Suggested Rules for Tour Guides from your President

As many of you know, I am President of the Charleston Tour Association. Now that the high season is winding down, the timing is off for my timely suggestions , but I will bring them back up in the springtime when it all gets crazy again!

Tour Guides, locals, your comments are encouraged and welcome!

Dear CTA Members and Friends:

 We certainly are busy this season! As one 87 year South
of  Broad resident related to me, he has
never seen so many people on the streets. Inevitably there is bound to be
stress on the residents of the Historic District.

The CTA is a membership of tour professionals. It is our
responsibility to conduct our groups down streets and alleyways in a least
intrusive fashion which still allows us to effectively share this beautiful
city with our visitors. As a long time guide, I would like to share some tips
and suggestions that will enhance the tour experience for yourself, visitors
and residents alike. Although many of us have been at Broad and Meeting at 11
o’clock in April, I have the added perspective of 8 o’clock two weeks before
Halloween and many a summer evening I wager that there are usually as many if
not more ghost tours going out any night as go out during the day. Ghost tours
are on a tightly controlled route, so frequent “close encounters” are the norm.
I will post this on my blog,  I hope that
anyone with suggestions not posted here will feel free to post them at my blog
at I’ll credit your suggestions or post them from
anonymous, whatever works for you.

Don’t block the sidewalk and don’t run over
the natives!

Sometimes the stress of a large
group can be overwhelming. The amateur photographers are falling back, the baby
is crying and the lady from  Schenectady
keeps interrupting. And that other group just took my favorite spot! So you
forget about the Composition of your group. On streets with wide sidewalks,
instruct them to walk on the street side (ie, 
Meeting Street south walking on the outside or to the right.) This keeps
doors clear for residences and businesses to maintain stress free ingress and
egress.It moves your group efficiently and quickly past crowds waiting at
restaurants or entry to other events, i.e, Home and Garden Tours. Ed Grimball
has this under control. He stops his groups where he can line them up “execution
style” against a wall and begins his talk. This allows locals to pass.
Sometimes Ed greets old friends 
residents or even the Mayor! Brilliant!

Another strategy for taking charge
of an unwieldy crowd is to identify places where three or more topics can be
addressed from the same location.
“Cluster”  your visitors  like this:

Upon arrival move fifteen feet
past where you intend to talk. Stop, and instruct the first guest to stand
there .Moving back to the group center, place your visitors. This also allows stragglers
to get close before you commence narration. Even with three topics, it is best
to move on between 7 – 12 minutes, so keep your narration pithy and succinct
when you cluster.

Find spots to talk at the corners
where you can talk on the side rather than in front. Stop in front of gates,
walls and churches ( no churches during services of course.) Stop in public
parks, graveyards or parking lots. Avoid standing in front of restaurants,
businesses ‘and residential front doors.

( 2) Keep Your Visitors
Charleston is incredibly beautiful. Newcomers can be
overwhelmed—sensory overload is a rule of thumb. Sometimes we   forget
how lovely it is in the course of a hectic workday. It’s all new to them. .
With a large group, you feel the need to move on. After all, you only have two
hours and what you have to say is so important! The group is gawking up,
cameras are flashing, but the sidewalks below, well, they can be treacherous!
Be sure to warn them about the sidewalks. My favorite line:

“The city motto was adopted in 1783 and translates from the
Latin: She guards her buildings, customs and laws”. But not so much her streets
and sidewalks. Please be aware of where your feet are. Take my professional
advice, you’ll have a much better time standing up than flat on your face.”

This minimizes your liability as well in the case of
accidents. Then again, there is the traffic. Between a healthy business
district, again, gawking visitors, (this time in cars), carriages and buses, we
should always cross at traffic lights and crosswalks if there is any traffic on
the streets.

Last year I saw an experienced guide approaching the Dock Street
Theater on the east sidewalk.  She had crossed
 Chalmers diagonally from the southwest
to northeast corner with a group of twenty, all the while narrating for the
first five or so! They  were stretched
halfway down the block to the Confederate Home! If you can’t get your entire
group through an intersection in 45 seconds, you are opening yourself up to
potential accident. Gather your group and cross all at once and as Momma would
say, look both ways.

(3)  Just Say No! to  playing  Dueling Tour Guide

 I was in St.
Michael’s Church the other day, and there were four other guides with groups.
St’ Michael’s turned into the Tower of Babel.

During the high season, there are groups and groups and more
groups. Each guide has something important to say, so there is a tendency to
speak over the next guide—loudly. So the other guide gets louder. Now let’s
add in traffic din. The Result: nobody hears anything and everyone loses. In
the event you find yourself talking with another group in close proximity,
professional courtesy mandates that you gather your group so that your position
with the other guide is back to back and 
to speak in a lower tone. Ghost tour guides have this figured out, but
not all the daytime folks.

I have had walking guides lament that carriage drivers will
speak over them at some stops.
In front of the  Calhoun Mansion is one

Walking guides, remember that the carriage folks are just
doing their job just like you. But unlike walking guides, the carriages are on
a prescribed route. Since they have to travel up Meeting Street on the east
side of the street, walk your groups on the west sidewalk.

When  speaking in a
narrow passage such as an alley stand 
with your back to the wall with your group no more than three deep and
left and right. That way, if another group comes through, you can gather your
group closer to you so that the other group can pass behind them.

Charleston Old Walled City Tours offers themed tours od Historic Charleston including the Old Walled City Tour, the Home and Garden Tour, the Slavery and Freedom Tour, and the Charleston Ghost Walk. Go to www.walledcitytours.come to learn more!



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