I originally wrote this in January 2007 as a post to the DBARA Yahoogroup. I think it still applies today and offer it for your consideration.
How to Help DBARA (or any Ham Radio club) Grow
The latest rulings by the FCC are guaranteed to increase the number of new hams that we will see in the days to come. Each and EVERY DBARA member is a potential Elmer. Each and EVERY DBARA member can help welcome these newcomers to our hobby. Be assured that your experience and expertise will be valuable to someone.
How can you help? Here are specific steps you can take at every meeting. These can be done BY EVERY MEMBER, not just board members:
1. Help greet people as they come into the meeting hall.
Everyone who comes to one of our meetings is asked to sign in. If someone who signs in is a guest or visitor, we want to be sure they are warmly welcomed and given a “stick-on” name badge that clearly shows their name, call and visitor status. We need to clearly mark visitors so they can be welcomed warmly by everyone else.
2. If you see someone wearing one of these “stick-on” name badges, walk up to them, extend your hand and greet them.
You can say something like, “Welcome to DBARA! We’re glad you’re here!” We speak to strangers on the air all the time. I suspect that the “anonymous” nature of our on-the-air encounters helps to overcome our natural shyness. Being warmly outgoing and openly friendly is absolutely the most effective method of encouraging newcomers and visitors to visit us again. This has been clearly proven time and again by those who actually do these things.
We’ve all heard many times that giving a smile costs you nothing but returns many times the investment. Simply making newcomers and visitors feel welcome will do more to build DBARA membership than anything, yes, ANYTHING else we can do to build membership. If only half of those in attendance at any meeting were to make the effort to make a newcomer or visitor feel welcome, we would easily increase our membership by 10% a year. It’s that simple. Will you be one of the 50% who makes the effort? DBARA would become best known for being the friendliest club in Florida! That’s a worthy goal, wouldn’t you agree?
3. Engage a newcomer or visitor in conversation about them, not you. One of the most useful lessons I have learned in life is how to make friends instantly. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s really very simple. There are only two steps: (1) Learn their name and (2) ask questions that allow the other person to talk about themselves.
What is the one thing someone can say to you that instantly gets your attention? It’s your NAME, of course. What sweeter music is there? Learning someone’s name is easy once you develop a method that works for you. When you learn someone’s name and use it often, especially when you see that person again some time later, you have achieved a permanent bond with that person.
Who are the best conversationalists you know? Most likely they are the people who let you talk about yourself. Most likely they are the people who let you speak without interruption. We love to talk about ourselves. We rarely get a chance to do that. When we do, it’s a special occasion that stays in our memory. The secret to being considered a great conversationalist is to let the other person speak about themselves and listen carefully to what they say. If we do this with all newcomers and visitors to our meetings, we will become the most popular ham radio club in Florida.
4. Offer to help others.
The simple act of generously giving of one’s time is remarkably powerful. In DBARA we call our efforts to help each other, “Hams Helping Hams.” Today
it seems that most folks are consumed by the idea that it’s not appropriate to ask for help. “I didn’t want to BOTHER you,” is the single most frequently heard comment. So it is incumbent upon us to make it clear that we are willing to help. We can’t force ourselves upon someone who doesn’t want our help. Yet we need to make it abundantly clear to everyone that we stand ready to help if needed. How often have you heard, “If you want something done, ask the busiest person you know!”
In the last two years different groups of hams have helped erect towers, take down antennas, put up new antennas, helped people learn how to use their rigs, helped people understand the different modes of operation in ham radio and troubleshoot rig problems. DBARA is the single best resource for people who have questions or need assistance in the hobby. Are you willing to make yourself available? If so, tell me and I’ll add your name to the list of those who are willing to help.
5. Be courteous.
Is it me? Or are people a great deal more sensitive today than years ago? I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve said plenty of things to anger and offend people. This usually happens without my even being aware of it. I chalk this up to stupidity and inexperience. After losing a few friends and angering a few more folks, I’ve developed the habit of thinking very carefully before I say anything.
Words are incredibly powerful. Once uttered, they cannot be taken back. A wise person once said,”Make all your words sweet for someday you may have to eat them.” Another axiom to which I subscribe is, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing.” Both of these have helped me greatly. My feet have spent less time in my mouth as a result. The reward is the many new friends I have gained through DBARA and Ham Radio.
Once we get to know someone better, we can more easily gauge their level of sensitivity to the jabs and gags we are so prone to toss at each other. This familiarity is gained across time. With the extraordinarily high levels of sensitivity evident today, crossing a minefield can be easier than getting to know someone well enough to call them a friend. Yet our mission, as a club, is to build friendships and share the joys of the hobby together. Getting to know each other well enough to call ourselves friends is the best way to build the club’s membership and build a cadre of Hams willing to help other Hams.
We must make newcomers and visitors to DBARA meetings feel welcome. Since we usually don’t know these folks well, we have to choose our words carefully to insure that we welcome without being condescending, intimidating or patronizing. This is the greatest challenge there is, at least to me. I have fought a lifelong battle against this trio of friendship killers. Being able to come across as genuine, real and caring is the single greatest challenge I face. I’m still not there yet but I keep trying.
Now that the code test has been removed from the Ham Radio testing process, we must tread even more carefully to avoid offending others. The recent e-storm we experienced on the DBARA Yahoogroup is clear evidence that we must do all we can to be class-blind and code-blind. As far as I’m concerned the subject is strictly taboo until the other person brings it up and even then I will tread cautiously.
So what has worked well for me? The steps I have laid out above have won me many new friends in the club:
A warm smile
A hearty handshake
A genuine welcome to the meeting
Learning their name and offering to help
are the basic components of my (so far) successful strategy for welcoming newcomers and visitors to our meetings.
I guarantee you will enjoy the same success if you choose to do these things as well. If you feel DBARA deserves to survive and grow, these simple steps will help you help the club. We are all in this together. The hobby is much more fun when we have others with which to share it. Only by helping the club survive and grow will we all experience this measure of joy.
Come to the next meeting and give these suggestions a try. Let me know if they work for you as well as they have worked for me.
Frank N. Haas KB4T