Make Newbies Feel Welcome!

Written by Stephanie Selesnick on September 20, 2018

Remember the first time you went to an association event and how that felt? Nerve wracking for most! Making new members feel welcome at your association’s events is a smart investment of resources.

Will it cost more to organize an onboarding program to your events now, or replace the member who won’t return because they had a negative first experience? Conversely, when new members have a positive experience, chances are much better that they will renew membership as well as share the experience with colleagues.

Some suggestions to help engage newbies include:

  • Offer new member receptions at in-person events.
  • Use small-budget alternatives such as matchmaking and mentorship programs. For examples, assign board members, who know large networks of people, to introduce new members to other attendees at meetings or events.
  • Pay people on the frontlines, like receptionists, enough to ensure they provide the best first touchpoint your association can offer.
  • Be open to new ideas - ask your team for their ideas!

Most respondents to this new member engagement study said it takes over a year to see results from a new member engagement program. The program should periodically be reviewed, retweaked and responsive to feedback.

Buy-in from management and executive teams is key, or the program will quickly fade. Manage their expectations by making it clear it’s going to be a long-term program. Remind them how much it costs to recruit a new member versus retain one. Know what your ROI is on your new member engagement program and keep those metrics front and center.

Evaluate new member experiences after the fact to keep improving the process. Make appointments to speak with them post show. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions: “How was your experience? Based on your experience, do you plan to attend the next event? What did you like? Dislike? What can we do better?” If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what is working - and what’s not. Keep the questions open-ended and take notes. If respondents use this as an opportunity to ask questions, getting back to them in a timely manner will make them feel valued.

Analyze the feedback, and as stated above, tweak your program based on answers.

Be authentic, transparent, and creative. If all goes to plan, your (formerly new) members will thank you when they return next year.