Tour script writing requires a consistent commitment to the craft. We write a lot of tour scripts. But that doesn’t mean we’re not continually looking for ways to improve the planning, writing and editing process for our writers. It’s a collaborative process that requires many voices around the table – the most crucial voice being yours.
If you’re drafting your first narrative script or planning for a complete rewrite of an existing tour, these ten tips will help you be a better guide.
Tip #1: Focus on Story, Not Facts and Figures
When writing your script, it’s hard to avoid facts and figures. The problem is too many facts, and figures bore people.
In other words, if you have too many facts and figures in your script, you’re probably not paying attention to the impact you’re having on others. Facts don’t move people.
Instead, focus on sharing stories your audience cares about by asking your customers what they want to hear? People love good stories. Tell stories using simple narratives that are impactful, engaging, and personal. Use dates, figures and facts sparingly.
Remember, boredom happens when you never fully engage someone’s attention.
Tip #2: Make People Feel Good
Really good stories are the best way to engage, educate and entertain an audience. Famed author Studs Terkel said “People are hungry for stories. It’s part of our very being.”
Stories have the power to inspire. If you want to connect with your listeners, appeal to their emotions. Write for head and heart for more memorable stories.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou
Tip #3: Pick a Theme
A story without a theme is nothing more than a list of events. Finding a theme for your tour may seem awkward at first, but it’s essential for storytelling. A theme gives purpose to your stories. Themes such as Love, betrayal, chaos and order, empowerment, good versus evil, tradition, progress, discovery, and rebirth (to name a few) all lead to more human experiences.
Writing to a theme makes people think, feel and remember your stories. It’s the central focus of your narrative, connecting your stories to a single dominant message.
Tip #4: Make People Care
Click over to TED and watch Andrew Stanton’s talk, The Clues to a Great Story. He says “make me care… please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, please just make me care.”
You may be in the sightseeing business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make people care about your destination and its stories. So what do your customers’ expect from your tours? The only way to know is by talking with them.
Know your audience is one of the differentiators we see in sightseeing companies. Leading companies are great active listeners, regularly engaging in conversations with staff and visitors to make sure they are meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Invest in getting to know your audience by devoting the next three days to speaking with customers. What do they like? What are their interests? What do they want to know? Craft your stories around what you’ve learned.
Tip #5: Write Short Stories
If your stories go on too long, visitors will tune out. Start strong and keep your stories short. A good rule of thumb is to write each story for 90 seconds or less. There are exceptions to the rule, but longer stories mean keeping the quality of experience and emotional engagement high.
By keeping your stories short, your guests are more likely to pay attention.
Tip #6: Work at Tour Script Writing
The process of writing a great script includes rewriting and editing (and editing). Start by getting your ideas on the page. Since your first draft usually isn’t very good, rewriting gives you the opportunity to make all the changes you need. Pull apart the stories you like by asking yourself if your audience will appreciate them?
Then become the narrator, taking your script on tour and reading your stories aloud. This real-world experience will provide you with a sense of tour timing and delivery. Ask yourself, how does the content fit and does it make sense to a first-time visitor?
Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to rewrite stories. Good writing is a process of revisions.
Tip #7: Make a Point
Find your point. There needs to be a reason for storytelling. When you don’t make a point, your stories are less engaging.
One of our customers, Atlantis Adventures, provides undersea tours in environmentally safe submarines that are battery powered, emit no pollutants, and quietly move through the water, disturbing no one.
They’re also investing in artificial reefs to enlarge overall population numbers of ocean species present in their community. The company is committed to conservation, installing artificial reefs to create self-sustaining habitats for fish and marine life to flourish.
Atlantis Adventures, which provides fun undersea tours is also making an environmental sustainability point. Sustainability is an integral part of their brand story.
What’s your Why?
Tip #8: Use Small Words
When writing a tour script, the KISS principle applies. Write clear and simple. Don’t use big words like pontificate or conviviality. Use words that are easily understood by your audience. Remember, your guests don’t have time to reference a dictionary or thesaurus. They want to escape, explore, have fun and learn something new.
Tip #9: Get Personal
You’ve just come home from a much-needed family trip. Imagine you’re in a casual setting sharing your best vacation stories with a friend. You’re friendly, warm, fun and personal. You’re engaging and engaged.
Strive to connect with your audience in the same way by having a genuine interest in the relationship you’re creating between narrator and listener. Great narrators share your stories like a great conversation with a friend.
Tip #10: Think Like a Sound Designer
When writing your script for professional narration and sound design, think about what sounds will support your narrative?
Sound design is crucial to your listener’s experience. Background and atmospheric noise help listeners connect to what’s going on in a particular story. Just like audio tour writers, look for audience engagement opportunities in sound design, setting the emotional and narrative tone. The combination of music, atmosphere and sound effects help to support the stories you’re telling.
Close your eyes and imagine a pregnant pause, the sound of breaking glass or police sirens in the distance. Share your ideas and make production notes in your script.
Lower Your Standards and Write Every Day
There isn’t one set of writing tips that will help your tour stand out; the art of storytelling is about holding the listener’s attention and crossing age barriers, a skill that is hard to master. Telling great stories takes practice.
If you want to become a better writer, watch Beth Dunn’s video on “How To Be a Writing God.” As Beth explains, becoming a better writer means lowering your standards. Don’t strive for perfection. Commit to the craft. Have fun; write every day.