I was 23 when I first started teaching Spanish. I didn’t know if I would make it through the year, but here I was, responsible for teaching high school Spanish I, II, III, and IV. Goodbye youthful freedom…Hello adulthood. On top of teaching Spanish I was also told that I would be leading our school’s global student travel program with EF Educational Tours. I thought, “That’s great, I love to travel.” I had recently studied abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico, but was I really the one who should be leading a group of students on an international trip?
Fast forward 13 years. Not only am I still teaching Spanish, but I am also still leading our school’s travel program. If you’ve read any of my past posts then you know that it’s a program I’m very proud of and very much enjoy. The program has grown from 6 students in 2001 to 44 students, who will now be traveling with us next year. Support from EF Tour Consultants and experienced Group Leaders is what makes it possible for first time Group Leaders to not just successfully lead student travel, but also learn what specifically works for their program. After my first tour I quickly realized that if I wanted to grow my program to where it is now I needed to show students and parents that they could trust me, my program, and EF Educational Tours.
When it comes to recruiting students and gaining the trust of parents, there are several questions that a Group Leader should be ready to answer. You’ll almost immediately be asked: When is the trip scheduled? Where are you traveling to? Who’s EF? How much does it cost? What activities are included?
Providing a clear, confident, and thoughtful response is undoubtedly important, but it’s also crucial to understand that students and parents are there to simply get a better feel for who you are, as well as your program. Few parents will ever ask, “How do we know we can trust you?” or, “Will this experience be well-organized?” A successful kick-off meeting should be all about wowing students and parents with your passion for leading student travel. In the end you should be able to naturally answer their questions, while quieting concerns and earning their confidence, respect, and trust.
First and foremost, set the right tone by starting the meeting on time. Throughout the presentation model the behavior and character that you expect from your student travelers. Providing an outline of what you plan to cover will also ensure that you are organized and well-prepared. If you can’t plan an effective and efficient meeting, how do you expect others to believe you’ll plan a quality travel experience abroad?
Be attentive to everyone’s questions, but also carefully think about each response. Never respond with an answer that you aren’t sure of. It’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll look into it and get back to you as soon as possible.” Take full ownership of the presentation, and don’t promise anything that you can’t commit to. It’s common for parents to have concerns, so display the ability to problem-solve and think critically while resisting the urge to panic. It’s your job to comfort them and ease their worries. Do so by preaching safety, paying attention to detail, and reassuring all parties that you are dedicated to providing a fun, educational, and safe travel experience.
When students and parents ask what the trip includes, it’s important to convey that students are getting much more than just round-trip airfare, lodging, meals, a bilingual Tour Director, and entrance to numerous cultural activities and excursions. Discuss the valuable life-lessons that students learn and how global travel can positively impact their future. Explain that this experience is not just a 10-day trip, but an opportunity that will help students learn to communicate more effectively, improve decision-making skills, and become a more responsible and organized individual. Share small but meaningful examples of past students who learned to budget and manage their own money while planning for their trip. Ultimately, remind them that students who travel are more likely to improve their self-confidence, become more independent, and expand their global awareness while acquiring a deeper appreciation for life. To put it simply, compel parents to understand that this is an investment in their children’s future.
Your Partnership with EF
Remind parents that, as a Group Leader, you are not alone. Explain to them that you will be working hand-in-hand with an experienced education company who provides an easily accessible Tour Consultant. Behind the scenes, a skilled team of professionals is working hard to plan a safe and organized tour that fits your group’s needs and interests. Reassure them that several well-trained customer service representatives are ready to assist you, your students, and parents with any issues, questions, or concerns. Finally, educate families on why you partner with EF Educational Tours. For me it’s simple. EF has 50 years of experience and built a solid global reputation on providing educational travel that allows students to safely experience new cultures and languages. It’s also a comfort to know that they have 460 offices and schools in over 50 countries. Wherever we travel, help is right around the corner if needed.
To get people to buy into what you are offering, you’ve got to sell it! Show them why they should trust you, your program, and EF Educational Tours. A presentation that is centered on these core principals, and is delivered with confidence, clarity, and passion will lead to a successful kick-off meeting with students and parents. In the end it will send attendees home with a greater understanding of, and appreciation for the experience that lies ahead. Most importantly, you will have eased the concerns of parents by indirectly answering the real, unasked questions through your words and actions. Eventually you will begin to earn the trust and commitment that you need from your travelers. After all, without students, student travel doesn’t exist.
Looking to plan a tour with your students? Chat with a Tour Consultant today!
Scott is a high school Spanish teacher and basketball coach. He began traveling with EF Educational Tours in 2001 and has led 8 student tours to various Spanish-speaking countries. Scott strongly believes that student travel builds self-confidence and inspires students to develop and work towards long-term goals.