Welcome Wagon

Massive thanks to Christy and Leona for compiling this document!

What is the Welcome Wagon?

The Welcome Wagon 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: https://www.writethedocs.org/conf/na/2017/welcome-wagon/

This document outlines the key elements of the Welcome Wagon 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!

As a Welcome Wagon volunteer, you represent WTD before and during the conference to make the conference smooth for first-time attendees, to answer questions, and to run the Welcome Wagon events.

Your most important function as a Welcome Wagon volunteer is to be 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.

The Welcome Wagon volunteers have previously attended a Write the Docs conference and, ideally, are locals to the city where the conference is held.


These are the Welcome Wagon events that you will coordinate and run at the Write the Docs conference.

  • Meet and Greet
    • What: A short introduction to the Welcome Wagon and reviews how to get the most out of the conference with first-time attendees.
    • Where: In a space close to the Opening Reception, but not in the same room (so you don’t have to shout over the party). For example, at the Portland WTD, the Meet and Greet happens in the Crystal Ballroom while the Opening Reception happens downstairs in Lola’s room. In Prague, the Meet and Greet happens in the foyer in front of the cloakroom, while the Opening Reception happens upstairs.
    • When: The beginning of the Opening Reception.
  • Venue tour
    • What: This is a tour of the venue so first-timers can find their way around.
    • Where: Meet in a central place, like near the registration table.
    • When: The first morning of the conference, about 30 minutes before the opening remarks.
  • Unconference (Optional)
    • What: Schedule an unconference for any first-time attendees who missed the Meet and Greet. For smaller conferences, consider this event optional; if attendance in venue tours is low, then you may want to skip this and make yourself available for questions in a high-traffic area instead.
    • Where: Any unconference table.
    • When: First unconference session available on the first day of the conference.
  • Check-in
    • What: This event is a short meetup in the morning on the second day of the conference to check in with first-time attendees.
    • Where: Someplace visible to arriving attendees, such as near the registration desk.
    • When: The second morning of the conference, about 30 minutes before the first talk.

What do I need to do before the conference?

  • Get access to the WTD Trello board, and add cards to track Welcome Wagon tasks.
  • Decide the time and place for all Welcome Wagon events.
  • Submit pull requests to the writethedocs/www GitHub repo to update the conference website information.
    • Change the locations, dates, and times for Welcome Wagon events in the Welcome Wagon guide.
    • Add Welcome Wagon events to the main conference schedule.
  • Contact the WTD communications team and ask them to include links to the Welcome Wagon info in conference emails.
    • Something new to try: ask the WTD team if a checkbox field could be added to WTD registration, which attendees can select if they are first-time attendees. Get the list of first-time attendees, and send them an email about Welcome Wagon events.
    • If the above isn’t an option, ask the WTD team if one of the conference newsletters could be focused on Welcome Wagon events.
  • Maintain a presence in the #wtd-conferences, #welcomewagon, and city-specific Slack channel.
  • Coordinate with the design team to print Welcome Wagon signs that reflect the dates and times of each Welcome Wagon event.
  • Summarize info from the Welcome Wagon guide and prepare notes to have on hand during the Meet and Greet.
  • Depending on the size of the conference, arrange for more Welcome Wagon volunteers for the Meet and Greet.

What do I need to do during the conference?

Meet and Greet

  • Arrive at least 30 minutes before the Meet and Greet and make sure the signs are posted.
  • If you think you’ll need one, arrange to have a microphone in the Meet and Greet room.
  • Right before the Meet and Greet starts, ask the keeper of the triangle to sweep the Opening Reception to invite any first-time attendees to join in the Meet and Greet.
  • When you start the Meet and Greet, introduce yourself and the Welcome Wagon events.
  • If there are more than about a dozen attendees, split up the attendees into smaller groups and have each Welcome Wagon volunteer lead a group: review all of the information from your notes, take questions, and have first-time attendees introduce themselves to each other.
  • At the end of the Meet and Greet, each volunteer should walk with their group to the Opening Reception. This is also a good time for a tour of the venue.
  • 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 Write the Docs?” 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, then let them be.

Conference venue tour

  • Wait at the meeting place for a group to collect.
  • Give a quick tour of the conference venue and a short review of conference events.
  • Take any questions.

Unconference (Optional)

  • Schedule an unconference for the first session available on the first day.
  • Review information from the Meet and Greet and answer any questions.


  • Wait in the place you scheduled for the check-in.
  • Ask first-time attendees how their first day went. See if they have any new questions for their second day.

Ongoing Support

  • For the rest of the conference, be a recognizable face who is always available for questions and to help.
  • Sometimes, first-time attendees are nervous to start an unconference session or give a lightning talk. Be encouraging and supportive to first-timers, and volunteer to attend their unconference, if it would help.
  • Attend all evening WTD social events so you can help get conversations started for new attendees.
  • Since you will be meeting many of the attendees, if you meet two people with similar interests, you can make an introduction and facilitate conversation. If there are any other ways you come up with to curate connections, pass on your ideas!