10 Tips for Making Less Social Members Comfortable at Events

Your association events are crucial. Getting in front of your members is important in keeping them engaged in your community. However, requesting the presence of some members at your association events can be a big ask when they suffer from social anxiety. Large gatherings can be a triggering event for them.

So, the question is – if they’re resistant to the idea of voluntarily involving themselves in a social get-together, how do you convince them to engage in an event? How do you engage with and stimulate commitment in members who have a tendency to evade face-to-face situations?

Below, we have provided 10 tips on how best to approach your association events, so your more socially reluctant members will feel comfortable and accommodated – and you will be able to achieve the level of engagement you are looking to accomplish.

It will go a long way in helping some members warm up to events by providing them with the what, when, where and how. The more details you can provide regarding what the theme of the event is, what day and time it will be held, the venue where it will occur and the manner(s) in which it can be accessed – the more acquainted members will be able to become ahead of the event. Providing certain members with more time to contemplate and familiarize themselves with the logistical details will empower them to self-soothe their concerns and normalize the idea of attending. Establishing the details of an event and communicating them to your membership is made easy with a comprehensive AMS. Guild has an easy to use event management component available in its solution. If you’d like to discuss how this feature can make your events a greater success, please click here to speak with a Guild representative or schedule a live demo.
Create an Event Forum
It doesn’t matter what platform you do this on, but make sure to create a pre-event forum thread where invitees can interact with association representatives, presenters, delegates and other member and non-member invitees. People that have trouble striking up conversation in person may have an easier time getting acquainted with their counterparts online. Enabling them to break the ice virtually will allow them to build their confidence and familiarity up enough that interacting with people while at the event will be made more likely and comfortable. Make sure not to deny your members any advantage they can gain, prior to the event, that will stimulate more engagement by empowering their resolve.
Publish a Detailed Itinerary
Prior to and during the event, provide your attendees with a detailed itinerary. Within the document, provide presenter bios, a rundown of all events (including times and locations), available services in the vicinity (cafes and markets), and a map clearly demarcating the various areas of interest for the event. Arming your attendees with this information will allow them to stave off any feelings of disorientation or aimlessness. Knowing where you can go to experience whatever it is you’re looking for, whether that’s a presentation, refreshment or quiet will allow people to remain calm throughout your event as they will always have their bearings and understand how to get where they want (or need) to be.
Introduce Presenters
Prior to your event, a great way to have your presenters familiarize themselves with your event invitees is to have each presenter author a brief introduction blog – sharing it on your association website and through your social media accounts. The style of the blog can be left up to their own preference. However, they should make sure to speak about who they are, where they come from, a bit about their personal life, their professional background and the topic they plan to address during their presentation at the upcoming event. Ensure you have a photo of each presenter to enclose in their content. Connecting words to a face is crucial in creating as much comfort with each speaker as possible, prior to them actually meeting people in person.
Clearly Mark Your Areas
I mentioned earlier that you should include a map within your provided itinerary – to ensure this map can be used effectively, your spaces should be designated with visible and easily understandable signage that tells attendees what station or area they are about to enter. This way, attendees can find what they are looking for without any delay or confusion. A sure way to stir up someone’s social anxiety is to get them all turned around – that’s the last thing you want to happen. Keep things simple and clear, so attendees can get to where they’re going without even having to ask. However, as a contingency, you should also have ample event staff / association representatives on-hand, in the case that someone looks lost or needs direction on how to get where they want to be.
Designate a Quiet Area
Your event should facilitate several closed off spaces that allow for “library voices”. While introverts will certainly appreciate the inclusion of this designated area (and will make use of it), other attendees who aren’t suffering from a bout of social anxiety will also enjoy ducking in for a bit of quiet and relaxation, from time to time. With so many people gathered in one space (no matter how large the venue), there’s bound to be quite a bit of noise. To many, that commotion can become overwhelming if they are forced to reside within it for too long. By providing quiet areas, you give people an out where they can escape to regulate their level of comfort.
Schedule Frequent Health Breaks
This is just common practice at all events now, since we are more aware of the mal-effects long periods of inactivity can cause. Scheduling a generous amount of health breaks will stimulate movement, keep people’s brains activated, break up any potential monotony that could set in, and encourage smaller groups of conversation to form (which is appealing to those who may be intimidated by larger groups).
Establish Social Media Conversations
There are those members who just aren’t comfortable interacting with people face-to-face, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, whether these members are in attendance (but won’t engage person to person), or are at home following the event through social media – they have value to add. Your association needs to have initiatives in place to ensure what they have to offer doesn’t go unnoticed. If the aren’t heard, it’s your association as a whole that will suffer. A fantastic way to include people who are less likely to interact in person is to establish and contribute to event conversations via social media. This is where setting up an event hashtag becomes important – to ensure people can follow along. Association representatives assigned to manage the social media activities for the event should make sure to get involved in as many conversations as they can that other attendees have started. However, they should also initiate discussions, post photos and videos, and conduct live streams. The more active your association can be during an event, the greater the engagement will be from those who prefer to interact online, as opposed to in person. Those who prefer online engagement will leave the event feeling a sense of social comradery and fulfillment that they would otherwise be unable to accomplish – should the social media activity be lacking.
Split Up Your Social Spaces
Whether it is a refreshments area, beverage counter, break room or dining hall – configure these spaces in a way that will encourage the dispersion of the crowd and the formation of smaller, more approachable groups. A large swath of people gathered can be intimidating for some and inconvenient for most. Separating your various social spaces into several stations will provide attendees with options and naturally cause the crowd to scatter – resulting in more manageable groupings. Aside from encouraging greater engagement from timid members, the quality of conversation will just be better for everyone. With smaller gatherings come less people, meaning more intimate discussions – not to mention, people won’t have to shoulder their way through a sea of colleagues just to get to the other side of the room.
Create Distractions
Beanbag toss, puzzles, mini putt, quick board games, colouring books, and arcade machines – all great additions to consider for your entertainment room. Some of your members will want to escape the crowds, but are even more terrified of the quiet room than they are of striking up a conversation. They need somewhere to escape to as well. However, they prefer a space where they can continue to be stimulated, but will distract them from the event proceedings for a short while. An entertainment or games room is perfect for that. What’s more, let’s make no bones about it – it’s just fun. As much as we like to act grown up, we all have a bit of childhood wonder in us. Games are an amusing distraction, will attract people and will keep your event on the cutting edge.

Every member of your association has something to offer. Each one has different professional experiences and insights. However, not every member is comfortable sharing that valuable information in a public or person to person way. That doesn’t mean they should be ignored or we should just throw our hands up in the air and say, “oh well”. It just means we need to work a bit harder to accommodate their preferences, because as much as they suffer for not getting to share their thoughts, your association will suffer all the more for not garnering what they have to say.

Make sure, at your next event, you exhaust every initiative to make it as simple as it can be for less social members to participate and engage in a way that is comfortable for them. With the value your association derives from their insight, you won’t be sorry.