Categories
virtual events

How To Form A Successful College Class Reunion Planning Committee [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

Are you excited to reconnect with your alma mater and its alumni for an upcoming college class reunion? 

Many colleges and universities are now hosting reunion celebrations online, which means friends and classmates can connect easier than before—providing an unrivaled opportunity to strengthen your alumni network and bolster their relationship with your university. However, while many of the same traditional reunion activities can occur during a virtual reunion, there are a few virtual reunion planning differences to address.

If you’re a part of your university’s online reunion planning committee or just getting started organizing that committee, let’s explore how to structure your virtual college reunion planning team for success. We’ll explain the ideal college reunion planning committee structure, roles and responsibilities for each member, and an ideal timeline to plan your event with ease. 

Partner With Your Alumni Association

Before making any plans for your upcoming college class reunion, contact your university’s alumni association to check if there is already a planning committee in place that you can join. 

Your alumni association should also have resources and guides to help streamline your planning. Work with them to understand any available funds to support the event, attendance of past reunions, ways to fundraise for a class reunion, an ideal timeline for planning your college class reunion, and any other historical information that can inform your planning. 

Even if your alumni association already has a team ready to plan and support the reunion, there is almost always a need for more volunteers to help with the planning. It’s a lot to get done, and it never hurts to have more hands-on-deck to help plan and coordinate events during the reunion. 

Key College Reunion Planning Committee Roles

There are a few central positions you will want to appoint on your virtual college reunion planning committee. These individuals will then partner with a group of volunteers to conduct the day-to-day planning activities for the reunion.

The size of your committee will depend on how many alumni you anticipate will attend your event. Unfortunately, there is no definite way to answer how many people should be on a college reunion planning committee. Still, it is best to have at least 20 people ready to help throughout the planning process.

These are the essential reunion committee positions and associated responsibilities:

Reunion Chair 

The reunion chair oversees all reunion planning and acts as the main point of contact for the alumni association and other planning committee members. This role is responsible for coordinating committee meetings, making all final approvals, and overseeing the planning timeline.

Alumni Support Chair

Your prospective attendees will have a range of questions leading up to and during your event. Appoint one person to oversee and coordinate alumni support services. This person will act as a traffic controller and partner closely with the communications/marketing team to route requests to the finance, technology, or program teams as needed.

Communications/Marketing Chair

The communications or marketing lead oversees a team to coordinate all alumni outreach before and after the event. In addition, this team partners closely with the alumni association to:

  • Source alumni contact information 
  • Create and distribute invitations or save-the-date cards, as well as ongoing event communications through phone, email, or other channels
  • Manage any reunion-related social media channels or online communities. Build information hubs for reunion attendees, including an event website

Finance Chair

This individual is responsible for creating and monitoring the budget for your class reunion. At the end of the reunion, the finance chair will report on all expenses and income, as well as any leftover funds. All other committee chairs must gain purchase approvals from the finance chair, and all volunteers are responsible for helping to meet the finance chair’s fundraising goals.

Giving Chair

A core goal of many college reunions is to help raise funds for the university and garner ongoing support for the university’s mission. Appoint a member of your committee to advance this goal. They will partner with the alumni association to determine the best approach to encourage donations to the university. They will also coordinate all follow-up and thank yous for donors. 

Program Chair

Appoint a person who will oversee the creation and management of your class reunion agenda. This individual will not be solely responsible for organizing the series of activities, but they will be the one to finalize all agenda elements ahead of the reunion. 

Technology Chair

The main difference between a virtual and in-person college class reunion is the technical requirements for hosting each. With a virtual college reunion, it’s essential to designate a tech-savvy individual who can partner with the finance chair to find an event platform that will meet your alumni’s needs. In addition, the technology committee should partner with the communications committee to create FAQs and how-to documents to help alumni navigate the tech elements of your reunion. 

An Ideal Online College Class Reunion Planning Timeline

Your team should start planning your reunion at least one year in advance. The first step is to identify the right people to serve as the committee chairs we described above. Then, meet at least once a month, or more as needed, as an entire planning committee to oversee the next steps and encourage each chair to host separate meetings to coordinate their team’s activities. 

