We always tell our clients: you can only control what you can control. You can't control the weather, the argument families had in the car on the way to campus, the inappropriate shoes they chose for a walking tour (heels, what?), or, unfortunately, your guests' attitudes.
Recently, at Colorado State University, a woman called Campus Police to investigate two prospective students after they arrived late to the in-progress campus tour. The woman believed the teens were acting suspiciously. Turns out, the two young men are naturally introverted and quiet (shocker). Unfortunately, they both are young men of color. After a confrontation with campus safety officers and the two students missing the tour, national attention focused on the campus visit experience and safety of prospective students on tour. Colorado State reinforced its commitment to inclusivity and diversity in an institutional response.
Let's pause for a sigh.
We've been telling our clients for a couple of years that families are obsessed with safety. The most frequently asked question we hear on tour (no matter where we are) is "How safe is campus?" In a world where Americans have been aptly trained on "See Something, Say Something," we've given a lot of leeway for how we each define safety to be projected on any situation.
There are much larger issues wrapped up in this incident that we must solve (much larger than the scope of Render's expertise). But, much like our clients, what we can control is helping you better prepare. Below are best practices from our clients in identifying visitors on tour and handling late arrivals.
Buttons, stickers, lanyards, namebadges.
Often, identifying visitors is as easy as giving them something to wear. It helps your tour guide identify who is supposed to be on tour, invites your campus community to say hello to visitors and allow them to tour spaces not shown on the tour, and serves as memorabilia for guests.
Having student volunteers serve as "walkers."
Several of our clients have their tour guides or another student volunteer serve as greeters or "walkers." In the instance of a guest arriving late to the tour, a greeter or walker brings that guest to the tour group. Your walker can introduce the guests to the group. Don't simply show your late arrivals the tour route on a campus map and expect them to find the group on its own.
Build in a quick information session.
Perhaps you're not a fan of information sessions, but they do serve a couple of great purposes in the visit: they often provide visitors the basic facts they need to experience campus, but they also give you a buffer for late arrivals. Information sessions don't have to be an hour long. Even 5 - 10 minutes can be enough to give families a cushion. It's much easier to fill in what a family missed during an information session than what they missed on a tour.
Invest in walkie-talkies.
Or any kind of device that allows tour guides to receive updates while out on tour. In the instance of a family arriving late, your front desk can let you know a family is headed out to the guide (delivered by a walker, of course). This leaves the guessing out of where your guide might be on the tour route, allows them to pause, and greet the late arrival. Bonus: your guide can radio back to home base when a stat question arises, and be kept alert in case of emergencies.
These are just a few. We could go into a long rant about inviting campus safety officers to tour guide training to educate both parties on how to handle emergency situations, setting expectations with families about the values of your community... there's lots to unpack here.
Questions? Concerns? Quandries? We're here to discuss.