Guide for building online tours

Nothing in this guide is set in stone. This is a very new and dynamic field, and we're very happy for you to experiment and find a method which works better. We have tried several different styles, and tours which are free to join where people are asked to contribute at the end has worked by FAR the best. We will split any profits 50-50 between the Collective and you, the guide.

We do need to have some loose style which connects all Green Olive online tours to our brand. So any new tour would need to fit with our mission of promoting human rights and democratic values in Israel-Palestine, and ultimately ending the Occupation and building a shared society.

From the technical side, all of our tours so far have been done on Zoom, using a mixture of satellite views, video, maps, photos, and you talking to the audience live. They take 90 minutes, with 45-55 minutes for you to present content, and about 35-45 minutes for an audience question and answer session. With bigger groups (over 12 people) we have been doing Q & A afterwards, with another guide as a moderator. For smaller groups, it works well to integrate questions into the presentation and make it more interactive. For experienced online guides a moderator isn't usually necessary with small groups.

So what are the steps?

1. Think of a theme which interests you, and which you think interests our clients. We will eventually pay to advertise a successful tour to the general public, but initially it will be marketed to our ~30000 person email list and our social media followers. Some things to remember about our network:
  • most have been to Israel-Palestine before
  • some are very knowledgeable, some are total beginners
  • about 1/3 are from the US/Canada, 1/3 from Europe, 1/3 from the rest of the world
  • almost all are first or second language English speakers
  • most are progressive politically, but there is a mixture of political opinions. You will probably have people who disagree with you, and both Zionists and Palestinian Nationalists, on your tours eventually.
Be creative! It's tempting to think traditionally and recreate your old physical tours, like a trip to a certain city. But when you're touring virtually you can do so much more. How can you 'add value'? Show our guests somewhere they couldn't go in real life, and tell them things they cannot easily find in a documentary online. Try and show them inside places which are not usually open to the public, and show them things they won't have already seen.

2. Once you have a solid concept, think about the most important points you want to make. You only have about 45 minutes so it needs to be precise and very organised. Make a bullet point list of key things to show people and important messages to say.

3. Search for material online which supports your key points. Using free, visually interesting resources which you are comfortable manipulating are best. The more immersive it is the better. Photos are okay, but if they're in 3D it feels more like a tour and less like a lecture. I recommend searching in this order, and thinking which of these options can best illustrate your points.
  • satellite view on Google Earth
  • Google street view
  • 3D photos which people have uploaded to Google maps (you'll see a little blue dot in 'street view' mode)
  • 3D videos on YouTube (just include '3D' in your search terms)
  • interviews, documentaries, travel guides and other videos on YouTube, news sites, and other platforms
  • other maps and pictures from the internet
  • resources you already have easy access to (old videos you took, a friend who has a drone?)
If you really cannot find something important, then, and only then, should you consider going out and recording it on your own. It is difficult to get professional quality footage without spending a lot of time and/or money, but if you are presenting something unusual it may be necessary. In that case, before you begin recording, try and understand as specifically as possible what you are hoping to achieve. It will save you time and effort later.

4. Create a Powerpoint presentation or a Google slides presentation, and a Google Earth project. Save any interesting site in your Earth project, and save any interesting links, videos, pictures, maps or other resources in your Powerpoint/Slides presentation. You can download things and paste them into a slide on the presentation, or include links if this isn't possible.

5. Start to put things in order. Ideally, there is a logic to each tour and it should have a clear beginning, middle and end. Just like when you tell any story, there should be some arc which makes things interesting to the audience. Starting with a bit of history is logical, but not strictly necessary. It's a good idea to finish with something positive or a call to action - something which people can do to help improve the situation - and which encourages people to contribute more money for the tour.

If the tours is overwhelmingly serious and sad, if people feel too depressed at the end, or if they think the situation is hopeless, they are likely to pay less. Ideally the end makes them feel the situation is urgent and important, but that they can really help change it, and that they want to be involved in further projects of the Collective.

6. Request a session with Alex or someone at Green Olive. This is a good point to see if we think there is enough material to make it a strong tour, see if we have any suggestions, and to discuss the specific resources you plan on using.

7. Start a free Zoom meeting, don't invite anyone else, and click 'record'. In the bottom menu you have a 'share screen' option. If you click it, whichever window you select will be shared. To change windows, you need to click 'new share'. Therefore, having as few windows as possible is easier to manipulate without manually changing every time. If you're using a web browser, have everything you want to use in the same window, but in different tabs. Put as many things as possible in the same Powerpoint/Slides presentation. Opening the presentation with Slides, in a new tab of the web browser, also gives you one fewer window. Practice shifting between windows, and saying what you want to say. Re-watch the recordings you made to see how smooth it looks. You'll start to get more fluent and you will eliminate silences and all dead time.

You will learn how reliable your internet connection is. Does it work better with wi-fi or mobile data hotspot? Play with different lighting - usually a couple of strong lights behind the camera shining on you works best. Does the microphone and camera work well, and is the quality okay? There is a setting in the Zoom screen share "optimize for video playback" which helps make things play more smoothly. Close any other programmes and windows, and make sure there is nothing personal or embarrassing open on the screen or which can pop up! 

If things don't load fast enough, try disabling add-ons like ad blockers or password managers (you can reactivate afterwards). Google Chrome tends to use the most RAM, while Firefox tends to use the least. Test the quality of any YouTube videos you are playing - you can often change it by clicking on the cog. We obviously want the highest quality, but it has to play smoothly. If videos don't play smoothly enough, or if 3D pictures don't load, then a normal photo is an easy, reliable, if less immersive, alternative.

8. Invite family and friends to your first practice presentation. Turn off your phone, make sure other people in the house know you're live online, and put the dog/children/noisy appliances in another room. Make it as professional as possible. Time how long it takes to say everything you want to say, and how long it takes to present everything you want to show. Ask your friends what they think should be added or taken out. If something doesn't work, create an alternative you can use as a backup just in case it happens again.

9. Moderate another tour guide, giving a different tour. This will help you practice speaking online and allow you to get more familiar with the technology. You just need to introduce them and manage any questions which people have for the guide during the tour.

10. We will schedule a test tour for you, with only the Green Olive partners, members, investors and other maybe some other VIPs. They are people who know and like our work, and will be sympathetic but also rigorous. We can help you through this process and work with you to make any improvements based on things they suggest.

11. We add you to the weekly schedule. Ideally you'll do one tour in the evening and one tour in the morning per week, so that all our time zones are covered. You promote the tour as widely as you can within your social network, and we do the same.

12. It takes about 2 weeks to build a tour using these steps, but once it's done, each time it's just 90 minutes of work and you don't even have to leave the house. If they appeal to a wide audience and you have a good pitch asking for contributions, they can be very profitable (our biggest tour so far made over $1000). They can make a real difference and you can spread your message to a much wider audience than on a physical tour.


Tell your friends. Help spread the word . . . .

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