Friday, December 15, 2017

On Being a New Girl

As we recently moved house I thought that I should check out the local family history group so I joined up and attended several of their monthly meetings. This group is managed by a dedicated and energetic of volunteers.

Being a new member of a group is an interesting exercise. Like the new kid at school I am observing the other members and learning about the culture of the place. I am trying to be respectful of the members and the quirks of the organisation. Biting my tongue does not come easily.

I felt lost and lonely at the first couple of meetings, I'm not good at going up to new people and starting conversations; while I am quite talkative in familiar surroundings I am a shrinking violet in the company of strangers. Several months down the track I have learnt the names of some key people, can find the toilet and know the routine for grabbing a cuppa. It is so easy to overlook a quiet new genie sitting in the corner seemingly absorbed in her own thoughts.

Can you spot the wallflower?
When the editor of the newsletter heard that I was a blogger she asked me to write an article on blogging for that publication so I did. A few people have since asked me about blogging. Last month when I was presenting a talk at Forster up north there were two members from my new group in the audience. They reported on my gig to someone back in my new group and, as a result, I was asked to deliver a Trove workshop last week. All of a sudden I feel that I belong as everyone now knows my name and a bit about me.I am lucky that I was given these chances to share. New members who are beginning genies would not have similar opportunities.

This whole experience made me realise how important it is to nurture our new members. I need to do better in the groups in which I am an established member.

Do you give new members an orientation of your premises and services?  Do you describe simple procedures like signing-in and collecting the newsletter? What opportunities do you provide for new members to tell others about themselves? Do you ask your new members to fill out a profile sheet? Do you highlight them in your newsletter? Ask them to tell a little about themselves in your meetings? Does your website answer those questions new people might have? Do you have a buddy system for new members? Actively draw newbies into groups and conversations? Scan the room for wallflowers?

New members are precious - they are the future of our organisations. 


9 comments:

Randy Seaver said...

It is difficult for me to think of you as a wallflower. The geneabloggers community knows you as a vivacious, outgoing, smart and fun genealogist in our little "world."

I can relate to your feelings because I had them many years ago, and still do in a new-for-me group.

Thanks for writing this - it will be useful for many of us.

Alona Tester said...

Great post Jill, and always something for current members to keep in mind.

Fran Kitto said...

Two nice things that happened when I joined Caloundra Family History Research. A "buddy" phoned and check out if I needed help now or in the future and they presented me with a book of very useful information.

Teresa Eckford said...

I am much like you - fine with a group I know, but very shy when I'm the new girl. Sounds like you've found a great new group :) I would love to see your Trove workshop - I'm a big fan of Trove! It's helped me with several of my Australian lines.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

I’m pleased you were so honest here Jill, because it highlights that even those who seem outgoing can be nervous or withdrawn in a new group...I’m usually the same as a newbie. As Fran says, Caloundra FH is very inclusive and I’ve been extremely impressed with how they thank everyone and how they are such a welcoming group. Of course I was lucky to have my blogging mate Fran to lead the way. Genimates are great!

Jill Ball said...

Thanks all for your comments and what a wonderful practice at Caloundra. Would love to see otheres replicate it.

Hilary Gadsby said...

Last year I decided to start going to my local genealogy group. They meet once a month on a Monday evening.
I checked out the website and went to the first meeting. I had been in contact with the secretary beforehand and decided I would try to get to know the members.
It is a small group part of a larger group for the county.
The group are all older than me. Although members use the internet at home I think the group are set in their ways.
Most of the other groups in the county hold their meetings in Welsh and the county journal is also in Welsh.
To add to this the church hall where the meetings are held is cold with no internet access available.
After the last meeting in March or April I was not sure whether to continue going. The speakers were varied and I did join in with the members evening. They need to do something if they want to attract younger members especially anyone who has research outside the local area.
I have not been to a meeting since they started back and am still debating whether to give them another chance.
Venue, topics and group dynamics can all impact on first impressions and even seasoned genealogists can feel out of their comfort zone when these are not right.

Jane Taubman said...

Glad to hear you are settling in to your new group, I have been debating for years (about 25), about going to the local meetings for the Somerset & Dorset society. Not got there yet.

Like you I am not good in groups I don't know and take a while to become comfortable.

When I was a girl guide (back in the dark ages) we used to assign a guide to each new member as a "welcomer" so she would make sure the new one knew how things worked etc. Perhaps that would work for group meetings as well.

Sharon said...

Amazing! I wouldn't have thought of you as a shrinking violet.

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