Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Maximizing your Meeting Experience!

We have previously written blogs describing for you what happens at a babywearing meeting (check out this and this). As leaders, it is our goal to help YOU make our meetings a more helpful and enjoyable experience.  BWI of DC-MD-VA is an ever changing organization. Our leaders change, our membership changes, our needs change, and we do our best to roll with it and come out ahead. In an effort to respond to the needs of our attendees (and potential attendees), we have collected some survey data about your experiences at our meetings. We are actively discussing and experimenting with some of your suggestions already!  At our most recent meeting, we tried a signup sheet for one-on-one help to see if that allows our VBEs to better meet the needs of those seeking support. We will continue trying out other ideas and responding to your suggestions.  

One thing we have learned is that many of you would like to know what you can do to help make our meetings better!  Here is our list of suggestions to help you get the most out of our meetings.  We’re calling this, “Maximizing Your Meeting Experience!” (Exciting, isn’t it?!)

  1. Let us know you’re coming. Please RSVP to the meeting events on Facebook, if you can. A
    rough estimate of attendees allows us to allocate our leaders appropriately.  When we are expecting a large turnout, our volunteer leaders have been known to rearrange their schedules in order to give better coverage to help you, but if you decide at the last minute to come to the meeting and haven’t RSVPed, that is 100% fine!  Come!  We’d love to have you.

  1. Communicate special requests in advance.  If you have a special request to try a certain carrier, please post your request online in our FSOT and Chatter Group. We have a broad variety of carriers available in our six carrier libraries, and not every library has the same carriers available. If you ask in advance, we can point you to the right meeting (and sometimes our volunteer leaders can even ferry it behind-the-scenes to the meeting you’re already planning to attend, if time and availability permits).

  1. Bring the carriers that you already own. Our motto is, “practice not product.”  If you own a carrier, bring it! We have a working knowledge of just about every carrier out there, and we’ll do whatever we can to help you with your carrier. Our primary goal is to help you be successful with what you already own.  When needed, we’ll offer suggestions if there is something else that might truly be a better fit. We don’t sell anything, and we don’t stand to benefit from you spending more money. So bring those carriers! If you don’t own anything, that’s ok, too! Come! We have plenty for you to try out.

  1. Plan ahead for your kids. Kids of all ages are welcome at our meetings. Please come with whatever you need to keep your child(ren) happy: snacks, drinks, toys, books, whatever that may be. We ask that it be quiet and not messy (we do often meet in libraries, after all). The libraries have Wifi, so portable devices are an option. If your child has a special toy that would be stressful to share, consider leaving that in the car. When packing snacks, please avoid nut products and be aware that many of our participants have food allergies (especially nut, gluten and dairy).  We ask that you keep snacks contained (within arm’s reach to limit your child leaving food or drink where someone else could pick it up), and avoid sharing or offering snacks or drinks to other children.

  1. Make yourself comfortable. We don’t always set up chairs, as whatever we take out we have to put back and many of our volunteer leaders have to leave as soon as the meeting is finished. If you would like a chair, grab one! Sit on the floor. Lean against a wall.  Put a blanket down on the floor.  Whatever makes you comfortable!  Join us.  If you come in late, that’s fine.  Just slide right in.

  1. Put your child’s needs first. Feel free to parent your child.  Our leaders will sometimes have to pause instruction or conversation in order to parent their own children, and we understand that you may need a break to do the same.  You are welcome to breastfeed, bottle feed, stand and sway with your baby, take a child to the restroom, whatever you need to do.  The children are why we’re here, after all. Please know that many of our leaders are stay at home moms or are working moms with some schedule flexibility, so we often have our children with us, too.  Our leaders have kids that range from newborn to 12 years old.  Many of us couldn’t volunteer to teach you if we couldn’t bring our kids with us.  Our leaders and attendees will also have older children that they need to bring, especially when school is not in session. We all try our best to keep older children calm and contained, but towards the end of the meeting especially, their patience may be wearing thin, hunger is setting in, and things can get a bit rough. It’s frustrating and nerve wracking for all of us!  Please bear with us. If you see a safety concern, inform one of the leaders and/or the parent of the child.

  1. Speak up. Ask questions!  We love questions. We will periodically pause from instruction and ask if there are any general questions. We can handle more specific or in depth questions when we begin our one-on-one support after our basic overview instruction. We do try to get to everyone in turn. When possible, we like to work in small groups to maximize our meeting time and share more varied information. Sometimes true one-on-one assistance is needed and we will do our best to be available for that. Please speak up and ask for what you need. It isn’t rude!  If you ever need us to repeat something, we’re happy to do it. If you asked for help and we didn’t get back to you, remind us. We are not intentionally ignoring you.  You did not annoy us.  We probably just got sidetracked with all the competing demands at a meeting.

  1. Trust us!  All of our VBEs are well versed in every type of baby carrier. While we each have our favorites and our strong suits, any of us can help you with just about anything you need.  For example, if one VBE is wearing her child in a ring sling, she can still help you with mei tais. If she feels another leader is better equipped to help you, she will take you over and introduce you to that leader.  If you trust us, we will do our best to make sure you get the help you need.

  1. Be Patient!  We are moving more of our systems for check-in, membership, and the lending library to electronic databases. Please be patient with us while we figure out new technology and new systems and deal with things that sometimes don’t work the way they should.  We’re all new to it and trying to learn. Once we do, we’ll spend a lot less time at each meeting trying to manage paperwork and we’ll be more available to teach babywearing.

Remember, above all else, we’re here to help you. We volunteer our time because we want you to love babywearing and to be successful with it.  At one point, we all walked into a babywearing meeting, unsure of ourselves, a little bit intimidated, not knowing anyone, and probably tired and frazzled, as well. But something special happened for us, and we came back again.  And again.  And again. And now we’re the ones standing in the front of the room, tossing a baby on our back again and again and again so you can learn to do it, too. We hope these tips will help make meetings a better experience for all of us, and allow us to better meet your needs and make you feel included. Happy wearing!