Tips From The Coworking Community: Welcoming New Members

Welcome New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space

In our casual culture, the art of welcoming someone into a new situation seems to have gone the way of the newspaper or the hand-written note: it’s nice, but who has the time?

What we must remember as a global community is that while coworking may be as familiar as sending a text message, the idea of shared workspaces is still odd and sometimes intimidating for new or potential members. Since we’re all interested in growing our coworking spaces into sustainable communities and businesses, it seems that retaining new members plays a big part in our collective success.

I started wondering how that “first impression” of coworking plays a part in new members feeling like they belong. Are we missing an opportunity to create a lasting relationship by assuming that people can figure it out themselves? I asked 10 coworking space owners around the country to share their onboarding process for new members, and thoughts about whether or not it played a roll in new members becoming permanent members. Here’s a summary of what they said–I hope it will help us all be become better hosts and communities!

First, all of the space owners or managers that replied acknowledged that they had an onboarding process, though some were more formal than others. Alex Hillman of Indy Hall said, “the only theme I can speak to concretely is the importance of having an “Indy Hall moment” (IHM). It varies from person to person, and usually involves making a personal (non-professional) connection with at least one other member. When somebody goes longer here without having an IHM, the possibility of them not sticking around long-term increases. Looking at our last 6 months of member exits, the only people we’ve really lost were people who never got a chance to “buy in”, which is the main result of the IHM.”

I think most of us can agree that there was a moment when something unexpectedly cool or helpful occurred while we were coworking. This “moment” helped us decide that coworking was something good, and that we wanted more of it in our life. Of course, you have to feel comfortable enough in the space to reach out or participate in that moment, which is why there needs to be a process for encouraging new members to “take off their coat and stay a while.”

Liz Elam from Link Coworking shared her process for getting new members settled in, which included everything from a welcome folder to help them get acquainted with the space and surrounding area to the creation of a member profile on their website.

“Once they have the folder in their hands we ring a bell and everyone claps, whoops etc.,” said Elam. “I do think it makes a difference.  They feel like they’re part of something and official.” Elam also takes the time to introduce new members around and when a few join at one time she hosts a happy hour/mixer so current members can connect with new members. “I also recommend that they introduce themselves on Mavenlink (we use their networking feature for members to communicate) and toss out a question for members to ask them,” she said.

Most of us have member profiles on our websites, but as Craig Baute of Creative Density pointed out, making a literal member wall is an easy to spark conversation and make the community aware of new members.

“The member wall [has] fun facts about people and what they do. I notice several people drift over to it once a week or so to see if any new people are part of Creative Density. I also announce new members on the white board and remind people to give them a high-five. Overall, members pay attention and notice when new members are listed and seek them out so that this helps introduce people into the community.”

Baute also had an interesting suggestion about assigned seating for the first few days of membership:

” I recommend that new members spend a day at our high-top table where conversations usually flow and people quickly build relationships. Most members do spend a day or two at the high-top before moving off to the larger coworking floor with low tables and they end up being part of the community quicker because of it. If they don’t, I join them for half a day in the room that they choose. I figure everyone is pretty comfortable with me since I’m here all day and I might spark a conversation or connection.”

Although the general consensus seems to be that yes, having a process–however quirky–for welcoming new members makes a big difference in how quickly they become comfortable in the community, it doesn’t guarantee that they will fall in love and stay forever.

“As I think about the real life examples of the people who have done well and not so well here, I’m increasingly of the belief that the work we do in the beginning is less relevant than the person and their needs and expectations,” said Tony Bacigalupo of New Work City. “I think the onboarding is critical as a way of informing and empowering the people who will thrive and contribute, while it is less valuable to those who are more or less destined to not get much out of the experience in the first place.”

So if you’re planning new member soiree’s but people still drop out after a month or two: like we’ve said before, coworking isn’t for everyone, and its important for your community to coalesce organically. Don’t force it, factilitate it.

One key to truly facilitating a welcoming atmosphere is getting the rest of the community involved. You can hold a new member mixer, but if no one attends, it won’t feel that welcoming. You can introduce new members out loud in the middle of the space, but if everyone immediately replaces their head phones or returns to their private conversations, it’ll make the new kid want to bail as quickly as possible.

Sit down with some of your permanent members, and get them talking about their “aha” moment in the coworking community. Ask them who or what made that impression on them, and then get them thinking about how they could help make that happen for a new member. Encourage people to leave their go-to desk for a seat next to a new member; find out what their favorite lunch spot is and organize a group lunch; or simply make a point to ask them (by name) for feed-back when bouncing ideas around the room.

Also, if you or a staff member isn’t always there to welcome new members personally, make sure your community feels empowered to explain the little things that make a big difference on the first day: i.e. the grand tour, how to get online, guidelines for conference room usage, hours, printing, online resources, phone calls, keys/how to lock up, etc.

