Duane Hayes, the newsletter editor of Model Creations Unlimited IPMS in Jacksonville, Florida, understands the importance of hospitality, even suggesting that their motto should be, "You Are Only A Stranger Once, After That You’re Family.” He recently offered some excellent ideas for making new members feel more comfortable at their first meeting, ideas that your club should begin implementing immediately.
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Remember back to the time walking into a room full of people where you didn’t know anyone and just wanted to pretend you were invisible and stand against a wall. It was a very uncomfortable feeling, but after meeting other people during that first time, or after a couple of meetings, you began to enjoy the activities associated with the group.
After thinking about your personal experiences in new environments, think about a person who has built models for years and has never known anyone else who shares his interest. He doesn't know about any model clubs, but the website and Facebook page makes MCU sound just like a group that is going to offer a great experience for him and expand his hobby. He realizes MCU has a meeting coming up. He decides to show up to learn about MCU and see what it is all about.
If this person walked into our club meeting, how would he feel? Would he feel welcome? Would he be greeted by another member, perhaps an officer? Would club members introduce themselves to him? How would he be introduced to the club members?
Now, not all walk-ins become members, but I don’t want any prospective new member to walk away because they were not greeted, introduced, or not able to ask, or get questions answered about the model hobby or our club. Welcoming prospective new members into our club is an important role of all current members.
Make the guest feel comfortable enough to ask questions during, or after, the meeting. Ask him questions about himself. Why is he they interested in joining MCU? What are their favorite model subjects or interests?
Allow the guest to introduce himself and tell why he has decided to attend the meeting. Have ALL the current members introduce themselves; don’t make it a one-sided introduction by only having the guest stand up. When the guest asks questions, answer in a positive manner that allows the guest to understand. When a new member is proudly showing his latest model project, give him your full attention and don’t conduct side-conversations with other members.
Helping prospective members join our club is an on-going opportunity for MCU to strengthen the club’s membership and let all modelers know they are truly valued in our hobby. I think our club does a excellent job of welcoming new guests at our meetings, but there is always room for improvement.
Thanks to Duane Hayes for permission to reprint his editorial.