They come in all different sizes and all different levels of content. Some give a specific route, others just a mandate on what to show. Some give facts and figures (there are 1,314,649 books in the library), others read like a Hollywood script. I am talking about the beloved tour guide training manual.
I wonder what the norm is for this manual?
After searching high and low, and talking to several schools, I have found one that is challenging the norm: Alfred University. They aren’t even calling it a manual, but rather a Reference Guide. Only a few pages long, it has information for the guides to reference – expectations, the tour route, a brief history of the buildings, list of majors, etc. Alfred has shifted the content of their training to emphasize that they don’t expect them to know every fact and figure about the university and each major. Jodi Bailey, Director of Marketing and Enrollment, says, “We tell them it’s better to say, ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I don’t know, but I can find out for you.’” Jodi adds, “Families recognize that they are students and appreciate that they are being real.”
One of our favorite things to do is train tour guides. We don’t tell them what to say; we inspire, encourage, and empower them to create a memorable experience for visitors, to share their own stories, and to engage families in conversation by asking open-ended questions. We want them to be authentic, to be students. During these trainings, guides often challenge us by defaulting to the script. We tell them to throw the script away! They don’t need a script to have conversations with families and tell their stories. Authenticity can’t be scripted.
I am waiting for a group of tour guides to stand up on a chair and rip apart their scripts and manuals, just like those affected students in Dead Poets Society did.
Stop producing and enforcing all the excrement that is in your manual. Get it to the bare bones and let your students be students. I bet they will be happier and so will your visitors.
Read more about our authors. Trent serves as the cXo, Chief eXperience Officer at TargetX. He understands the importance of the campus aesthetic and its effect on visiting families and current students. He is passionate about involving the entire campus in the admissions process; he believes that the job description of each member of the campus community should include recruiting students.
Trent is a graduate of Elon University and a member of TargetX’s Experience Team in Atlanta.