And of course, we’re all still figuring this out. There is no perfect combination of actions that will guarantee a new member will stay forever. “There’s a natural barrier to joining a new group and it’s important to overcome that and welcome people in,” said Jacob Sayles of Office Nomads. “I also think it’s easy to get comfortable and not approach each new member as something new because ‘new members’ come in all the time. Consistency supposedly helps that out but we are still working out the best ways of doing all this.”

On that note, let’s hear some ideas!

What was your AHA moment when you joined your coworking community?

How can coworking space owners/managers create the best environment for new members to have their own “coworking moment”?

5 Tips To Get Non-Writers Writing

Ever heard the saying, content is King?

Most of us work, find clients, and communicate with our peers via the internet. The key to finding success on the internet is making it easy to be found at all. And what do search engines use to find, rank, and list us? Content. Words. Copy.

For those who write for a living, the idea of putting together fresh content full of relevant keywords and tag lines is a no-brainer. But for the rest of us, a single blog post can bring on a day of agony.

If you’ve got a stagnant blog, a boring home page, or just want to build your credibility by guest posting on respected industry blogs, here are some tips to shake off that writer’s block.

1. Find your writing time and stick with it. Some people feel their creative juices flowing at 2 am, some have to write first thing in the morning or they’ll get distracted.

2. Keep track of your ideas. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your computer only to stare at the blinking cursor, wishing words would appear. Writing is hard, and forcing it when you’re not inspired is torture. Find a way to record ideas for post topics as they occur to you. Then when it’s time to write, you’ve got a little pool of inspiration to choose from.

3. Minimize on screen and real life distractions. How many tabs do you have open at this very second? How many message alerts, social media mentions, or Skype conversations are vying for your attention as you try to write? It may sound unorthodox, but try closing every non-essential program while you write. Fewer distractions means you’ll start writing faster, and sustain your ideas until the writing is done.

4. Create an outline. Maybe your 7th grade English teacher DID know what she was talking about. Get all your ideas out of your head and on to a piece of paper. Then, start organizing them from most to least important, or some other order that makes sense for your audience. Making an outline can show you where the holes are in your thought process, and help to eliminate unnecessary information.

5. Turn off your internal editor. Just write the words. Forget spelling, grammar, and whether you’re using the passive or active voice. Those tweaks happen after all the pressing points are on the page. Just blurt it out. Hurl it at the wall. Slowly, the crap will fall away, and you’ll see the real nuggets of information that will make your writing useful.

6. Experiment with different formats: interview, Q&A, lists. Blog posts and especially copy, doesn’t have to be exhaustive. It doesn’t have to be 400-500 words. It doesn’t have to be anything other than interesting and relevant. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be you that does all the talking. If three sentences and a bullet list get your point across efficiently, your readers will thank you for saving them the trouble.

I know we’ve got lots of talented writers at Cohere. Care to share one of your secrets for jump starting a writing project?

Image Credit: Flickr – Alyssa Miller

5 Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

Five Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

It’s the New Year. You’ve set your goals, and created your budgets. You’re ready to grow your business, but you’re a little low on inspiration. Or you still don’t know the answer to that nagging business/organizational/house-keeping question. Where can you turn?

Of course, the first place you should turn is the collection of creative minds sitting all around you as you cowork. But what about when your question stumps the coworkers as well? Ask the blogs.

We talk about, write, and link to blogs all the time, but how many of you are seeking out blogs that could actually make you a better freelancer? Here are 5  that should be added to your reader ASAP.

Freelance Switch This extremely popular blog–over 35,000 subscribers and multiple writers–includes advice, news and opinions for freelance workers, such as this insightful post on nurturing relationships with clients you’d like to keep. Also on Freelance Switch: forums and podcasts.

The Berkun Blog This Scott Berkun is a real hot shot hero to the technically inclined, but check out the archived blog entries–there’s stuff here for nearly every creatives freelancer, especially this lesson from a Dr. Seuss book.

Freelancers Union This union resource blog deals with the ethical and labor issues of contract work–including these thoughts on whether or not freelancers should lower their rates just because their clients are struggling.

Webworkerdaily: This blog tackles issues about productivity and other day-to-day issues in the freelance writing world.  It has advice on topics such as “Tackling Big Projects and Getting Things Done.”

Essentialkeystrokes: Check out this blog for general advice about freelancing, and about working on your computer.  It has useful posts such as “13 Ways to Move Big Files on the Web” as well as many others.

Thanks to oDesk (which runs a pretty snazzy blog for freelancers itself) and GuideToCareerEducation for these clips.

Image Credit: Flickr – filipe93

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