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Better Presentations – Three Tips for Tour Guides

This week I’ve been enjoying time with Melissa on a cruise thru parts of Canada and Maine. We’ve already enjoyed ports in Quebec City and Prince Edwards Island and tomorrow we’ll spend time in Nova Scotia. I’m not telling you this because cruising is important to you. I’m just trying to set the context for my observations. One of the things  we do when we land in these ports is take planned excursions to visit the key things that the city is known for. These are guided tours where people far more knowledgable than we are, share (prepared) information that they want us to learn (and appreciate).

Some of you already know where I’m going with this, but I’m going there anyway. I think all tour guides should be vetted before being given 20-40 paying passengers. Why? Because some of them have truly sucked!

So here are my three tips to tour guides and see if they don’t apply to you when you give presentations (of any kind) as well.

1. Plan what NOT to share

If you only have xx minutes with your audience, you should spend more time deciding what you don’t plan to share, than what you plan to share. This is critical because you need to be really clear on the things that don’t belong, so that you don’t lose your audience along the way. Heavy editing is a requirement for all professional speakers. Why shouldn’t it be for you too? On our stop on Prince Edward Island (home to Green Gables), the guide got distracted by a building where her best friend’s mom used to work. Because she got distracted and started sharing the wrong stuff, she ran out of time to tell us the really important stuff – at least two key stories were interrupted and never returned to because she ran out of time. How will you make sure you don’t run out of time?

2. Leave room for others

Sure, you have a lot of information but until you quiet down and figure out who is in your audience, you won’t know which info may be best to share. So sometimes a little preliminary investigation could go a long way – but that will only happen if you’re quiet. On one tour, our guide went out of her way to talk to Canadians that were on our bus, only to find out (much later) that there weren’t any. What a waste of time! But because she kept on talking, non-stop, she left no room to learn anything. Create some space…you might learn things that will help you be more strategic.

3. End early

You’ve likely heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Well, I’m sure someone out there has come up with an audience’s hierarchy of needs as well. If you’re on a cruise for example, you know you have to get back on board at a certain time. Twice we’ve been almost last on the boat because tour guides managed their time poorly and got back to the dock with only a minute or two to spare. You will likely have people in the room that need to (or want to) learn something. But guess what? Your message won’t stick if they’re thinking about being late for their next meeting. So end early!

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