Tips for Selectiong Tour Guides & Student Ambassadors

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Jessica Clark


University at Buffalo

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I often hear, “my tour guide made my decision to attend” and always dread the e-mail or phone call from the disappointed parent who was hoping for their child to LOVE our school but the tour guide turned them off. What do you do? Was this phone call from an Alum who had their heart set on their child attending as well; but from the minute their visit was confirmed that stu- dent was against it? Or do I really have a sour stu- dent giving tours that needs re-evaluation (I sure hope not) but let’s be honest it happens.

There are numerous studies and discussions on how important the visit to campus is and more importantly how imperative it is to have the best students giving tours, but what defines the best students as tour guides? The student that is actively engaged in a variety of clubs and organizations is great, until they have way too much on their plate you and are not their priority anymore. The academically talented students are a great addition to your campus, but do they relate well with the majority of your cam- pus visitors? There is not a magic formula available to help you find the best fit students for tour guides, but having worked with this group in our office for nearly 9 years I have found some tips that have worked better than others.

Some of the best recommendations for tour guides and student ambassadors come from within the current group of students; each spring we send recommendation forms to our current stu- dents asking for nominations. We also evaluate the group and see where we may be lacking in terms of students (we like to have a wide variety of representation from students including different majors, geographic diversity, year in school, etc.) From the evaluation we reach out to contacts across campus asking them to nominate students from their departments, offices and organiza- tions. We typically tend to receive better quality of students that are nominated versus posting flyers across campus.

I definitely recommend interviewing all students regardless if they are a paid or volunteer; they often take the position more seriously when selected from an interview; it also gives you better insight to their ability to interact with others and answer questions on the spot. Finding balance within the group is important; try to have a variety of personalities and students involved at different levels across campus. Once you have your group of students selected for the new recruitment cycle, training is the next step. Learning through experience is how they will become even better. Instead of giving new students a script and saying let’s get started, have them shadow a select few of your top students, and then have your top students observe them during their first few tours, or give tours together. This allows for that ease of nerves as well as making sure the information you want all guests to walk away with is shared.

You need to remember that these students are students first so you do have to allow for some flexibility. Take the time to get to know your students and let them get to know you after graduation you may be asked to write them letters of recommendation or serve as a reference. From the beginning it is important to establish clear goals and set positive examples. The most important is taking the time to show appreciation; there are numerous ways to do so whether publi-cally at training or individually with notes when someone goes above and beyond.

Even with all of the TLC you put into the group, you will occasionally run into the tough decision of keeping a student or not. Ultimately go with you instinct and think of what is best for the group as a whole.