Why people attend reunions?
Organzing a reunion can be a daunting task. But if the committee understands "why people attend reunions", it should be much easier.
After attending more than 25 reunions in past 6-8 months, I have understood the motivations of alumni attending reunions.
So what does a good reunion look like?
It is meant to be a fun party where people meet their old classmates, have a nostalgic time, and a section of the attendees would want to network for professional purposes.
To set the tone right, the place/setting has to be informal, preferably with drinks and dinner. Some very successful reunions have also been organized at Boat trips, clubs, or poolside. This makes sure that everyone perceives these events as fun rather than something that becomes boring after 2-3 times.
Spread the message right. It is very important to spread the word so that everyone knows about the event in advance. If there are some people from different cities who wish to participate, they should be able to book their travel and stay in advance.
No speeches. This is what is most hated about reunions. Either speeches have to be by the alumni themselves or not at all. Speeches by professors, alumni committee, or any other designated person tend to make it look very formal.
Registration desk should not become a data entry point. All registrations could be done online. Alumni should be allowed to register via their Linkedin / Facebook accounts on arrival. There should be multiple laptops / tablets available for such an activity. An alumnus who is taking time out for such an event is eager to meet his buddies. And does not want to fill in a form at all. Besides, collecting hard copy data doesn't do any good.
Encourage photographs. This makes sure every person from their batch who did not attend the reunion sees the photographs on Facebook / Instagram. This will make sure they try and attend the next reunion. More photos that go online, better it will be for the long run. Please keep in mind that the photographs uploaded on the institute page are important, but not nearly as important as those taken by the alumni and uploaded themselves. As a side tip, if there is an official photographer, take candid pictures rather than formal pictures. And when these pictures are uploaded on Facebook, make sure you tag the alumni in it. That makes sure the pictures spread farther in the network.
Nametags with batches, company and industry. Please have nametags ready for every alumnus. These nametags should have their batch, current company and industry in which they are working. This gives a clear message for professional networking. Now I can identify people from my industry and network with them easily.
Merchandise table: Make sure institute branded merchandise is for sale. It needs to be prominently displayed. The volunteer at the counter needs to encourage buyers to click photographs with their memorabilia.
Volunteer driven: Make sure the event is driven by current students. This gives them a chance to interact with alumni and also makes them appreciate the value of reunions when they graduate and become alumni.
Awards: If you have any awards to be given, declare them when the event is announced. This makes alumni excited. Make the awards very non-political. And hand them out quickly. Awards should not become the highlight of the reunion.
Every other announcement, speech, and news can wait. You can communicate it via Your Alumni Portal. Do not spend precious personal meeting time on that.
Have you done something differently? Something that might help everybody? Post it in the comments section.
------------------------ About the author -------------------------------------
Pareen Lathia is founder of The Alumni Portal. Having worked with some of the top institutes in India and elsewhere, he has been working on improving Alumni Relations effectiveness by studying various best practices and experimenting with them.