Ideally, follow this timeline when planning a virtual reunion:

12 months before event: 

  • Identify all committee chairs and align on responsibilities.
  • Partner with your alumni association to source contact information for all prospective attendees. 
  • Conduct a pre-reunion survey to understand what your attendees want out of your event. This survey can also invite alumni to volunteer to help your planning committee. Field this survey for at least one month, and then use it to inform your next steps.

11 months before event: 

  • Set a general budget for the reunion based on your anticipated attendee count, which you will gauge in your pre-reunion survey. 
  • Divide existing volunteers into appropriate committees.
  • Begin planning your agenda elements and inviting speakers.
  • If there is an in-person component of your reunion, begin sourcing group hotel rates or other travel logistics.
  • Confirm reunion date.

Ten months before event: 

  • Begin exploring event technology vendors.
  • Finalize fundraising plan.
  • Send initial save-the-date postcards or emails.
  • Publish reunion website to serve as a hub for prospective attendees.

Six months before event: 

  • Open registration for alumni. 
  • Coordinate a bi-weekly communications cadence to remind alumni of the reunion and promote your registration. Include social media posts, emails, and other communications channels to reach as many alumni as possible.
  • Post a preliminary reunion agenda to drum up excitement.

Four months before event:

  • Start collecting any memorabilia for the reunion, including photos for the slideshow.
  • Plan and purchase alumni gifts or swag bag items.

One month before the event:

  • Release full reunion agenda.
  • Research and develop remembrance ceremony materials. 
  • Finalize all planning elements.
  • Receive any final presentation or other agenda item files for your reunion. 

One month after the event: 

  • Share a photo slideshow, talk recordings, and other relevant files with attendees.
  • Debrief as a planning committee on post-reunion statistics, including how many people attended and how much money was raised for the university. 
  • Draft a document that collects the lessons learned and outcomes from the reunion to act as a resource for the next reunion’s planning committee.
  • Send all donors a thank-you card.

Sustain Your College Class Community Between Reunions

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting a virtual college reunion, and we encourage you to structure your planning committee and timeline in a way that can best support any range of fun activities or ideas that your team has in mind. 

Once your reunion is finished and everyone has received their thank-you notes and said their goodbyes, it can be easy to slip back into your “normal” life for another five years until your next reunion. If possible, have a subset of your reunion planning team keep in touch to plan additional events between your reunions to keep the excitement high. 
Learn more about how Social hour can help you host a memorable virtual alumni event.

Categories
virtual events

How Your Online College Reunion Goals Should Adapt To New Alumni Needs

Are you hosting an upcoming college reunion? Although it is natural to default your planning to a traditional in-person reunion experience, there are several advantages to hosting an online event experience. But how can you tell which event style will be best for your alumni?

To help plan your college class reunion, let’s explore the pros and cons of virtual event experiences and in-person event experiences, and how your audience needs should shape your reunion agenda and activities

How Is A Virtual College Reunion Different From An In-Person Reunion?

Virtual college reunions provide many of the same benefits and possibilities as an in-person reunion without the costly hurdles of travel for your alumni. 

You can replicate most aspects of an in-person college reunion online using on-demand or live-streamed videos and a combination of open networking rooms and channels for your alumni to mix and mingle. 

At a high level, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of college reunion:

Virtual College Class ReunionsIn-Person College Class Reunions
ProsNo travel hurdles for attendees

Potential cost advantages for reunion organizers

The online format makes it easier to track engagement and essential information for future reunions

Recorded sessions can be accessed and replayed after your reunion is over, serving as promotional materials for future reunions
There is an innate appeal and excitement with in-person gatherings and reunions

The local community receives a business boost thanks to the alumni who travel to the reunion

Group activities and happy hours are easier to plan when everyone is in the same location
ConsSome attendees may not be tech-savvy and have difficulty navigating your event experience

The local community receives no boost in business
Travel needs and costs could detract alumni from attending, limiting the size and diversity of your group

In-person events require a significant time commitment and lock your attendees into the experience

Goals For College Class Reunions By Audience

When planning a college class reunion and deciding whether to offer a virtual or online event, it’s important to consider the different audiences and their respective goals for the reunion. Your alumni are certainly a priority audience, but this group is filled with unique individuals that each have their own hopes for the event. Then there is also the greater university ecosystem that relies on reunions to fulfill other needs.

