“Although the tour guide industry is doing well, it’s difficult to provide individual tours for every tourist. Unless you have the right equipment.”
The audioguides are most often used in museums, where they are used for individual guests, or in villages (although much more rarely) or towns where they are used for sightseeing around the town or particular sites. Tour operators also use this type of equipment for non-standard events such as cruises.
What should be included?
The audioguide is a guide in the form of short recordings that comes with a carrier designed especially for this purpose. This device is for use by one person rather than a group. Importantly, the recordings can be in more than one language meaning the equipment can be used by tourists speaking different languages as they can simply select the language option that suits them. Slides or videos are sometimes added to the audioguide, although the general idea is that the tourist will look at what is around them while listening to the guide’s words.
It is becoming increasingly popular to make engaging recordings. Here the stories aren’t told as if from an encyclopaedia which the average listener can’t relate to, but rather as short stories (2-2.5 mins max.) which focus the attention, build suspense or are humorous (insofar as the theme or history of the place allows). Sometimes the tourist can be guided around the town by a historical figure – real or fictional. A good example of this is one of the oldest and biggest audioguide city tours in Poland – Audio Guide Gdansk. Nobody wants their guests to be bored. For this reason, if you wish to say more or go into detail on a topic, it is a good idea to spread it across several short recordings. You can maybe announce them in an initial general message rather than expecting people to listen to one 15-minute compendium of information.
To put it simply – the average person, especially when on holiday or just in their free time, will not remember dates, names and other details of the sort they had to learn at school and will not appreciate that either. However, they will remember emotions which we can try to convey through well written stories. We can try and throw in a bit of knowledge with these emotions which is far more easily absorbed in this way. Our happy guest will then share their emotions with others and tell them about our site and interesting audioguide.
It is a good practice to record different audioguides (separate sightseeing tours) for children, students or those particularly interested in certain aspects. This way you can vary the content according to age or interests. A great example of this is the Museum of Gdynia audioguide where there are different tours for different groups of visitors, including children.
How much does it cost and how is it organised?
The audioguides are complex projects and each one is tailored to individual needs. It is not possible to have a set price list and the most common mistake is starting with a quote for the equipment (of which there are also many models and options).
The audioguide is the story, not the equipment. The equipment comes at the end. Therefore, if you wish to use this solution for your facility or town you need to start with a plan. Write the story, starting with a general plan before going into details, think about what you want to say, how and to whom. And don’t try to include everything. You need scripts for the recordings and specialist services to produce them. Finally you need to decide on how the story will be shared with visitors. It may be by purchasing equipment, an app or simply by posting the recordings on a webpage in the form of a file to download or stream. Sometimes the audioguide can also be sold together with a carrier – CD, pendrive or special cheap mp3 player.
Advertising boosts sightseeing
Nobody will listen to even the most amazing stories if they don’t know such an option exists. Very often the cost of advertising and promoting the audioguide is neglected when constructing the audioguide project budget. If the system has Polish and English recordings then the advertising campaign should be in both Polish and English. And the campaigns will not be identical.
When commissioning the production to a company, you should find out who will be translating and proofreading the scripts for the recordings. The text should be proofread by a native speaker of the target language.
It is also worth going for the best professional narrators. Even the most amazing and interesting story will be switched off halfway through if it is read by an amateur and recorded in a ‘home’ studio. You should therefore check references and sample productions when selecting a company to produce your project.
Just like the proofreader, the narrator should also be a native speaker. Even the best foreign language-speaking Pole will be identified as such and may sound unconvincing. Foreign narrators and actors don’t necessarily have to cost a lot more than Poles. Another extremely important issue to do with foreign language recordings is getting the cultural localisation right. Stories told to foreigners don’t always have to be, and sometimes absolutely shouldn’t be, identical to the Polish version. Not everyone laughs at the same things, a good translator won’t translate jokes literally.
Some tips and advice
- Start with a general plan, identifying targets, recipient groups (guests, visitors).
- Don’t start going into details until you have a general plan.
- Consult specialists. Unless you are a specialist in everything.
- Write a general script for the recording and adjust it as you go to fit the audioguide format.
- Don’t be afraid of using personal narratives (a character telling the story), humour, dialogues, building suspense. All this can help make your story be better remembered.
- Remember that your guest is on holiday or there in their free time. Respect this.
- Make recordings for children – you don’t want them to be bored while their parents are sightseeing.
- Think about recordings for blind or visually impaired people – provide audio descriptions of your site.
- Advertise your project!
- Collaborate – with tourist organisations, enthusiasts, associations, other companies (cross selling).
- Post samples of the recordings on your website.