Organising Humanism: Engaging people at events

At least 70% of human communication takes place in the non-verbal form, and face-to-face.

An organisation that is well-presented online will still leave a bad impression if they handle real life meetings poorly.

Internal surveys have revealed that some newcomers find Humanist Society a cold and unwelcoming place. Humanists often hang around to familiar faces and do not welcome newcomers.

Such feedback has persisted over the years, although individual Humanists have made an effort to socialise.

At Humanist Society gatherings, longtime excos should make an effort to “cold mingle”. Just as “cold calls” involve touching base to strangers via phone calls, “cold mingles” involve touching base with strangers via social introductions in-person.

Humanists must learn to parachute themselves into a bunch of newcomers and introduce themselves and the Society with confidence.

Before coming to the social event, please ensure:

  1. You are dressed well. No need to be very formal or grand, but decently.
  2. You do not stink. Do not underestimate how much damage it can do at social events. Change to a fresh shirt if you know you are coming in a sweaty state. This is important especially if you are an exco or regular volunteer.
  3. You are in a good position to socialise. It is okay not to socialise if you are too busy, or not feeling well. Don’t force it because there are many future opportunities.

These are some ways to start a conversation with a Humanist newcomer: 

  1. If the newcomer is alone, greet the person confidently and shake his/her hand (proper grip is important).
  2. Introduce your name and ask about the newcomer’s name.
  3. Ask if his/her first time here, and how did he/she find out about the Society (this helps you get a sense of where your message is going).
  4. Ask “what do you do?” instead of “where do you study or work”. It can be offensive.
  5. If the person is within a group, gradually slide into the group. Smile and listen.
  6. Listen to the conversation and carefully find an opportunity to add a point. Do not interrupt the conversation forcefully.
  7. Whenever you have opportunities, as an exco, give a quick overview of the Society to the newcomer. Perhaps 5-10 lines. Introduce the main figures running the Society.
  8. Do not let the person enter and leave the HSS without seeing the big picture, knowing the main folks in charge. 
  9. The newcomer could be meeting people who are not representative of the Society and getting a wrong impression.