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Getting Visitors To Join Your Group
by Barbara Garro

Respected leaders are community-minded and belong to structured groups to foster acquaintance of new business contacts, have a forum to discuss important, current business issues and participate in community service projects.

Your first priority? Attract visitors–

1. Encourage enthusiastic members to talk up your club as an important part of their business life at events with other business people

2. Be accessible with a professional, frequently updated, user-friendly club website that shares Your Mission Statement, Club Goals & Achievements, Membership Guidelines, Club Meeting Details and Contact name, telephone, email for questions or additional information

3. Have a relevant periodic club Newsletter that can be passed out at business and networking events

4. Have a responsible, designed Ambassador to respond promptly to inquiries of interest in your club by telephone or email

New members are the lifeblood of any group. When contacted, get to know them, act like you would love to have them consider visiting as a guest at an upcoming meeting. If your group can afford it, comping their first meeting cost is a friendly turn-on. Caution: avoid asking a stranger to meet with you to talk with you about your group when contacted for the first time, if you are also a stranger. While this may seem a generous gift of your time, it should only happen if the one inquiring suggests it before attending a first meeting. Offering to send a copy of the current Newsletter may be helpful and welcome.

Avoid blathering on about your group without initially asking what prompted someone to inquire about your group and information the person would need before deciding to attend a meeting as a guest. Then, provide information in a brief, friendly, welcoming manner. Provide also a date, location and time frame of the next meeting. Give a date when you would need to know if they plan on attending and cost, if any.

Be careful about excluding potential members by unnecessarily exclusive or subtly exclusive policies. Diversity brings a banquet of ideas, information and excitement to groups. Make sure also that meeting places are easy to find, handicapped accessible, and parking is safe and close to the meeting site.

Make meeting formats interesting with speakers at each meeting and special meetings annually to not only attract new members but keep existing members excited about being part of your group.

At a guest’s first meeting with your group, court your prospective member in these ways: ➢ The group leader should invite the visitor to sit at a table with a specially assigned ambassador whose focus stays on the prospective member and aims to foster the person making an informed decision about whether or not your group would make a good use of their ongoing time and financial investment

➢ When seated, the ambassador should introduce the visitor to everyone else at their table

➢ Before the meeting begins, the ambassador needs to explain how your meetings are run with some detail so the visitor knows what to expect and what is expected of a first-time visitor

➢ If the visitor is to give a brief group introduction, give suggested time guidelines and/or an example before the start of the meeting

➢ Soon after the meeting begins, all visitors should be introduced to your group

➢ During times of free table discussion, the ambassador encourages participation and should actively listen to what the visitor says, perhaps comment or ask a question so the visitor feels welcomed

➢ All officers and other members in attendance not at the visitor’s table should make it a point to introduce themselves to the visitor at some time

➢ Toward the end of the meeting, the ambassador should ask the visitor if there are questions about the group and if the visitor is interested in visiting again or joining the group

➢ If yes, this would be a good time to ask if the visitor would like a Membership Application and the cost if one is required

➢ If yes, one should be provided along with information about local chapter and national dues, if applicable, along with frequency of meeting, meeting costs and any other costs, including requests for various contributions during meetings

TURNOFFS

➢ Pushy chapter and verse on completing your membership form, monthly meeting cost, dues too early. This is equivalent to, “Hello, we love you, will you give us your money”

➢ Tables of all or mostly men or women to project a segregated atmosphere

➢ Asking a visitor too many questions. Remember, visitors know everything about themselves, they need information to make a decision about further involvement with your group

➢ Keep table conversations informative and friendly avoiding potentially polarizing religion and/or politics discussions

➢ Letting the member leave without an officer of the group thanking the visitor for coming to a first meeting, letting them know the group would welcome their completing a Membership Application if they feel comfortable considering membership in the group

➢ Every meeting having some kind of raffle or request for a contribution to something

I just attended a first meeting of a new local chapter of a national group I will not join. I knew two other first-timers, and at least one also will not return.

Groups are an investment of time and money. This group asks $500 a year. Every group needs to have a Visitor Welcoming Policy in place so each and every member feels responsible to personally make visitors feel welcome.