A step-by-step guide to setting up a wireless tour guide system

Looking to set up a wireless tour guide system at your venue?

Sure, there are plenty of out of the box solutions in the market however they often come with a hefty price tag. What you need is something that is cost efficient, easy to setup and maintain across the years.

Here's a guide to get you started, but it is not the only way to do it. The steps below are based on my experience setting up wireless tour guide systems for some of the biggest museums in Australia.

Step 1: Plan your content. Content is king! If you already have existing content from your collections management system, great! We can start with that. If not, you need to look for sources of images and texts from colleagues in the archives department or exhibitions department.

Planning your wireless tour guide content

The key at this stage is to gather as much content as possible. The curation stage comes later. Tip: Start a new Dropbox shared folder and dump everything you find inside.

Step 2:Lay out the flow. Group content together into a potential tour stop and plan the narrative angle for each of it. After you have a series of tour stops, next up is looking for a writer/storyteller to write a narrative for each of those stops.

User flow

Step 3: Hire a voiceover talent: Once you have narratives for each stop, its time to work with a voiceover company like VoiceBunny to convert them into audio tracks.

Step 4: Choose between hardware or software systems. There are many options in the market for deploying a wireless tour guide system in your museum. Hardware solutions like the Sennheiser GuidePORT come with a higher capital expenditure cost but it has a lower barrier of adoption by your visitors. They can just pay to rent an audio player and get started on their tour.

Sennheiser GuidePORT

They can, however, be hard to update, and might require ongoing maintenance to ensure battery life, making sure the player is still working and etc. Security of the devices to ensure they are not being stolen is a major concern, too.

Software options have recently dominated the market. With DIY options like an audio tour app builder and exciting technologies like location-aware iBeacon sensors, it might be the best option today. Software options are easy to update especially if you have constantly changing content and also cheaper to maintain.

Mobile Audio tour app

On the other hand, software solutions has a higher battier of entry as the visitor would first need to download the mobile tour guide app into their mobile device. Visitors that do not have modern smartphones will not be able to enjoy the audio tour.

Step 5: Deploy your system: If you are choosing a hardware system, work with a vendor or distributor of the system to deploy it at your venue. It might involve setting up a dedicated area where visitors can rent the devices, and also charging stations to refresh devices that are used.

Key considerations include thinking about how much to charge for renting the system, security measures to prevent theft (eg. collecting and keeping their IDs), and also getting your IT/Tech support teams across the system so they can help troubleshoot visitor problems.

If deploying an iBeacon-assisted software solution, you need to look for a suitable iBeacon audio tour guide system vendor to work with, and then areas to place the iBeacon sensors in your venue. You might also want to test the user experience of using the app as a visitor, making sure they are serving the correct content at each stop.

Step 6: Marketing your wireless tour guide system: Once you have your system up and running, it's time to think about how to market it. Some examples are setting up posters and digital signages around your entrances to inform visitors about your new system, or placing flyers at front desk.

Marketing an audio tour app

You can also run email campaigns, introducing a banner on your website or making Facebook/Twitter announcements of the availability of this new option at your venue.

Step 7: Measuring success and improving the system: Most software system will have built-in analytics you can use to measure user engagement like the amount of time users spent on your mobile wireless tour guide app or analytics from iBeacon sensors telling you how many visits it had per day.

For hardware systems, the only way to measure success is to launch a user survey or poll to collect qualitative feedback on how well the wireless tour guide system is performing.

These steps are not the only way, but rather a guideline to setting up a wireless tour guide system at your museum. Setting up the system is the easiest part, the challenge is curating the best content that identifies with your museum visitors.