Storytelling is the most powerful tool that campus tour guides need to connect with visitors. Like any business transaction, people buy from those they know and feel connected to. For example, when prospective students hear their tour guide’s own real-life stories, they get to know them not just as their tour guide, but as an authentic person. They begin to like and trust their tour guide, thus becoming more willing to choose that university. Anytime tour guides can give color and depth to the facts they are required to relay to their visitors, they make the visitor more open to learning. And, visitors can understand the information in a deeper, more meaningful way. That is why it is essential for campus tour guides to become good storytellers and to emotionalize information. Not only do stories foster a sense of connection, but they can elicit action, and more students may apply and then attend your school. We are here to give you a few tips to take your storytelling skills to the next level, so that you can make a connection and your visitors can get the most out of your tour.
It is important for you to tell personal stories about your time at your school. However, with each story you tell, you need to convey what your college is really about: the culture, history, and values of your institution. Prospective students should be able to visualize what life is like at your school, if that life relates to them, and whether or not they will fit in. Some great talking points could be student life, programs, athletics, local activities, and job placements after school. We recommend keeping your stories short and simple, and telling a series of them where each new story adds a different aspect about your school. Especially in today’s age with technology, people have shorter attention spans. Keep your stories exciting and to the point. Start with your most captivating story to draw people in and generate excitement and curiosity for stories to come next. This can keep your visitors engaged throughout the tour. As you continue your storytelling, they should begin to imagine their life on campus and how it will actually feel to attend your school. That is the goal. Through exciting stories and visual imagery, visitors can understand how they will fit into your school’s community.
Authenticity can go a long way. Be true to who you are and let your visitors know why you love your school and why you chose to go there. And yes, as scary as it sounds, get personal! Your college already has so much to offer, so each story you tell should convey your enthusiasm and what makes it so special, in your eyes. To be authentic, you really have to consider how your audience is taking in your information. People can easily tell when someone is trying to manipulate or sell them something. Remember, you do NOT want to come across as selling your school, but rather as sharing YOUR story and why you genuinely believe your visitors should attend there. What can you share with them that will make their decision easier? Storytelling can have a much better impact if you shift your focus to your audience. A great storyteller needs to listen and encourage dialogue. Although you may be very focused on being fun and interesting, do not forget to listen to what your visitors have to say, and ask questions. Peter Guber, chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, says “Be interested, not interesting, or else the audience will never take it in.” Your visitors will lose interest if you give them a monologue. Have authentic conversations, share your thoughts and invite them to share theirs. Through discussion, you can actually empower your visitors and make them a part of the storytelling process.
Like we said before, tour guides need to emotionalize information. Once you find an emotional core to your message and combine it with information, your story will become very memorable. Psychologist Jerome Bruner conducted research that found that a fact, wrapped in a story is 22-times more memorable. Even Princeton University neuroscientist and researcher, Uri Hasson, found that emotional stories are the best way to transfer ideas to one another. An emotional story can trigger a release of neurochemicals that actually create a “mind-meld between two brains,” according to Hasson. Meaning that storytelling can literally put your brain waves in sync and your visitors can align themselves with you and your school. Invoking emotion can force them to pay attention to you, empathize with you, and they can even get excited about your ideas. It can be helpful for you to include Paul Eckman’s six emotions throughout your stories; happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise. As a tour guide, happiness will be one of the most important emotions for you to portray. Everyone loves a happy story, and prospective students are looking for a path in life that will make them happy. If they can feel your happiness throughout a tour, they are more likely to engage. An element of surprise can also be very helpful in your storytelling. Throw in a joke here and there. Any drama or unexpected twist will grab your visitors attention, and they can engage with the story, making them remember it even better.
The most important thing to remember as a tour guide is to stay true to yourself. Telling your college’s story should elicit a genuine emotional response. You should never have to force your emotions or create artificial ones. Your visitors will know when you are being inauthentic. Tell YOUR unique story and share YOUR authentic joy for your school. And, everything after that will flow naturally. Have fun with your campus tours, engage in genuine conversations with your visitors, and use the power of storytelling to create the most memorable experiences.