There is no perfect answer to this but the following tips, should create a welcome friendly environment. Everyone likes to know the lie of the land, the basic rules and what to expect but more so if you have anxiety, autistic tendencies or a number of other issues.
So double check and make sure everything is clear even down to signage and drinks options. Set and manage expectations
Step one: Prepare: Advertise and set expectations
1) Advertise. Find your players but clearly set expectations of the kind of games being played, what games are provided? Are there teachers?
2) Is there a cost to the event?
2). Where, when, what food and drink is available? What is the cost?
3) Take requests for games and ask if people are bringing games to teach.
3a) If possible try and bring the same library of core games each time. This allows gamers to learn and become familiar with the games, teach themselves or other new players if you are busy, as well as provide a measure of predictability. Make this list public
4) Send out rules, videos or lists of the games being played so people can research
5) Include photos of the venue and gaming space, including accessibility information, stairs, lifts and disabled toilets. Ideally with a photo of the entire route to where you are meeting.
6) Provide a map to the venue, including parking information
7) Provide an alterative private channel for information and feedback, (Messenger) to answer questions before the event.
8) Provide photos of the organizers.
9) Provide photos of previous events to help set expectations.
10) Code of conduct to set expectations, and actually enforce it to ensure your culture is supporting and positive.
Step two: The night: Ensure a friendly, welcome atmosphere
1) Ensure the venue is well signed so you are easy to find. I include A4 laminated signs the whole way from the front door to the meeting place.
2) Friendly greeter to welcome all guests and to assign them to an appropriate game and game teacher.
3) An appropriate game is dependent on the gamer but be aware of:
a. Overly competitive games.
b. Overly complex games for new gamers.
c. Games which are too extrovert or social and / or involve lying and bluffing.
d. Games in which rules change too much. Having known and controlled rules can be more comfortable.
e. Avoid house rules but, if they are necessary, make them very very clear.
4) The game teacher should be patient but also enthusiastic and welcoming. (See associated guide)
(Examples of games similar to one you are teaching can be useful for experienced games or neurodiverse folks. It provides familiarity. Be careful to not alienate new players or short cut the full teaching.)
5) Ensure the venue has appropriate lighting,
6) Enough space between the gaming tables.
7) Control the noise, including reducing or eliminating background music (Provide space between game tables helps with this. We also separate the louder social games and the more thoughtful euro games).
8) Be patient and tolerant. Gamers with additional needs may be harder to please and may not react to social cues.
9) Ensure staff are identifiable. (Even having a different colour lanyard or badge would do)
10) Name stickers or name tags for all guests removes the pressure of asking or remembering, names. (Pronouns, accessibility issues)
11) Provide a quiet, or quieter, space for people to unwind or decompress.
12) Include a flag, or player match making, system to make finding gamers easier if you don’t have an active host arranging this.
13) Be aware of bad culture, discrimination, intolerance or rudeness, and deal with it. Create a positive culture!
Note to add: Be aware of sarcasm and aim to be literal where you know you have people with autistic tendencies.
Step three: The growth
1) Grow and nurture the culture to be friendly, inclusive and welcoming.
2) Ask for feedback
3) Allow volunteers to step up and be involved. (Ownership of tasks and feeling of belonging)
4) Do not take rejection personally, even with perfect planning you cannot please everyone. Doubly so if people have additional issues.
5) Growly slowly! Don’t burn yourself out
This is not a one size fits all guide as everyone is different and I am a gamer with an interest in inclusivity and making sure everyone has a good time not a medical professional. Hopefully these tips will help, they are mostly obvious.
It is also worth considering, players with vision issues including colour blindness, picking game carefully, marking up components, swapping components out or just helping to read public or open text.
This is work in progress so I’d love any feedback or comments.