After watching the program listings for my local chapter for months, I finally registered for my first meeting as a guest. As I approached the ladies behind the registration desk eyed me impassively. I walked up, smiled, and gave them my name. One looked through the badges, located mine, handed it to me, and faintly gestured toward the meeting room.
Once I was inside the room, raucous networking was going on all around me. I initiated some small talk with the only other person not already talking to someone. About 10 minutes later the president came over to introduce himself and said he would send me a new member packet (which he never did).
The meeting started 20 minutes late. It soon became apparent that everyone in the room was a long-time member except for one other new member and me. At the end of the meeting, the president asked the two ladies handling registration to stand up and be recognized because it was the six year anniversary that they had been managing the chapter.
This was my experience at one association’s chapter meeting, but it is not unique. Many members talk about their first chapter meeting experience, and while their experiences are varied, members note that many chapters have tremendous opportunities to improve their new member experience.
Here is what could have made my first chapter meeting experience far better, and the good news is all these ideas are free:
- Proactively welcome each person approaching the table to register.
- Target new members with extra warmth, additional information, and further direction.
- Post door greeters to welcome all members especially those new members with unfamiliar faces, ask them questions, find out why they joined, and what they hope to get from their membership, walk them to a seat, introduce them around.
- Keep all promises made.
- Make sure meetings progress like clock work. Start and end on time. Stick to the schedule.
- Reconnect with new members, get them information about what step they should take next, and ask if they have any questions.
Chapter meetings should not leave new members feeling like “ugh!” Or even like “meh.” A new member’s first chapter meeting should leave them feeling energized so they can not wait for the next one.