starts with how you, as a tour guide, can relate to each visitor. We have come up with three straight forward skills that can foster these personal connections, make you unique as a tour guide, and create memorable and effective campus tours.
This all starts with listening to what your visitors have to say. We’re not talking about having basic good listening skills, we mean real attention to detail. As a tour guide, you need to be able to read between the lines and catch small information about prospective students. This can help you determine the best talking points during the tour that will interest them. Since each visitor has their own unique set of needs and desires, tailoring the campus tour to them will help connect them to you and your school. It is also really helpful to do some research before they arrive. Not just the basics of where they are from and what school they attend, but try to go a little deeper. You can get a sense of their community and culture by looking at their school profile, or maybe even take a glimpse at their social media. Learning about their background and experiences will help you be prepared for discussions on different majors, hobbies, clubs, organizations, athletics, and more that are related to their interests. Plus, putting this small extra effort in knowing more about your visitors can become a nice surprise in a conversation.
Another great way to make sure your tour is customized to your visitors is paying attention to their reactions and asking questions. Then, you can adjust the information you present to keep them engaged at all times. All in all, when you give undivided attention and show genuine interest in your visitors, personalized stories will follow that can exceed their expectations. This is what makes your school and campus resonate with prospective students. And, this powerful connection is what will stand out to them when they make their decision.
Each institution has its own elements that make it unique. When it comes down to it, you are engaging and connecting with students that can potentially be the future of your university. If they do decide to attend your school, they will become a part of the culture there. And, they can actually have the ability to influence it. This is why well trained tour guides portray campus culture on their tours so visitors can decide if it’s a right fit for them. But we want you to take a step further and go beyond campus culture. Discuss the details that your university does not advertise.
A great place to start is talking about your school’s traditions, both official and unofficial ones. Whether it's an annual snowball fight, a scavenger hunt, or a carnival, talking about the events that students are excited about will make your visitors want to attend. Prospective students need to visualize themselves living on the school campus and all of the things connected to it. A tour is a great opportunity for you to address what the best off campus spots are, what the laundry service is like, or if there is a 24-hour diner they can go to with friends when they need to pull an all-nighter. Don’t make them wait to attend your school to find out whether or not they can order pizza at 2am. Believe it or not, this can actually be a tiebreaker between your school and another. These details matter to prospective students because they help tell the story of the college experience and it allows them to picture living it.
The last thing you want is for your tour to be boring. When it is strictly informative, the visitor's attention becomes strained and they won’t be able to remember much about your campus. A smile can really go a long way. Before you even start talking, a smile at the beginning of your tour can send a message to your visitors that you are warm and welcoming. Some of the best advice we can give you is to just be yourself. When you feel comfortable, your message will come across more effectively. Justin Bayer, creator of the web series The Magic Hour, writes on visitors' thoughts: “please don’t tour me around like a robot, don’t give me the scripted hour-long experience. Give me you: your stories, your passion, your love for the institution and why.” Remember, the way you present yourself on the tour is the same way your visitors will view the university. While information is important, visitors want to know what makes your university special.
When tour guides are willing to go with the flow and be spontaneous, it helps to keep things light-hearted and relaxed. Practice your flexibility in presentations and keep an open mind to change, even throw in a joke or a funny story you experienced at a particular tour stop. Jared from UW Oshkosh found “that parents and students love corny jokes and personal stories.” He can see a “surge in student’s energy and joy in their faces” when they realize how special his school is. However, telling jokes and being funny may not come naturally to everyone. It can take some practice, which is why we have dedicated an entire blog to helping you be a funny campus tour guide. When humor feels out of reach and your visitors seem detached, change the course, lighten the mood, and share a personal experience. This can win back your visitors' attention and their hearts.
Overall, these skills are about engaging yourself fully with families and making personal connections that will draw prospective students to your school. Not only can you apply all of these skills on your campus walking tours, but you can use them when you are working with platforms that offer live virtual campus tours, like HelloCampus. With some different techniques, you can still send visitors the same positive energy over a live video call. Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions a student will have to make. If you include these three unique skills in every tour, you will have no problem leaving a lasting impression on your visitors and they will want to be a part of your campus community.
Campus tour guides are truly changing lives one tour at a time!