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6 Ways to Make Every Guest Feel Valued

6 Ways to Make Every Guest Feel Valued

When I first became a guide my biggest fear was “what am I going to say to these people for the next 6 hours while I am stuck in a raft with them…in the middle of nowhere!” This honestly kept me up the night before every trip. I would go to bed scared of my guests. What’s worse, my early guiding career was filled with worst case scenario thoughts prior to the trip thus compounding my stress level.

With all this running around in my head I truly have no idea how I built any rapport with my guests. The ironic thing was that after about an hour on the river when the small talk fades away you really begin to scratch the surface of who exactly you are and who you are with.

I feel like I got lucky in those early days because guests have a funny way of really wanting to build rapport with you. The unfortunate part is that there is never an even distribution of rapport building throughout your crew. You will most likely click with one or two guests in your boat and between the guiding, logistics, and the chattiest guests in your boat it can feel like you may have left some people out.

So what distinguishes that paddler in the front left from 1/6 of your guide wages plus a $20 tip and a real person who has thoughts, dreams, and desires? The secret is valuing them as a person. Yet this begs another question: how do you show everyone in your boat that you truly value their time and who they are?

Here are 6 tips that can help elevate your interactions and help prevent guests from feeling alienated in such an intimate setting:


Ask them to make up a fun story about their life: The best ice breakers I ever have are to ask people to make up a fun origin story. I ask them to tell me who they are like a super hero. Alternatively I ask them to tell me who they are in a fun fake dating profile format. I usually start by introducing myself and saying: my name is Trevor, my favorite color is glitter, and my spirit animal is a unicorn. Making a fun game out of who you are helps to break down barriers quickly because it sets the tone that they are there to have a good time. At the very least you will have a fun story to keep embellishing throughout the day. Some folks are of the opinion that it may seem fake, however it actually sets the mood out of the gate that the trip is their trip and it is about them.

Talk about their dreams: Talking about work can lead you down a path of drudgery since most people are on your boat to escape that life. Instead recognize that everyone has dreams about what they want to be and where they see themselves. Ask everyone to close their eyes and take a deep breath then ask them to imagine that they have no barriers. Then have them open their eyes and tell you about the person they are in their dreams. This strikes straight to the core of who we are, and even if someone is no so into it they will most likely respect the fact that you cared enough to try.

Learn about their relationship to each other: Learning how everyone is related on your raft is crucial to understanding them as a group. They could be a family, they could be all friends of one person who roped them into a river trip, and other times the may be a group of randoms. Understanding how well they know each other will help to facilitate not only better communication, but it will help you break the ice between each other later on. 

Introduce them to other boaters: As a guide you get to meet people from all over and enjoying the river in many ways. If you see boaters you know pull up and introduce your crew to them. If you bump up against another raft in flat water start a dialog with the other boat. The best part about being a guide is that you get to set the pace. Nothing makes your crew feel like they are part of something bigger like introducing them to others. From the guest’s perspective you are like a rock star on the river and they are your entourage. Including them in your interactions with others lets them know that they are part of your tribe.

Ask them to tell the group their favorite thing about the next person: This might sound like a super cheesy one, but how often is it that someone publicly tells you their favorite thing about you? It feels good to know that someone else enjoys your company even if it is at the guide’s request. This little exercise can really bring people together on a deep level because it taps into our human desire for public recognition of the best in us.

Find out what would have made the experience better: You really don’t know how you are doing unless you ask. Asking your guests who you did and how they felt about the trip with you not only will help you develop as a guide, but it will show a keen understanding that you care about the quality of the trip. Sometimes this takes a lot of courage especially if you are a new guide, however if you can implement your guest’s suggestions when your guests return they will feel that you really took their feelings into consideration.

The Gear Shed - The Utility Belt

The Gear Shed - The Utility Belt

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The Gear Shed - Throw Bags