Tip: Use a buddy system to welcome conference newbies

by Adrian Segar

It’s smart to make first-time conference attendees feel as welcome as possible. Here’s an easy way to do this.

For the last few years I’ve been organizing a buddy system to welcome conference newbies (who typically form about a quarter of the registrations) to the annual edACCESS conference. A month before the event I set up a page on the private edACCESS conference wiki that contains a table of first-time attendees, the name of their organization, and their email address. I send the page link to returning attendees and ask them to pick a first-timer to buddy with. I explain that a buddy’s duties are to:

  • add their name and email information to the table, so we know that the newbie now has a buddy.
  • contact their chosen first-timer before the conference, introduce themselves and offer to answer any questions they have.
  • offer to meet their first-timer at the beginning of the conference and answer any further questions/be generally helpful as appropriate.

That’s it. These are not onerous duties, and returning edACCESS attendees have been happy to comply. The first-time attendees I’ve spoken to have been happy to be contacted in advance by a returning attendee, and though they usually have few questions, they have been extremely surprised, pleased and appreciative to have a veteran attendee offer guidance, if needed.

Happy first-timers are much more likely to return. Giving them a pre-conference buddy contact to introduce them to an event and answer any questions is a simple way to make a great first impression. Mom probably told you that first impressions count for a lot. She was right. That’s why this tip works!

Photo attribution: Flickr user babageik

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