If you’re reading this, you already know the audio guide for your museum, gallery or institution needs to be more than a glorified book. You’re aware you need to be erudite and  enriching. But are you aware that you need to be entertaining? This is why we’ve compiled a list of, let’s not call them rules, but rather inspirational rules of thumb. These are powerful ideas you can tailor to meet your situation and spark creativity. And yes, they are in order of importance.


1.  You Are Your Guide - Your Guide Is You

Your guide, your choices, your voice, both literally and figuratively, will set the tone for everything that follows. This is way more important than the great coffee in the café and mugs in gift shop. Your audio guide isn’t just associated with you; it IS you!


2.  Show Don’t Tell!

I’m a know it all and I love nothing more than to show how erudite I am and to tell people why my taste is so incredibly awesome. I’ve also learned, through painful trial and error and some overly honest friends, how pontification is incredibly off putting. And yet, a great museum, gallery or exhibition is an ideal teachable moment.  So how do you circle this square?


3.  Cheap is Expensive

If you’re just starting out, you’ll have an understandable desire not to overdo it. But don’t make your guests fret getting the equipment to work.


Here are few things you must do. A. Record your audio in a quality studio or using good mics. B. Use professional actors who know how to make a text come alive. C. Use real (royalty free) music. D. Script for the spoken, not written, word.


4.  So…Why Does This Matter Again?

Ever seen the Mona Lisa? We know da Vinci’s masterpiece is important because she’s surrounded by selfie-snatching twenty-somethings jockeying for an angle that gets their faces and her wry smile into frame. But do they know why this painting is so important?


5.  Lingua Franca, Lingua Schmanca

Hey, I bet you had no idea that fossil Pampatheres are Cingulates that are "xantherians with a shell"?  To most of us, that’s a kind of ancient armadillo. Yet this is a real sign at a real museum that shall not be named in this article, but was named here

99.999999% of your visitors are not experts, museum curators or even educated amateurs. They are, however, definitely curious and open-minded. Don’t lose their goodwill by keeping them at a linguistic arm’s length.


6.  Everyone Loves a Mystery

Look around you. Your gallery, museum or exhibit is a potential soap opera filled with intrigue, revenge and mystery. Who influenced/stole from/was married to/had an affair with whom?


7.  Break the Damn Rules!

Throw caution to the wind, toss out the rulebook, along with your sanity, and create special tours not for the faint of heart. Think I’m kidding? The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC has a political scandal tour filled with enough death, destruction, corruption and derring do to raise all your hairs and hackles.


Like I said, the above are not rules, merely suggestions. Use and abuse them to fit your specific situation. Whatever you do, be bold, witty and true to your own spirit. After all, if you have an exhibit, gallery or institute, you’ve got something singular. Your audio guide should be equally unique.