Creating a welcoming environment Put yourself in the shoes of someone coming along to your group for the first time, someone who might be apprehensive about walking into a room of complete strangers and taking part in a creative activity that they haven’t tried before. Some simple strategies can be put in place to help this person feel at ease- see below for some useful guidance. Signposting - Make sure your event is clearly signposted, as there may be people attending that have never been in the space before. For example – if meeting in a community centre, put some information at the front desk and use arrows to lead people to your event. Meet and greet - Appoint someone in your group to be the ‘Meeter and Greeter‘ who is responsible for welcoming people as they arrive. This could also include showing them where to sit, pointing out where the facilities are and answering any questions about the event. Name labels - This can be as simple as getting people to write their name on a sticky label when they arrive that they can wear during the event. This will help people remember each others names and can also be used to flag up current members and their role within the group. Hand-outs - Holding a public event is a great way to introduce new people to your organisation, why not take this opportunity to hand-out information about your group to new people as they arrive. This could be a leaflet or print-out that includes details of upcoming workshops/meet-ups and how to join. Layout - The set up of the space can dramatically affect how people experience your event. For example, if you are running a workshop, make sure the chairs and tables are set up in a way that encourages people to feel included, check that everyone can see/hear what the workshop tutor is doing/saying and encourage members of the group to spread out and introduce themselves to any newbies. It is also worth remembering that people may have individual accessibility requirements that differ from the layout you choose. In this situation it pays to be flexible and accommodating - see the section on accessibility below for more information and advice. Refreshment break - Don’t underestimate the importance of a tea/coffee break. This can be a good opportunity for some networking and for new people to ask any burning questions they might have. If refreshments or food is available at your event, be sure to advertise this on your publicity as it could tempt a few more people, for example those coming straight from work. When providing refreshments and/or food it is important to cater for different dietary requirements, you can gather this information when people book or if booking isn’t required, be sure to have a few different options available. Cater for mixed abilities - If holding a 'come and try' style workshop, it's worth noting that there may be people with different levels of experience in attendance. If this is the case, it is worth recognising this at the beginning of your event and letting everyone know that this is an open workshop for mixed abilities. Some guidance on when questions can be asked might also be useful i.e. ‘please feel free to ask questions throughout and I will do my best to answer’ or ‘there will be some time at the end for questions’. To cater for different learning styles, it might also be useful to create an instruction sheet that people can refer to during the workshop and take away at the end. For more ideas and advice download the Voluntary Arts Briefing, ‘Welcoming newcomers to your group‘.