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Public Speaking Tips for Tour Guides

My friends Nick and Zhanna own an excellent private tour guide business in Glasgow called Glasgow Private Tours. They are very busy giving amazing walking tours of Glasgow throughout the year to tourists from all around the world. Lately, they told us about Glasgow's Open Doors season, where important and celebrated buildings and areas are open to the public for a few hours per day and for a day or two of the year. This is a great chance to see some of Glasgow's hidden treasures.

During this time, we've been visiting some of these tours. Now unlike my friends at Glasgow Private Tours, these tours are not run by professionals guides. As such, while interesting, this threw up some real issues of public speaking for tour guides on these Open Doors tours. There are some simple things that they could do to improve their public speaking and to create more entertaining, educational and inspiring tours.

I'd like to use today's post to examine how Tour Guides can better use public speaking skills to deliver even better tours.

It is my belief that public speaking is a chance to affect the audience.


You probably like facts. Most tour guides, history buffs do. They are fascinating tidbits that you can't wait to share with your delighted clients. However, transferring facts is not your job. That's not what your clients wanted, they wanted an overall experience of the place, including facts. So, take care that facts are not your focus. The client is the focus. Your job is to delight, inspire, educate and entertain them WITH the facts.


If you come on a tour in Glasgow, you'll probably need subtitles. Because Scots and Glaswegians in general have quite a difficult accent. Thankfully Nick and Zhanna aren't from Scotland originally, and they speak multiple languages - as do their guides. Speaking with clarity really matters. On most tours, you are likely to have non-English speakers. Carrying on like you normally speak is going to really make those tourists struggle. Opening your mouth, being clear is essential.


When you're a tour guide, you have to have a real passion for your subject. It's like any kind of speaker - if you aren't passionate about what you're talking about - people can tell. Share your amazing passion for your subject, the city, the building, the statue - whatever it is. Sharing your passion will excite your clients, because if you want to entertain, or educate, inspire or delight, you have to be entertained, educated, inspired or delighted too.


As a great tour guide, you need to be a good people person. You can't just attack the clients with facts. You need to relate to them personally, offering them warm interactions and answering their questions - no matter how annoying they might be sometimes.


Consider the structure of your tour? Where does it start and end? Just like a story, it would help your tour if it had a beginning, middle and end. Just like any public speaking engagement, it has to be a well structured experience. Thinking of a story structure will always help. An exciting, intriguing short start. A meaty middle with lots of highs and lows. And coming to a peak at the end for the climax of the tour, before dropping the tension down for a warm and interesting resolution.

Looking for help improving your upcoming tour, presentation, or another public speaking event?

Get in touch!

Mark Westbrook

Public Speaking Skills Coach Glasgow

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