Alumni Goals for College Reunions Evolve Over Time

Your alumni will have a range of hopes and goals for attending your college reunions, and these needs will change depending on if you are hosting a five-year, ten-year, or 15+-year reunion.

Generally, your alumni will attend the reunion to:

  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Relive the excitement of college days
  • Forge new professional connections or partnerships
  • Show their family their alma mater
  • Assess whether your college is a good fit for their children or other loved ones to attend

Your reunion planning committee will need to build an agenda that provides ample open networking space, as well as more structured talks and sessions to appeal to these diverse goals.

According to information from Stanford University and Harvard University, you can expect reunions shortly after college to be most popular, with a sharp dip in attendance at the 15-year celebration, followed by a pickup from the 25th reunion onward. The earlier reunions are often characterized by alumni insecurities about their work and life; it is often best to prioritize open networking opportunities and high-energy games and activities for these events. As your alumni become more comfortable with their lives, they are ready to engage in more intellectual-focused topics and presentations (typically around the 15-year reunion mark). 

University Goals For Class Reunions

The second most important audience for your virtual class reunion is the university, or, specifically, its current leadership, faculty, and students.

Reunions are an important opportunity to reconnect alumni with their alma mater and instill a sense of pride in their university. Ideally, college class reunions will encourage alumni to donate to their university, helping to sustain its work and support future generations of students. 

Actively partner with members of your alumni association to ensure that the university’s fundraising goals and other needs are accounted for during your virtual reunion planning. 

Survey Your Reunion Attendees To Understand Their Needs

The best way to build a fulfilling virtual reunion agenda is to directly ask your alumni and leadership of your university what they hope to gain from the reunion experience. Employ a mix of short survey questions and targeted 1:1 conversations to dive into the full range of considerations for the reunion. We share a few questions to consider in our college reunion planning overview.

The Future Of College Reunions Is Online

With your audience survey results analyzed, your reunion planning committee is better prepared to deliver a fulfilling reunion experience for your various audiences. Track how your alumni needs change as you advance in your reunion years and adjust your strategy to continue delivering an outstanding reunion for everyone involved.

Even as more communities reopen and resume in-person activities, we expect virtual college reunions will remain popular for their ease of access and unrivaled conveniences for attendees—especially as committees show just how impressive an online college class reunion experience can be.

Learn more about how Social hour can help you host an incredible virtual alumni reunion event

Categories
virtual events

How To Create An Exciting Virtual College Reunion Schedule of Events [via Social hour]

This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.

If you’re planning a virtual college class reunion, it’s common to face a few initial questions: 

  • How can you adapt an in-person class reunion for an online audience? 
  • What does a typical virtual college reunion agenda look like? 
  • What activities take place during an online class reunion?

Drawing from examples from leading universities with the most robust alumni networks in the U.S., we’ve gathered the essential virtual college reunion activities and additional fun ideas to help you create a complete experience that will truly impress your alumni. 

Essential Elements of a Virtual College Reunion Agenda

Your virtual college reunion schedule should include a variety of activities throughout the day and into the night to appeal to the range of alumni reunion goals and expectations. 

Some alumni will want a family-friendly experience and the opportunity to show their children or loved ones their alma mater. Others will want high-energy, adult-oriented activities focused on reliving the excitement of college, and reconnecting with the people who made those years special. 

The best way to understand your alumni expectations and maximize your potential attendee satisfaction is to survey them ahead of the reunion to understand what sort of activities they are or are not interested in. We share a few essential pre-reunion survey questions in this overview of planning a virtual reunion.

