It’s extremely hard to build inclusive communities. Communities where a stranger can come and take part of the discussion without feeling like a weirdo or an impostor. Communities where members do not feel ashamed of not welcoming newcomers too! From my experience these last weeks — I attended a few technical meetups in Montreal — I can say that it’s always hard to be the one not knowing anybody :-).
A few things I’d give a try as a community:
- have a dedicated group of very inclusive people at the entrance that targets new people and give some directions, the group can rotate during the event but should be labeled as it one way or another.
- have a way to identify newcomers, stickers, funny hats, whatever. The community should know that these people will feel lonely for their first time.
- have a place to introduce yourself as a newcomer before the event for everybody else to know why you’re here and what’s your background.
- have some kind of “icebreaker” that attributes a voluntary mentor for each new people. Even if that’s symbolic, it’s good to know that there is a person that you can bother during the event.
With these propositions, you will definitely feel more vulnerable as a newcomer. But hopefully, the fact to be explicitly recognized as a new member of the community will drive more care and attention toward you from all the other members. And I hope there are more people willing to include you than to bully you. Otherwise that’s probably not the community you’re looking for anyway.