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Take a Guided Tour of Paris Without Leaving the Sofa

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Matthew Balthazor, a manager with Epson, had plans for a European vacation. “We were supposed to be on a flight to Paris the day lockdown started and had to cancel”, he says. So, what to do in the meantime? He figured if he couldn’t go to Paris, he could bring it to his living room. “I started diving into YouTube to revisit some of my favorite Paris locations, and that’s where I came across Véronique Savoye’s channel, where she posts recordings of livestreamed Paris walking tours that she hosts. I got hooked and became a paid member of her France with Véro Patreon subscription group after watching a stroll around Notre Dame, but I was also impressed by how she pivoted her once-in-person guided tours to online until the tourists are able to return.”

Making a Shift

Véronique Savoye was about to begin several months of leading North American travelers around France as a Paris-based tour guide for Rick Steves. Over the past few years, she had worked hard to grow a solid social media following on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to drive traffic to her travel and lifestyle blog, which she ran as a hobby. Each week, she shared information about travel, such as articles, photo essays, and video vignettes.

As the pandemic started to unfold and travel restrictions increased, Savoye began to realize that many people, including Francophiles and international travelers, were craving content about traveling to satisfy their longing to see both new and familiar places and to stay connected with France.

“Livestreaming seemed like a logical next step and I launched my online business, France with Véro. Now providing a constant source of original and educational content on my homeland is my job. Livestreaming is an important part of it,” says Savoye.

 

 

Creating Engaging Videos with an iPhone and Facebook Live

While shooting livestream video can be complicated, Savoye has proven that it doesn’t have to be. She’s a self-professed non-techie and even jokes “I’m an English major” when asked about the technical aspects. But she’s found, with the right equipment and tools, she doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of video. And most importantly, she’s shown that by focusing on creating excellent, interesting, and unique content, you can gain popularity with simple but professional videos. Even with the extra challenges of trying to conduct live tours while wearing a mask.

She heads out to do a tour with a gimbal, her iPhone SE2020, and a lapel microphone. Of course, she doesn’t forget her signature red umbrella, which she carries in her left hand during the video tours. However, one of her biggest challenges is unreliable cell coverage – followed closely by trying to conduct tours when her glasses fog up from the rain.

After recording the video tour, she simply posts the video on YouTube with no editing. She feels that, by sharing a real tour with no edits, background music, or special effects, people watching at home get an experience as close to a live tour as possible. Check out her recent Winter in Vannes for a taste of her engaging style with a focus on live video, not produced video.

For now, Savoye only livestreams on Facebook but plans to soon offer virtual tours on Zoom as well. One of her favorite things about livestreaming is that she can easily read comments in real-time and react to her viewers during the video, creating a real-time and interactive experience very similar to an in-person tour. Because Facebook Live showcases her skills as a public speaker and tour guide, she often turns viewers into paying subscribers through Patreon.

 


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Looking for Lesser-Told Stories

When picking areas to cover in her video tours, Savoye looks for lesser-told or off-the-beaten-path stories, typically not using streets, neighborhoods, or landmarks heavily featured on social media, such as her recent Paris Streetscape video. However, because Paris is very well-covered on travel media and social media, she finds this task much harder in Paris than in other parts of France. When she does include a classic as part of a narrative, she puts on her “reporter” hat and researches the site to learn new and “juicy” tidbits to tell uncovered stories.

However, going off the beaten path means it’s more challenging to get information and gain access. Recently, she wanted to livestream from the gardens of an exclusive hotel located on a private street to tell the story of its historical buildings. She was told she had to request permission from the local owners association—to even film on the street—due to France’s strict privacy laws.

In addition to her videos, she has strengthened her online community during the lockdown with weekly live chats on Instagram. She’s researched lesser-told stories about French culture and shared them in unique ways, such as translating classic French songs. Because of the chat format, she received instant feedback and gained new followers. Because some viewers don’t appreciate too much interaction with a live audience during a tour, she tries to strike a balance by offering private chats for online Patreon subscribers.

Creating Your Own Video Tours

When asked about how someone can get started creating their own video tours, Savoye recommends looking carefully at the many types of virtual tours currently offered. She recommends considering silent strolls on city streets as a way to get started. She says that virtual tour guides should focus on their strengths and comfort level. Because she is first and foremost a guide and teacher, she focuses on content, research, and delivery instead of technology.

“Livestreaming is a really challenging exercise, mostly because of all the things that can go wrong no matter how prepared you are,” says Savoye. “You need to reach out of your comfort zone at times and be flexible.”

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