Generally, though, there are a few core elements of college reunions that your planning committee should at least consider adding to your reunion agenda during the mornings and afternoons:

  • Welcome Address: Start your virtual class reunion with a welcome address from a member of your planning committee or a notable member of your university leadership. This is an opportunity to greet attendees, explain what they can expect during your reunion, and ultimately set the tone for the rest of the event.
  • Alumni Spotlight Conversations: Feature notable alumni or group alumni based on current role or industry to discuss their work and their views on how their world of work is changing. This can help your attendees connect with other alumni who now work in similar fields, offering invaluable professional networking opportunities. 
  • College Leadership and Faculty Remarks: Host speeches, panel discussions, or informal fireside chats with key leadership members from the university, including the president, vice president, dean, or your student body leaders. These can involve inspirational or thought-provoking discussions (in the style of a TED Talk), an examination of current world events or trends, or a speech that celebrates the class and its accomplishments. 
  • Current Student Remarks: Spotlight current students and their stories to help alumni understand how the university is creating opportunities for its students to thrive, and how they can help those efforts. 
  • Identity and Faith-Based Discussions: Provide open networking spaces or coordinate a discussion of topics related to gender, race, identity, or religion (as appropriate).
  • Remembrance Ceremony: Honor the deceased members of your collegiate community with a special program. Consider including a photo slideshow and offer dedicated rooms for alumni to openly grieve those that they have lost. 

To better understand how you can approach each of these agenda elements, check out these virtual class reunion agendas from Cornell, Smith College, and Amherst College.

8 Virtual College Class Reunion Activity Ideas

The above essential elements of a college reunion are just one piece of your schedule. You will also want to layer in fun activities and networking areas that allow your alumni to freely connect with one another throughout the event.

Include these fun college class reunion activities to keep the energy high during your event and break away from more structured talks:

  • Breakout/Open Networking Rooms: Your alumni are excited to reconnect, and a virtual environment is ideal for enabling guests to hop in and out of rooms at their leisure. Select a virtual event platform that allows you to create small group breakout rooms, ideally with a thought-starter prompt. These can include questions like “What Restaurants Do You Miss” or “Favorite College Memory,” or instead use categories like “Sports Fans,” “Greek Life,” “Now Based In [State or Region],” or “[Dorm or Residence Hall].”
  • Campus Tour: What is new on campus? What little-known facts can you share? Pre-record a campus and community tour, or take attendees on a live tour of select locations. This campus tour video from D’Youville or this from Williston Northampton shows how you can approach your tour.
  • Fun Run: Encourage alumni to complete a fun run and submit their time with the alumni association. You can learn more about how to plan a virtual fun run in this walkthrough
  • Game or Trivia Night: Host a variety of online card or board games, or coordinate a trivia night that focuses on the history of your college or fun facts about your graduating year. 
  • Happy Hour Or Wine and Paint: Offer an open happy hour networking time, or add structure by turning it into a “wine and paint” or similar activity. To elevate the experience further, mail your attendees cocktail mixes to try, or a themed paint kit. 
  • Recipe Sharing: Appeal to the bakers and foodies in your alumni network by hosting a recipe sharing or how-to cooking or baking session. Mail supplies or grocery lists to alumni ahead of time so that they can follow along from home. 
  • Talent Performance: Let your class performers take the stage to sing, perform an instrument, or showcase some other talent that they have. These performances can be recorded ahead of time and streamed so that attendees can all watch and engage with each other. 
  • Yoga or Group Exercise: Allow your attendees to take a moment to unwind and recenter themselves in a yoga or similar group exercise class.

Remember to not pack your agenda too full to allow attendees to take part in one or more of these activities. Your reunion guests need ample time to network with each other and gain the full value that they can from your agenda. If you offer too many exciting activities, or don’t have time in the schedule set aside for these opportunities, your alumni will need to make tough choices on what main events to attend, and that could detract from their experience.

How To Delight Your College Online Reunion Attendees

With the core agenda elements set for your class reunion, your planning committee can now focus on the finishing touches that will turn a perfectly acceptable reunion into a truly outstanding experience.

