As a great guide, you want travelers to listen to you, understand what you say, and always be the center of their attention during the tour. In this post, you can find 9 tips on how to improve your communication skills. Let’s go!

A tour guide’s communication is divided into 2 key factors:

  • verbal (when you speak). For example: asking questions, speaking loudly, choosing words carefully, etc.
  • non-verbal (when you aren’t speaking). For example: smiling, nodding, laughing, having a nice appearance, etc.

1. Adapt the tour to the type of traveler

In order to improve your communication verbal or non-verbal communication, it doesn’t depend only on you but also on the type of travelers participating in your tour. It’s important to identify it as soon as possible.

There are obvious things like gender or age. With elderly people you may have to speak louder than usual or be more careful that they don’t get tired. They also have different interests than young people.

But there are also other important factors you can find out by asking travelers, such as:

  • Nationality. If you have a group of US travelers, you may use some different words than with UK travelers (for instance: holidays versus vacation). A German also has a different understanding of your city / country than an Indian, for example. 
  • Level of experience in your city. Ask if it’s their first time in your city or country. Depending on what they tell you, always try to adapt your speech, so they understand you better. 

It’s very important to always do this tastefully. For example, if you know what kind of job your travelers do, that will give you a lot of information about them in order to better focus your speech. However, asking this can be a delicate matter.

2. Create connection with travelers

People pay more attention to someone who listens to them and makes them feel special. It’s important to make friends with travelers, so they understand you are not “just doing your job” but going above and beyond. Be positive and smile often. You can even compliment travelers, but always tastefully.

Moreover, if you have a small group, you can try to learn travelers’ names, as we explain in this post.

A guide gives a highfive to travelers during a free walking tour with GuruWalk.

Take advantage of the brief time before the tour, to identify the type of travelers, in order to bond with them. If you have already been to their country / city, tell them how much you liked it or what you liked. If you didn’t go there, explain why you would like to go or what you like from there. Learn some words in their language like “Welcome!” or “Thank you”. Moreover, it’s very useful to break the ice.

Make travelers connect with each other as well. It will increase group cohesion. If you identify some very enthusiastic travelers during the tour, you no longer have to worry so much about them: they are already enjoying the experience. Without forgetting about them, try to connect more with the travelers who seem less involved. Maybe they don’t like the tour or are just more shy. They will really appreciate your interest.

A guide of GuruWalk talking with travelers between 2 stops of a free walking tour.

3. Be objective

Give objective information respecting the values, cultures, and beliefs of travelers. Never express your own political view or religious beliefs. If you talk about these topics, make sure to do it carefully. Respect everyone’s opinion equally and be sure to maintain mutual respect among the whole group.

4. Explain simply and passionately

Get on the same level as the people who come to the tour. They may not know anything about the topic you’re explaining. That’s why it’s so important to use simple words and easy explanations. Moreover, it will also be easier to follow you in all the topics you are going to cover.

A free walking tour guide is showing and explaining a picture to travelers during a guruwalk in Malaga.

Take care also of your grammar and pronunciation if you do the tour in another language. You can also use it to your advantage. One great  example of this is one of our gurus who doesn’t know how to pronounce the words “sheep” and “ship” and he uses it in his explanation to make his group laugh and to better connect with them.

Try not to use slang or rude words and also identify your verbal crutches so you can control them.

Also think of the best words for your explanations. For example, travelers will feel differently if you say at a stop on your tour that they can see the ‘impressive palace of the king’ or if you say the ‘king’s residence’. Use the right words to captivate the travelers and show your passion.

To improve your communication, if a traveler asks you a question in front of the group, try to paraphrase what he or she  said to make sure you understand it and this way other travelers can also get the point before you answer.

If at some point you make a mistake without noticing it, for example if you say “church” instead of “mosque”, use it to your advantage if a traveler points it out. Instead of saying “oops sorry”,and lose  credibility, say “oh right, I was doing it just to see if you were paying attention hehe”.

5. Speak loudly and articulate well

Depending on what you are talking about, you could speak more or less quickly. But in general, it’s important to speak at a normal pace, even if you have a lot to say. You always have to articulate well and speak clearly. Don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you to avoid having a dry throat.

For example, to find out if everyone understands you well, you can ask travelers to clap twice. Do it again until everyone hears you well. This allows you to also get the attention of all travelers to start your speech well.

Guide explaining something to travelers with a microphone during a free walking tour with GuruWalk in Malaga.

You can use a microphone connected to a speaker. We don’t recommend it because it can create a distance with the group, but use it if you really have trouble speaking loudly. Be careful that the microphone is properly located and that the speaker is well oriented to reach the whole group, otherwise some travelers may not hear you as well. Before going on the tour, check that it has full battery, because if it stops working in the middle of the tour it may seem very unprofessional. Moreover, make sure to see if it’s legal to use a microphone as it’s not allowed in some cities!

6. Explain in suitable places

In order to improve your communication, avoid places with a lot of noise (traffic, lots of people, construction sites, big water fountains, etc.) and places where travelers feel uncomfortable (strong odors from restaurants or garbage, street crossings, building entrances, narrow streets, etc.).

On the contrary, think of quiet places where all their attention can be focused on you. Think of a place where travelers can sit, in the shade in summer, or where you can get up a bit higher so that everyone can see you well.

A guide explaining something to travelers sitted.

If the place of interest is very noisy, perhaps it’s better to explain it a bit before and then go see it with the travelers and give them some time to take pictures.

Furthermore, make sure the whole group is there before explaining and do not explain anything while walking as travelers may lose some of the information. Use these moments to sympathize with them or see if they have questions. Sometimes travelers are embarrassed to ask questions in front of a large group and feel more comfortable when it’s more personal.

7. Make good use of body language

It’s estimated that only 35% of the meaning of our message is transmitted by speaking. To improve your communication, it’s then very important to use your whole body and not be too rigid.

  • Never turn your back on travelers, otherwise they won’t listen to you. The best thing to do is to have the travelers in a semicircle around you, with the monument at your back or next to you. You already know the monument anyway, no need to look at it. 
  • Look also at all your travelers in the eyes from left to right, or from right to left. Don’t look at the ground or just one person.
  • Avoid crossing your arms or putting them behind your back and use them to explain but without exaggeration.
  • When you agree with the traveler, nod your head in approval.

8. Take care of how you look

Your look can also transmit a message to travelers. Some gurus told us that by putting on a nice shirt and wearing a watch not only increased their credibility and how the travelers paid attention but also increased the tips they received. Travelers indeed value the time of someone who is well-dressed and presentable more. Comb your hair well and leave the flip-flops and shorts for the travelers.

9. Don’t get distracted

When you speak, all the attention of the travelers is for you and you should consider it as something precious. Don’t turn around or look away when you’re talking because you heard something. If you do, travelers may feel like they are wasting their time and you will lose credibility. Although travelers are distracted by something, that should not shake you and you have to follow the explanation without stopping.

Thanks for your attention! Which of these tips seems the most important to you? If you have any other tricks to improve your communication, feel free to write a comment 🙂

What’s next?

Now that you’re a communication pro, check out this article about how to manage travelers at the meeting point better.