Defining Moments: How to Ensure That Your Guests Will Have a Memorable Experience

We often assume that defining moments are accidental luck, something so special that it couldn’t have been planned.  But what if I told you that special moments COULD be prepared ahead of time, and even reused again and again?

Prefer to listen & watch?  This article has a video version.

One of my favorite books is The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. The book covers why certain moments have a bigger impact than others, how to create these defining moments, and how to use them to your advantage.

While the book isn’t written about tours or tourism, I’ve found it to be an incredibly helpful tool in giving experience creators and guides the power to control the outcome of a tour.

In it, the authors cite the Peak-End-Rule, a study that showed people only remember select instances of an entire experience;

  • the highlights
  • the negative
  • the beginning and end

On a tour, negative moments inevitably happen (that one guest who annoys the others, an unexpectedly rainy/too hot/too cold day, bad traffic, etc). The idea is that, by creating a few amazing highlight moments to balance out any negatives, you can reasonably control that the overall experience for guests is a positive one.

It really is that simple.

Defining moments can be built into a tour or, if you’re a freelance guide giving a company’s tour, you can have a few flexible enough to fit into any tour.

In this article, I’ll cover the four main types of moments that The Power of Moments defines, with some examples of what they might look like on a tour.

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Types of defining moments (that your guests are more likely to remember).

1. Moments of Insight.

This is the ‘aha’ moment.

It’s showing someone something that opens them up to a different way of thinking/living.*

On a tour:

On an NYC Immigrant History tour the guide talks about the “good” immigrants (the Italians & Irish & Germans who came in the early 1900s & worked hard to become “Americanized”).

They also point out how all of the famous NYC food (pretzels, hot dogs, pizza) came from these immigrants.

At the end of the tour, the guide points out that NYC is still changing with NEW immigrants (which is more politically charged).

The Moment of Insight:

That ‘aha’ moment when a guest might change their opinions on immigration after connecting today’s immigrants with the immigrants of NYC’s history.

*Important: Interesting facts are NOT moments of insight.

No matter how interesting your fact is, it’s probably not something people will go home & repeat. Successful Moments are ones so special or impactful that years later it’s the one thing guests remember from their experience.

2. Moments of Pride.

This is something that the guest is proud of & tells everyone about when they get home.

This can include a celebration of milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

On a tour:

On a beer tour, if it’s someone’s birthday, you can make the toast at each bar a birthday toast (you can even have a different guest give a Happy Birthday toast in their language at each bar).

The Moment of Pride:

For the guest whose birthday it is, it’s a proud moment of recognition and celebration.

This is also a Moment of Connection as all the guests are participating in the birthday wishes.

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3. Moments of Connection.

Tours are naturally social so you automatically have connection added when you have a group.

Taking connection to Level 2 can be encouraging interactions between the guests & the locals.

On a tour:

On a cooking experience in Krakow, the tour starts with a trip to the market where you buy ingredients.

At the market, the guide teaches you how to order in Polish and you then have to go to the market vendor & order the food you need (of course the vendor already know what you’re going to ask for since this tour runs regularly, so even if your Polish is terrible they “understand” you)

The Moment of Connection:

The guest getting to interact with a local, in a local setting.

This is also a Moment of Pride as the guests have to practice Polish.

This is also a Moment of Elevation “boosting sensory appeal” (see below) as you later visit a local home.

4. Moments of Elevation: “raising the stakes”.

Raising the stakes adds an element of productive pressure (a competition, a performance, a public commitment), etc.

On a tour:

On a multi-day tour in Italy, there is a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary.

So when the group gets to Verona, the tour leader arranges for them to renew their wedding vows underneath Juliet’s balcony.

The Moment of Elevation:

Making their celebration public.  It also elevates their expectations as, at most, the couple would have expected a simple champagne toast at dinner…

This is also a Moment of Connection if you involve the other guests (maybe making them into the ‘bridesmaids’ and ‘groomsmen’)

This is also a Moment of Pride as you’re celebrating a milestone.

4B. Moments of Elevation: “boosting sensory appeal”.

This is pre-built into some of our tours such as a hike through the beautiful scenery of Mallorca or a tour that has an incredible panoramic city view like in Prague.

But, as the guide, you can call attention to these views and beauty by calling guests attention to it if they don’t notice on their own.

Or you can build up to it to make it more special and anticipated.

On a tour:

I once took a tour in Moscow that visited a Soviet-Era fast food restaurant.

Instead of simply leading me down the staircase into the restaurant, the guide opened the door which revealed a dark, cement staircase with no signage and said dramatically; “Welcome to Soviet Russia…after you…”

The Moment of “boosting sensory appeal”:

Had the guide simply opened the door and led us down into the restaurant, I probably wouldn’t have noted the staircase at all, nor would the entrance have been special.

But by engaging the senses (in this case sight and maybe smell as it didn’t obviously smell like a restaurant), the guide instead made this a moment that has stuck with me ever since. It’s something I came home and told my friends about.

This is also a Moment of ‘breaking the script’ as you’re expecting a typical fast-food restaurant, not a dark, scary staircase.

This is also a Moment of Pride to be brave enough to walk down those stairs first…

4C. Moments of Elevation: “breaking the script”.

This is strategic surprise.  To do this you must first understand what the customers expect, and then give them something different (and better).

On a tour:

On a music tour in Puerto Rico that ends with a salsa lesson in a local bar, guests are expecting to learn a few dance moves and then finish the tour.

However what they’re not expecting is that at the time their tour finishes, a live band is ready to play and the salsa instructor introduces the group to a few locals who are excited to dance with them to help them practice their moves.

The Moment of “breaking the script”:

Guests are pleasantly surprised by getting to take their dance lesson to the next level by practicing with local dancers.

This is also a Moment of Connection as the guests will interact with locals.

This is also a Moment of Pride for those guests who are satisfied with their dance moves or at least brave enough to try!

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2021-06-18T10:58:30-04:00June 16th, 2021|