Pre-reunion Engagement Opportunities

Ahead of the event, create branded hashtags to help alumni keep up with the latest information and join conversations about your reunion. Mail your attendees swag bags and other goodies to get them excited for the reunion. These can include class apparel or useful items like USB drives, as well as any items they’ll need for your reunion activities. And create virtual backgrounds for attendees to use during the event, like these alumni background examples from Stanford University or these from Williston Northampton School

Keep the Momentum Going During the Event

During the event, include a playlist that features popular songs from your college years. Or, live stream a band or similar musician that performs covers of those songs. Further this trip down memory lane with a photo slideshow or video montage in an easy self-service area for alumni to revisit memories at their leisure. 

After the Event

Once your event is over, there are a few final ways to provide value to your attendees. First, share a copy of your virtual photo album, campus tour, or other assets that your alumni may want to revisit. Ensure that they are aware of any social media community groups that they can join to continue engaging with one another after the reunion.

Finally, ensure that you conduct a post-event survey that can help inform future class reunions. Ask about each attendee’s overall satisfaction with the event, their favorite sessions or activities, and any ways that the experience can be improved.

Make Your Online College Reunion an Event to Remember

By hosting a mix of essential in-person college reunion activities and fun, online-friendly activities and networking venues, your alumni are more likely to have a fulfilling reunion experience.

Are you looking for a virtual event platform that can provide your attendees with a number of large and small group activity options? Learn more about how Social hour has hosted alumni events for some of the nation’s top universities.

Categories
virtual events

How To Create An Exciting Virtual College Reunion Schedule of Events

If you’re planning a virtual college class reunion, it’s common to face a few initial questions: 

  • How can you adapt an in-person class reunion for an online audience? 
  • What does a typical virtual college reunion agenda look like? 
  • What activities take place during an online class reunion?

Drawing from examples from leading universities with the most robust alumni networks in the U.S., we’ve gathered the essential virtual college reunion activities and additional fun ideas to help you create a complete experience that will truly impress your alumni. 

Essential Elements of a Virtual College Reunion Agenda

Your virtual college reunion schedule should include a variety of activities throughout the day and into the night to appeal to the range of alumni reunion goals and expectations. 

Some alumni will want a family-friendly experience and the opportunity to show their children or loved ones their alma mater. Others will want high-energy, adult-oriented activities focused on reliving the excitement of college, and reconnecting with the people who made those years special. 

The best way to understand your alumni expectations and maximize your potential attendee satisfaction is to survey them ahead of the reunion to understand what sort of activities they are or are not interested in. We share a few essential pre-reunion survey questions in this overview of planning a virtual reunion.

Generally, though, there are a few core elements of college reunions that your planning committee should at least consider adding to your reunion agenda during the mornings and afternoons:

  • Welcome Address: Start your virtual class reunion with a welcome address from a member of your planning committee or a notable member of your university leadership. This is an opportunity to greet attendees, explain what they can expect during your reunion, and ultimately set the tone for the rest of the event.
  • Alumni Spotlight Conversations: Feature notable alumni or group alumni based on current role or industry to discuss their work and their views on how their world of work is changing. This can help your attendees connect with other alumni who now work in similar fields, offering invaluable professional networking opportunities. 
  • College Leadership and Faculty Remarks: Host speeches, panel discussions, or informal fireside chats with key leadership members from the university, including the president, vice president, dean, or your student body leaders. These can involve inspirational or thought-provoking discussions (in the style of a TED Talk), an examination of current world events or trends, or a speech that celebrates the class and its accomplishments. 
  • Current Student Remarks: Spotlight current students and their stories to help alumni understand how the university is creating opportunities for its students to thrive, and how they can help those efforts. 
  • Identity and Faith-Based Discussions: Provide open networking spaces or coordinate a discussion of topics related to gender, race, identity, or religion (as appropriate).
  • Remembrance Ceremony: Honor the deceased members of your collegiate community with a special program. Consider including a photo slideshow and offer dedicated rooms for alumni to openly grieve those that they have lost. 

To better understand how you can approach each of these agenda elements, check out these virtual class reunion agendas from Cornell, Smith College, and Amherst College.

