Our museum is going to offer guided tours of our exhibit galleries. Since there will be an extra charge for the tours we would like to identify participants as part of a group to discourage general guests from tagging along. Any information on successful ways to do this?
We use logo stickers that we hand out to individuals as they check in for their tour. Everyone is required to wear one so we can keep the group together and visually see who should be involved in the tour. For some of our tours we use lanyards with badges--we can then give those to the tour participants as a take away and a reminder of their visit to the aquarium.
The suggestions about different color/types of badges are great and I would try them. However, you will always have people who are not part of the group join at some time; voices in a gallery are like a magnet. Don't we all want to hang around and hear an educator sharing information? My approach was always to ask the tour leader - if it was an outside group who had booked a private tour - to help keep their group together since an educator cannot always identify who is or not a part of the tour. Also announcing at different stops that the X group should come closer or follow, something to indicate to the larger gallery audience that there was a private group present was also usually effective in keeping the tour intact. Another strategy is to speak quietly to the uninvited and explain this was a private tour and give them options - free drop in gallery talks at whatever hours, or come back and meet me and ask questions. What you and your educators never want to do is to set up a situation where any audience member feels unwelcome, private or general audience, with or without badges. So badges yes, and thoughtful polite engagement with the non-group members too.
At Vizcaya Museum and Gardens we utililze tabless wristbands. We found that stickers end up becoming litter throughout the museum. The wristbands do not fall off and because they are tabless they do not create any litter. We color code bands for times of tours. Guides at each transition will simply remind the group that this is a reserved tour and if you did not have the opportunity to purchase a ticket there are tours at 11am, 12pmn, etc. this primarily works, sometimes there are people who just refuse to leave. We have been charging for tours for 2 years now and have had very few issues over that period of time. Below is a link to the bands we use.
Tab-less Tyvek Wristbands
One of the ways that a number of museums have helped create an environment where the paid for tours avoid hanger-ons is to use a Radio based Group Tour system. Using this type of technology helps in a number of ways:
1) It make the group easy to indentify.
2) It makes it obvious to someone who happened to be in a gallery that this is something "special" that they need to be part of from the start and just can't jump on. I have found that most people join tour groups just because they think it is free/included. You never know, it may actually help increase awareness and thus participation of this add-on tour.
3) It allows the docent to speak softly which benefits the visitors not in the group who don't want to be disturbed by a docent needing to speak loudly to be heard by the entire group. It also makes it harder to "listen in" if you aren't part of the group.
4) I also find that it helps create a different experience for the group that opted for the tour. It lessens the amount of times the docent is in the uncomfortable position of telling people that they can't join the group.
Some examples of what I am talking about:
- Radio Technology - Group Guiding - Acoustiguide
- Tour Guide Systems For Wireless Communications
(Full disclosure - I had previously worked in the audio tour world for a number of years, so I am a bit biased, but I have seen first hand before/after use how it helps with institutions and their private tours).
I would be happy to discuss this further if you have any questions or would like to know some sites/institutions that use this type of system.
Thanks for your input, everyone, I appreciate it! We do this on a very limited basis already and have taught our guides polite ways to handle guests from outside the group. Now that it's going to be a regular offering we thought a little more differentiation would be helpful.
We offer tours to a variety of groups ranging from home schools to veteran groups. When a group asks for a tour, we schedule the appropriate number of docents based on the number of guests-visitors. Our docents, a term they picked, receive additional and more in depth training in certain subjects so as to better inform the visitors. The docent will meet the group in our lobby, explain the Museum's mission and history. They will also give a short rundown on how the tour is structured. Then it into the Museum.
From time to time, we do use volunteers, persons without the specific training, to lead tours. We have a number of volunteers who have been with the Museum for 10, 15, 20 years.
I work for a historic site that offers house tours at different times. The tour accommodates 12 visitors in a group. Those visitors receive a free ticket after paying general admission. Before entering the house they must present the ticket for the docent to collect. No ticket, no entry. I realize this would be difficult to control in a gallery space with multiple entry/exits allowing other visitors to wander in anytime.
Tickets could be used as an interactive during the tour. Think of it as a prompt. At different intervals, the docent would ask who among the group has ticket # 1 or a ticket with a certain word, phrase, picture, or question that is related to the content being shown/discussed. It would signal to other guests that having a ticket is inclusive of being apart of the tour. Tickets could also be printed with perks. For example, the tour group tickets could offer a discount that can be applied at the gift store. The docent could remind the group of the perks at the beginning of the tour.
Incentives and free swag are great ways to entice people to join, but also single out special interest groups that paid.
Another option entirely is to offer the gallery tours after-hours and advertised as a paid event. In that scenario, attendees would be asked to wear badges or stickers to show they paid and are there for that event.
Hope some of this is helpful.
American Alliance of Museums2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1005Arlington, VA 22202