Welcome Wagon

Massive thanks to Christy and Leona for compiling this document!

What is the Welcome Wagon?

The Welcome Wagon (WW) is an initiative to help make first-time attendees feel, well... welcome!

The Welcome Wagon includes published pre-conference tips and tricks that attendees can read to prepare, as well as on-site orientation and activities that introduce attendees to the venue, city, and each other. You can see an example here: http://www.writethedocs.org/conf/na/2017/welcome-wagon/

This document outlines the key elements of the WW and aims to help volunteers run it smoothly and effectively.

Who Runs the Welcome Wagon?

If you’re the Welcome Wagon volunteer, welcome and thank you for running this!

You should be able to manage the WW independently, instead of needing to rely on other organizers for direction. You should be available before and during the conference to answer questions from first-time attendees and during the conference to run the events.

The most important thing that you can express is that you are available for any questions or any help at any time. You are a recognizable face that can make the conference easy and fun for first-timers.

Ideally, the Welcome Wagon volunteers should be locals to the city where the conference is run, and have previously attended a Write the Docs conference.

Before the conference

  • Update the Welcome Wagon guide on the conference Website based on the location and events. The best way to do this is to submit a PR to the * WWW GitHub repo.
  • Coordinate with the communications team to make sure they include links to the Welcome Wagon info in conference emails, and encourage first-time attendees to reach out to the Welcome Wagon with questions.
  • Maintain a presence in the #wtd-conferences and city-specific Slack channels to welcome anyone who announces that it is their first conference and in case any first-time attendees have questions. Note: We tried a Welcome Wagon Slack channel the first year, but there wasn’t much activity in it. Welcome Wagon volunteers should monitor it in case new attendees join and have questions.
  • Schedule the Meet and Greet and the Conference Tour activities, and publish them to the Website.
  • Coordinate with the design team to print Welcome Wagon signs. The text is included in a spreadsheet that is managed by the design team and should be modified to reflect the dates and times of each conference activity.
  • During the Writing Day, post signs for the Meet and Greet and the conference tours.

During the Conference

Meet and Greet

The Welcome Wagon Meet and Greet should start at the beginning of the Opening Reception. Schedule the meet-and-greet in a separate space than the Opening Reception, so that the Welcome Wagon volunteers can speak to the attendees without having to shout over a party.

It would be ideal if the Welcome Wagon volunteers have a microphone to use when speaking at the Meet and Greet. There are often a lot of attendees, and it is important that everyone can hear.

Make sure to take notes of what you want to cover on notecards before the day of the event. Your introduction speech should include information from the Welcome Wagon page on the website, focusing on where things are and what the attendees can do.

You should arrive 30 minutes before the Meet and Greet starts to make sure the signs are in place and to prep for the event, practicing what they want to say. Right before the Meet and Greet starts, do a quick sweep of the Opening Reception room and invite anyone there to join in the Meet and Greet.

When you start the Meet and Greet, introduce yourself and review the info that you prepped for the event. You can ask the attendees to turn to their neighbors and other fellow first-timers, introduce themselves, and know that they are not alone.

Ask for questions. People always have great questions!

At the end of the Meet and Greet, everyone walks to the Opening Reception together.

At the Opening Reception, Welcome Wagon volunteers, if they are comfortable with it, can approach attendees who are alone to help make them feel involved at the event. A great icebreaker is, “Is this your first conference?” Even if it isn’t, it is a good way to get a conversation started. If the attendee seems comfortable not talking or being alone at the event, by all means, let them be.

Conference Tour

The conference tour should start 30 minutes before the conference begins and finish 5 minutes before the conference begins on the first day.

Tours should focus on where things are but should also include what attendees can do and any other helpful information from the Welcome Wagon guide.

You should arrive to the conference when registration opens to get breakfast, introduce yourself to first-timers, and prep for the tours.

Closer to the tour start time, wait at the tour meeting place, and once a small group gathers, one of the volunteers should start a tour with that group while the other one waits for another group to gather. Once a second group gathers, the second volunteer can start a tour.

During the tour, make sure to introduce yourself again, review the info that you prepped, and walk the attendees around the venue. Be ready to take questions and let attendees know that you are always available for questions.

Ongoing Support

For the rest of the conference, Welcome Wagon volunteers should be recognizable faces who are always available for questions and to help.

Sometimes, first-time attendees are nervous to start an unconference session or give a lightning talk, and Welcome Wagon volunteers should be encouraging and help first-timers go for it, if they are comfortable.

Welcome Wagon volunteers should attend all evening WTD social events so they can help get conversations started for new attendees.

Since Welcome Wagon volunteers will be meeting many of the attendees, if you meet two people with similar interests, you can make an introduction and facilitate conversation.