8 Virtual College Class Reunion Activity Ideas

The above essential elements of a college reunion are just one piece of your schedule. You will also want to layer in fun activities and networking areas that allow your alumni to freely connect with one another throughout the event.

Include these fun college class reunion activities to keep the energy high during your event and break away from more structured talks:

  • Breakout/Open Networking Rooms: Your alumni are excited to reconnect, and a virtual environment is ideal for enabling guests to hop in and out of rooms at their leisure. Select a virtual event platform that allows you to create small group breakout rooms, ideally with a thought-starter prompt. These can include questions like “What Restaurants Do You Miss” or “Favorite College Memory,” or instead use categories like “Sports Fans,” “Greek Life,” “Now Based In [State or Region],” or “[Dorm or Residence Hall].”
  • Campus Tour: What is new on campus? What little-known facts can you share? Pre-record a campus and community tour, or take attendees on a live tour of select locations. This campus tour video from D’Youville or this from Williston Northampton shows how you can approach your tour.
  • Fun Run: Encourage alumni to complete a fun run and submit their time with the alumni association. You can learn more about how to plan a virtual fun run in this walkthrough
  • Game or Trivia Night: Host a variety of online card or board games, or coordinate a trivia night that focuses on the history of your college or fun facts about your graduating year. 
  • Happy Hour Or Wine and Paint: Offer an open happy hour networking time, or add structure by turning it into a “wine and paint” or similar activity. To elevate the experience further, mail your attendees cocktail mixes to try, or a themed paint kit. 
  • Recipe Sharing: Appeal to the bakers and foodies in your alumni network by hosting a recipe sharing or how-to cooking or baking session. Mail supplies or grocery lists to alumni ahead of time so that they can follow along from home. 
  • Talent Performance: Let your class performers take the stage to sing, perform an instrument, or showcase some other talent that they have. These performances can be recorded ahead of time and streamed so that attendees can all watch and engage with each other. 
  • Yoga or Group Exercise: Allow your attendees to take a moment to unwind and recenter themselves in a yoga or similar group exercise class.

Remember to not pack your agenda too full to allow attendees to take part in one or more of these activities. Your reunion guests need ample time to network with each other and gain the full value that they can from your agenda. If you offer too many exciting activities, or don’t have time in the schedule set aside for these opportunities, your alumni will need to make tough choices on what main events to attend, and that could detract from their experience.

How To Delight Your College Online Reunion Attendees

With the core agenda elements set for your class reunion, your planning committee can now focus on the finishing touches that will turn a perfectly acceptable reunion into a truly outstanding experience.

Pre-reunion Engagement Opportunities

Ahead of the event, create branded hashtags to help alumni keep up with the latest information and join conversations about your reunion. Mail your attendees swag bags and other goodies to get them excited for the reunion. These can include class apparel or useful items like USB drives, as well as any items they’ll need for your reunion activities. And create virtual backgrounds for attendees to use during the event, like these alumni background examples from Stanford University or these from Williston Northampton School

Keep the Momentum Going During the Event

During the event, include a playlist that features popular songs from your college years. Or, live stream a band or similar musician that performs covers of those songs. Further this trip down memory lane with a photo slideshow or video montage in an easy self-service area for alumni to revisit memories at their leisure. 

After the Event

Once your event is over, there are a few final ways to provide value to your attendees. First, share a copy of your virtual photo album, campus tour, or other assets that your alumni may want to revisit. Ensure that they are aware of any social media community groups that they can join to continue engaging with one another after the reunion.

Finally, ensure that you conduct a post-event survey that can help inform future class reunions. Ask about each attendee’s overall satisfaction with the event, their favorite sessions or activities, and any ways that the experience can be improved.

Make Your Online College Reunion an Event to Remember

By hosting a mix of essential in-person college reunion activities and fun, online-friendly activities and networking venues, your alumni are more likely to have a fulfilling reunion experience.

Are you looking for a virtual event platform that can provide your attendees with a number of large and small group activity options? Learn more about how Social hour has hosted alumni events for some of the nation’s top universities.