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Tour Guides
By Olivia Round


July 18, 2005

Dear Editor,

I have had the priviledge to work in the tourism industry this summer, and not all of what I see pleases me. No, I'm not going to complain about jay-walking tourists, crowded sidewalks, or slow traffic.  I would just like to bring something to the attention of all the tour guides in our community:  some of you need to work on public speaking.

It would seem that since they were hired as tour guides that they would be expert speakers, but that is not the case at all.  Too many times I have seen guides waving vaguely and saying something along the lines of "Um, hey. Uh, look at that, um, stuff" in a barely audible voice. 

I can tell you, when guides talk in a quiet monotone and say "um" every 2 seconds, the tourists start to sleepwalk.  They'll nod, they'll take pictures, but they aren't absorbing anything.  Even if the scenery is beautiful, the wildlife is abundant, and the history is fascinating, the tourists will still complain that the tour was boring if the guide was bad. And I don't blame them for a second.  If all I had to listen to was "uh, hey. Look at the, um, bear." for an hour or more, I would be bored too.

However, all is not lost.  I have a few suggestions for struggling tour guides about how to become a better public speaker.  The first option is to join First City Toastmasters.  Toastmasters is a wonderful organization which holds 2 meetings a month during the summer.  Members practice preparing and delivering speaches, using body language to keep the listeners' attention, and making their speaches interesting. 

The second option is to take part in a play.  Learning to project your voice over an entire auditorium will certainly help you speak up during a tour, and you will also learn to use an expressive voice and to articulate to make words clearer.  First City Players produces numerous play productions throughout the year, so head down to their office by Creek Street and check out their upcoming events.

My third suggestion would be most suitable for someone who is musically inclined, but you certainly don't have to be.  If you take singing lessons it will enhance your public speaking a great deal.  I am not musical at all, but when I took a singing class two winters ago I learned how to articulate, use body language, and project my voice. (Plus I can amaze all my friends on kareoke night!)

So if you are a tour guide this summer, please, please, please consider touching up your public speaking skills.  It will help you now and for the rest of your life. Go forth and say "um" no more.


Olivia Round
Ketchikan, AK - USA




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