As we said in our last post, Avoiding Tour Day Disasters, there are many ways programs go awry. And although it’s impossible to control every element or plan for every contingency, it’s worthwhile to spend some time thinking about how you will handle various situations.
Here are five more potential problem areas.
If people are paying in cash, make sure to bring enough change. If the tour costs $15 you will need a lot of five dollar bills. In our promotional pieces we remind folks our tours are cash only and that exact change is greatly appreciated. Nevertheless every couple of weeks someone shows up with a $100 bill.
If you accept credit/debit cards, make sure you have your processing device with you and that it is working.
A common problem, especially on a new tour, is timing. The tour is either too short or too long.
If you are running fast, in other words the tour is not going to be long enough, s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. Walk slower. Talk slower. Point out more things. Ask people if they have questions. Ask them what they know about the neighborhood.
The other extreme is you’re running too long. This is really easy to fix. Stop talking. Cut things out if you have to. Proceed to the next stop. If you’ve told people the tour will last 90 minutes, they aren’t going to think they are getting something extra if you draw things out for two hours.
Sometimes the participants make the tour run long. They are lollygagging around, taking pictures, etc. That probably means they’re having a good time. But you need to stay on schedule. Say something like, “We have a lot more interesting things to see so let’s move on.”
You also have to accommodate slow walkers. The group can only go as fast as the slowest person. You have to adjust, slow down and set an appropriate pace. Eliminate a stop if you need to.
Duh . . .
Everyone’s worst fear is that they’ll forget their material. I’m sorry to tell you this, but it will happen at some point. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to deal with. Have your script in your pocket. Pull it out and say something like, “I want to make sure I get this right.” People don’t care if you look at notes. They are on the tour because they are interested in the topic or the neighborhood. They want the information. It’s not about you.
Customer Caused Problems
The most unpredictable element of your tour is the customers. Generally, they are wonderful, friendly, attentive and polite, but every once in a while you get a bad apple.
Disruptive customers come in lots of different shapes and sizes. There are know-it-alls, people who constantly interrupt, correct you, and ask endless tedious questions. You need to shut these people down as quickly and nicely as you can.
Say something like, “We’ve got a lot of great material to cover this afternoon, but we’ll never get through it if we don’t stay on schedule. I want to respect everyone’s time. So please hold your questions and comments until I finish my presentation at each stop. If you want to dig a little deeper, come up here and walk with me. We’ll talk on the way.”
You can avoid several common problems by setting ground rules at the beginning of the tour. Ask people to turn off the ringers on their cell phones. Nobody is going to turn their phone off completely so don’t bother asking them to do that. Say something like, “It gets kind of noisy from time to time and I want to make sure everyone can hear. So please put your phones on vibrate. If you want to talk on the phone, go ahead, but step away from the group.” The same applies to smokers. Ask them to step away from the group if they’re going to smoke.
Finally, you must be prepared for emergencies. Keep your own cell phone on, set on mute or vibrate. If someone falls, faints, gets sick or hurt, you’ll be ready to call for help immediately. If you don’t have a cell phone, get one.
The big day finally arrived. The weather couldn’t have been better. You got to the tour starting point early. You were prepared, excited and ready to go. And no one showed up. You’re devastated. What went wrong?
It's hard, if not impossible, to know exactly what went wrong if you've only made one attempt. Any number of things could have kept people away. But the most likely reason no one showed up is they didn’t know about the tour. Your promotional efforts were inadequate, misdirected or both.
This undoubtedly feels like a disaster. But it’s really not. You haven’t lost any ground. Don’t give up. It’s time to fine-tune and adjust.
The big day finally arrived. The weather couldn’t have been better. You got to the tour starting point early, which was a really good thing since there were about 100 people already waiting. Before it was all said and done, it seemed like the entire town had shown up. People sometimes refer to this as a good problem. They’re wrong. This is a disaster.
Even though you had a helper, you were completely overwhelmed. You did manage to run the tour, but it was chaotic and went way over schedule. No one could hear. Most people were gone by about the half-way point. Those who stayed until the bitter end went away unhappy.
You obviously did a good job promoting the tour. But the product, the tour experience itself, fell short of expectations. You also need to fine-tune and adjust.
Honestly, a positive outcome is much more likely than the disaster scenarios described above and in the previous post, Avoiding Tour Day Disasters. However, as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry. By carefully planning every aspect of the tour, checking and double checking the details and not leaving things to chance, you’ll increase your odds of success exponentially.