Not too long ago, you needed to live in your hometown to organize your class reunion. Not true anymore. Class reunion planning is easy today.
With the power of the Internet, it’s now possible to plan, organize and promote your event from anywhere. It’s so much simpler too – sell class reunion tickets and collect payments online. No need to drop off your check at a former classmate’s house or send it via overnight shipping when you’re 1,000 miles away and the event is in three days.
As with any event, you’ll still need to spend time researching the best date. In planning your class reunion, remember to:
- Allow extra lead time for out-of-towners to make travel arrangements, as they may need to schedule vacation time or desire to spend a few days visiting with family and friends;
- Allow extra time for some classmates to pull together extra cash for plane tickets; have their car tuned up or buy new tires for the trip; and
- Check dates early to improve chances your favorite venue is available.
It’s likely there is no perfect event date.
- If early in your careers, take into consideration not everyone has accrued enough work time to be away from the company for long.
- Your class reunion weekend may be competing with vacation time planned to go on a ski vacation or a trip to the islands to catch some rays! Where would you rather be?
- For those who have been in the work world for a while – your class reunion weekend may be competing with someone’s daughter’s wedding or his or her parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.
Before you can make the decision as to where you want to hold you class reunion, decide what type of an event you want.
• Are you looking for a single event at a nice local restaurant or a facility with a group event room?
• Does your local country club host non-member events?
• Perhaps someone own a lakeside retreat with an outside picnic pavilion?
• Would you prefer something more casual, like renting a pavilion at a city or county park?
• Any interest in coordinating multiple events all over town?
Over the years the type of event and where it could be held may change as class member’s financial situations change.
Typically the less expensive venues will require more volunteers during the event. For instance a city or county park may be an inexpensive venue. Realize the food choices can range from hiring a local caterer to asking everyone to bring a dish to the reunion committee buying food in quantity from a local grocer and asking those with grilling experience to man the open flame.
For those coming from out of town, it will usually mean borrowing mom’s kitchen or swinging by the local deli to pick up something, or offering to share costs with someone else.
The tradeoff comes down to this. How much do you believe a fellow classmate is willing to pay to attend?
ANNOUNCING YOUR EVENT
For those worrying about the whole world seeing your class reunion event on the Internet or for those interested in only communicating with fellow classmates (providing you have email addresses or cell numbers), send your reunion invitation to your “private” group. Want even more security, send it to a private group and require a special code.
There are social media websites and online invitations that list who will be attending and those that don’t. I suggest avoiding these. Why would you want everyone to know you won’t be home?
How many people notoriously confirm they will be in attendance but no show. Without a payment you’re on the hook for the expenses. Think about it. Isn’t it easier to accept the invitation and post you’ll be there than to deal with the pleading and begging when you say you won’t?
With the right ticketing or registration system you can create a class reunion webpage or website that contains all the information you’ll need. Easily create custom invitations or use templates, add or upload your invitation list, create a schedule or itinerary with as much detail as you like, including photos (and sponsor logos if you have them), then send personalized invitations. Collect money online so the funds go directly into an online account. Track attendance and details on each attendee down to what events they plan to attend, what tee time they desire and what their food preference is for Saturday night’s big event.
Part of the fun of organizing online is that you can get whatever info you need (standard or customized reports) and know exactly where you stand at any given moment. Reunion software makes it easy to watch classmates as they sign up. No need to email Susan in California and ask who hasn’t responded yet.
Some of these systems even offer the ability to send out reminders to those who haven’t signed up yet. When you accidentally send out the wrong start time for happy hour or the main road to the venue will be under construction, you can readily update everyone attending. It’s never been easier to turn a last-minute problem into a solution. Special event management certainly has changed since my last class reunion.
THE REAL REASON THEY DON’T COME
For some, class reunions are a dreaded event. Psyching oneself up to attend the Saturday night reception and dinner once every five years takes a lot of energy.
During the early years when your fellow classmates were just getting out of college, getting married, having kids, and/or buying or building their first house, there wasn’t a lot of extra cash floating around for a big spend on a class reunion weekend.
For out-of-towners, it’s much more than just the dinner and reception ticket. If things are tight that’s not the reason they may use to explain why they won’t be attending. They’ll also need to:
- Spring for a place to stay. You’re probably thinking … just stay with mom and dad. Don’t assume mom and dad haven’t moved away, are still together or haven’t turned that extra room into an office.
- This one is known as the time-space commitment. If the parents still live in town, finding a place to bunk down for the weekend will be easy. However, it will require “the perfect child” to spend some obligatory time with the family.
The dress-to-impress reason applies to everyone. Depending on the demands of your classmate’s work attire, some may need to do a little clothes and shoe (< this is primarily for the women) shopping. If this one seems like an odd reason, go look in your own closet and ask yourself, “If my reunion was tonight, what would I wear?”
In some cases, you’ll also be competing with a college or university homecoming in the same year or rotation cycle. So ask yourself? Are we more fun? Or were they?
So don’t be surprised if not everyone jumps at the chance to attend the class reunion in the early years. Don’t be surprised if people don’t come to the class reunion for 20 years because someone didn’t treat them nice 30 years ago. It’s just an excuse to avoid friend and foe alike.
To learn more about event and festival management, check out “Secrets to Successful Events: How to Organize, Promote and Manage Exceptional Events and Festivals.” For those with event planning experience, consider, “Secrets to Successful Events Resource Guide: 42+ Easy-to-Use Tools and Resources.” Both are written by internationally known author and speaker Lynn Fuhler and are available on Amazon and at major booksellers.
This is the first of two parts on how to organize a class reunion.