Learning From Tony the Tour Guide

 I have listened to many tour guide speeches over the years, from the eucalyptus forest in Australia to the wilds of Alaska. Recently we took a boat tour along the shore of Haiti for another tour. Tony, our guide, had a clever speech that I’m sure he had delivered many times. But of course to the 75 of us on the trip it was a new speech. Tony did some creative things in his speech that all speakers could benefit from.

First he began with a startling statement. “I am going to tell you all there is to know about Haiti.”  He then spoke for about five minutes giving us a history of the country. He stopped rather abruptly and this was a signal for the captain to turn on some native music. After a few minutes of this, Tony continued with his lecture. After the music break , we were now ready for more facts, such as that the tallest mountain in Haiti is 10,000 feet and Haiti means “land of mountains.”  After another few minutes there was more music.

Then about 20 minutes into the trip, Tony’s direction changed in his speech. He now based his content on what we could see from the boat. When we passed a man in a small fishing boat, Tony waved and of course we all waved, too. He told about how fishing was a way of life for many islanders and provided interesting facts about the methods they used to catch fish.

Fishermen off the coast of Labadee, Haiti

Fishermen off the coast of Labadee, Haiti


Tony then began to break up some of his material with jokes. Tony, not trying to be a clever comic, would simply say, “I want to tell you a joke.”  Then he would begin. We knew there was a punch line coming, and even though it was not very funny, the people on the boat smiled at his attempt to keep a fun atmosphere. He reinforced the idea that he wanted us all to have a good time on his watch.

Tony demonstrated key principles for us who speak regularly. You must engage as many senses as possible in your speech. You should break up the speech occasionally with a different medium, whether it is music, a video clip, a survey where everyone participates, or a funny story.  He used his environment to help make his points by referencing what we were passing as we traveled, and near the end he even gave a pop quiz over one of the facts he presented.

Tony made it hard to doze or daydream because of the techniques he used to keep us wanting to hear more. We can certainly learn from the great speakers from the past, but we can also learn from Tony the tour guide from Labadee, Haiti.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively.

Contact Steve today for priority scheduling!
(859) 441-6520 or email info@SBoyd.com

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