Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tour Guide Made Our Italy Trip Unforgettable

When twenty-two people from the Gainesville, Georgia area signed up for a ten-day tour of Italy, coordinated by our bank, we knew very little about our destination. One thing we did know and agree on--the person Collette Tours would send as our guide would "make or break" the trip.

Landing in Rome, we met our vivacious guide, Jovanka Mrdja. Immediately, she energized us. She gained our confidence with her knowledge, poise, upbeat style, and tasteful humor.

In the photo above, Jovanka shows us a map of Florence, Italy, suggests places we can see on our own, and tells us what time to meet back in the city square, so we can walk as a group to the tour bus. And yes--it was raining, and quite chilly, as you can tell from the garb and umbrellas. Yet we didn't grumble about the weather. Jovanka was providing so much fun that we hardly noticed the elements.

As we traveled across Italy by tour bus, Jovanka shared what she had learned during two decades as a tour guide. In every locale, she talked about the major people and historical events that had shaped the city or site. Her English is impeccable, and she has mastered several other languages.

When I coach people on improving their speaking skills, I urge them to follow this advice from actors: give "The Illusion of the First Time." The meaning: No matter how familiar you are with your material, state it as though you had just thought of it that moment. Give it the same vitality you felt during your first encounter. Well, Jovanka did exactly that. We almost felt that she was rediscovering the Pantheon, the Vatican, the Roman Forum, and everything else she showed us and described. Her enthusiasm never waned. Neither did her energy, despite early alarms and late-night dinners.

Jovanka's home base is Vancouver, B.C. In a sense, though, the entire world is her home, as she fits in anywhere--splendidly.

For more information about how to "communicate like champions," as Jovanka does every day, visit my Web site: