Recap of AAO Tours Network Meeting, 5/8

AAO Tours Network Call, 5/8: Establishing Your Virtual Tour
Hosted by Sarah Lann (Los Angeles Conservatory) and Mary Fichtner (AAO and AIANY/Center for Architecture)

Representatives from 16 organizations across the AAO community convened to discuss plans and opportunities around virutal tours. Please visit this link for this list of participants on the call.

Below is a short list of some of the resources that were shared:

Mobile App platforms

  • The Danish Architecture Center app (available in the Apple App Store) allows users to explore Copenhagen through a series of theme-based city tours. Your smartphone displays the route and tells you in text and images all about the places you meet along the way. It might inspire an idea or two for your own organization. 
  • Glide: Create a simple tour app from a Google sheet… no coding necessary!
  • Vamonde: You can create a publicly accessible tour using that looks highly polished. Lots of A/V and social media bells and whistles. It also has location-based tools, so your tour can hide content until a user is at a defined location… good for creating bread crumbs, scavenger hunts, etc. Great low-cost platform for experimenting what your audiences might want before you move ahead in building (and maintaining) a custom built app.

Digital Tour platforms

Ticketing platforms

  • Eventbrite: Easy to use and most every customer knows there way around this tool.
  • Bold Type Tickets was recommended by Taylor Ryan at the Seattle Architecture Foundation. The platform allows for free tickets, donations, and tiered ticket options.

Virtual Tour hardware

  • The Chicago Architecture Center has been running virtual docent/person on the street tours using an advanced selfie stick called a gimbal, as well as blue tooth ear buds to keep hands free and a mobile phone with a solid data plan! CAC’s 45-minute tours can eat up to 400 MB. Below are some mid-priced tools:

Additional Conversation:

The group discussed their respective organizations various experiences (or non-experiences) in creating fee structures for programs, as well as member/non-member pricing strategies.

Most participants agreed that the definition of a "tour" may need to change when it is offered as virtual experience. There seem to be many different avenues one can take, from more static images/lecture style tours to more active exploration of a streetscape/image heavy tours, but they are all quite different than the typical pacing and storytelling of an in-person tour. The virtual tour is definitely it’s own medium and is open to many creative approaches, so pioneer an approach that seems sustainable and befitting to your own organization.

The group was quite interested in figuring out how to evaluate these virtual tours as they don’t have much to compare it to. This could be a topic for a future meeting.

The group also realized the importance of trying to better understand their “local audience” as in-towners and staycationers will be a prime audience for some in-person tours starting this summer and likely for a good time to come into 2021. We should look for resources to better understand this audience profile, determining what characteristics might be considered universal and what attributes might be unique to a specific locale.

The group also discussed the need for tours to be marketed as good small group activities, so they can appeal to a family or a small group of friends similar to the way pub crawls, Groupon offers, and the like sort of conjure the notion of social outing. How can architecture tours capture this spirit in how they are marketed and ticketed?

 We look forward to scheduling follow-up calls in the coming weeks.