Constantly Check yourself
Part of being a guide is the art story telling. Beyond just relaying the facts and history, but putting a creative spin on it to entertain, engage and excite your audience. Some stories are easier to do this with than others, but in the end the successful guides find their voice in the history.
A professional guide is also constantly researching- looking for new stories, corroborating facts, digging up old newspaper articles and the like. And honestly with so much misinformation and legend out there, especially in New York City, ongoing research can help you either find the back up you need.
But more importantly the ongoing research is a great way to check yourself. As you put your creative spin and work your story telling with the history, it gets easier and easier for the facts to slip behind the story. Add a twist, another joke, a fun anecdote, and the history becomes a bit cloudy. As time goes on, as you trust your knowledge and memory you may inadvertently start mixing up your stories, ever so slightly and imperceptibly, but a few months later and you may have contributed more to the misinformation of the city.
In the end, a good story is entertaining, and in the end that’s really what your patrons want- to be entertained and informed. And in most cases, most tours and most guides this is the end goal. Entertainment over accuracy. Whether it’s inadvertent or through apathy, the entertaining story trumps the truth.
I certainly don’t stand here on a soap box throwing rocks from my glass house (lovely mix of metaphors there). Years ago I found that I had started to accidentally veer from the facts as the joy of the story and the strong audience responses took control. I wasn’t aware it was happening.
I check myself now. I keep researching. I change the stories as I find more sources. I keep it entertaining, but I hold onto what I feel is the true integrity of the industry: to share the truth, to bust the myths of the legends, and to inspire those who come along with the history of our city that helped shape who we are as a city and a nation.
Doesn’t hurt having a beer on the way. #getlitwithus