So many high school reunions are a bust because of poor research and even poorer planning.
The problem, in many cases, is that the person responsible for the event has no experience organizing an event of this magnitude.
The alternative is to hire a professional planner who can take care of all the planning for you.
However, hiring someone can be expensive so most class reunion planners just do their best.
In an effort to help our fellow class reunion planners, we have put together a list of tried and true ideas that have been submitted to us over the years.
If you are on the planning committee for the next class reunion, perhaps these tips can make your planning a bit less stressful.
Tips For A Successful Class Reunion
- Successful class reunions are the result of successful committees. Putting together a good committee takes some time and effort. Read our Tips On Putting Together A Class Reunion Planning Committee
- Start early. At least one to two years out so your attendees can plan ahead of time. It will also give you enough time to drum up attendance numbers., Don’t expect to pull off a successful reunion if you start planning less than six months out.
- The most ideal place to hold your class reunion is at the school itself. It should be held in the cafeteria or the gym. Doing so brings back memories for classmates and makes for one nostalgic evening. Alumni love this because it gives them a chance to reconnect with their history and share it with the people they brought along.
- If there is not enough space at the school or your class reunion, then the next best option is a hotel that has banquet space.
- Make sure to reserve hotel rooms for out of town classmates and you will receive much better catering and meeting room rates
- The class reunion planning committee’s main job is to increase the attendance at the event. Every meeting should focus on what is being done to attract more classmates into coming.
- Every email to classmates should include a list of missing classmates.
- A Class Reunion Website is a great way to communicate with the class both before and after the class reunion. Make sure your website lets you create online registrations, accept payments, and keeps track of who is coming. Read our review of class reunion website builders to help you decide.
- Make sure to include a tour of the school in your class reunion agenda. Make it a 30-45 walk through on a Saturday where you can visit the library, some dorms, the cafeteria, and gymnasium.
- Don’t plan alone. You will fail.
- If you are meeting after 10 or 20 years, is it possible to squeeze everything into a one day event? No. Plan a multi day class reunion (Weekend or a long weekend) and your classmates will have a much better time.
- The reunion chair should be someone who is local and has the time to put into planning an event of this size. Being local helps because you can visit venues, deal with vendors, visit the alumni office instead of emailing which may cause more delays.
- Expect things to go wrong despite how much planning you put into it.
- Allocate the majority of the evening to socializing. Don’t have too many activities. Classmates are there to catch up and aren’t too interested in participating in games.
- Place the class memorabilia, awards, trophies, football jerseys etc. right at the entrance of the class reunion so people can see it as they enter.
- Name Tags should have a photo of the person (yearbook) with the first name in large letters. This helps in getting people to identify each other. Also, if someone had a popular nickname, then place that on the name tag as well.
- If you have people paying for meals individually (And you should), then a good way to know the paid status is by using a colored dot on the name tag for each meal. For example, have a purple dot for Friday’s meal, a red dot for Saturday lunch and green dot for Saturday dinner. This way there is no confusion as to who has paid and who has not.
- You can also insert meal tickets into the plastic name tag holder (Protective cover). When the classmate arrives at the registration table, they can turn in their meal ticket to gain entrance.
- Food stations and buffets in general encourage people to get up and mingle more than a sit down meal.
- Anticipate congestion at the welcome table. Be prepared with extra help during the expected arrival time. Get student volunteers to help you at the table.
- Try to gain access to the banquet room as early as possible to decorate.
- Get 2-3 people to help out that are not in your class. Otherwise you will end up doing all the work at the class reunion.
- Slide-shows are the best entertainment at the banquet. Spend a good deal of time creating them.
- If you want to encourage dancing, then play music from your era.
- Ask for volunteers from the class ahead of you or the class behind you to help out at the banquet so your planning committee can enjoy the party.
- Don’t forget to take one big group photo. This can be done professionally or by a classmate. Provide prints to everyone in the mail after the class reunion as a memento.
- Make sure you select a Class Reunion Theme.
- Have a welcome basket or bag. Include an agenda and suggestions for restaurants, coupons to neighboring businesses, etc.
- Select a date that does not interfere with major holidays or dates that tend to be very busy (Proms and graduations). Thanksgiving is great for many class reunions as is summer time if your class is at a point in their lives where they are rearing school aged children.
- Create a document with everyone’s contact information so classmates can keep in touch after the class reunion. Email the list to all classmates regardless of whether they attended.
- Before settling on a location for the class reunion, make sure to do a site tour. Visit the site unannounced and take lots of pictures for reference. Learn how to conduct a hotel site inspection
- Even after sending invitations, there will be many people that will need to be called personally to see if they can come. Get a bunch of people together for a pizza party a month before the class reunion and make those phone calls right there.
- Collect class reunion money in advance. Don’t wait to accept the money at the door. Without payment, there is no commitment to show up and it makes planning the event a nightmare. After all, how much food should you prepare? How many hotel rooms should you block?
- Have a signer and a co-signer on the bank account. This way one person does not control the purse and there is a check and balance.
- Send out a missing classmates newsletter with a photo of the classmate from the yearbook and let people know to share the document with people who may know the classmate
- Volunteer to help the class reunion before yours at their reunion so they can help you at yours. You will also learn lot about what works, and what doesn’t.
- When looking for people to serve on the class reunion committee, start by asking classmates who were active in the school activities, sports, and clubs. Also, reach out to the former class president and all the class officers to see if they are willing to help.
- As a volunteer in the class reunion planning efforts, it should be made clear to everyone that they are all responsible for spreading the word about class reunions. They should help in spreading the word, and helping find missing classmates.
- Add 10% to the expected cost of the class reunion for unanticipated costs.
- Set aside some time during the class reunion to view an old video of the graduation, prom or the last class reunion. It will make for some great laughs and some tears as well.
- Invite teachers and the principal of your school to speak or at least attend.
- Even if you are having a one day class reunion (Saturday banquet), have an informal get together at a local restaurant the night before so people can break the ice over dinner and drinks.
- Recruit, recruit, and recruit classmates to attend.
- Include a tour of the school as part of your program
- You will not make everyone happy. So don’t bother trying.
- Mementos can be tricky as you never really know which ones will work well for your class reunion. Things we have used in the past that have worked well are Coffee Mugs, Tote bags, Buttons, Note pads, Pens, Hats, Bumper stickers, T-shirts
- Have an odd number of people on the class reunion planning committee to break any ties
- Expect 20-30% attendance at the class reunion. That number can be much higher (Read: How To Increase Attendance At A Class Reunion)
- Pick a national bank that has ATM’s all over so people in different states can make deposits into a bank account after any fundraisers or after receiving donations.
- You need a safe deposit box at the class reunion if you are going to be taking any walk-ins. If you get 30 walk-ins, you may end up collecting about $3000 and you’ll need a secure place to put the money.
- Take video of the event and ask classmates to submit their videos so you can post them on the class reunion website.
- Class reunions are meant to break even. Remind people of this fact when you announce the registration fees and make sure to go over why the cost is justified.
- Call the previous year’s class reunion organizer to get tips and tricks. Where did they stay? What did they do? How many attended? etc.
Planning a class reunion requires lots of patience, perseverance and a strong desire to get people together. With the tips above, your committee members will be able to skip some of the mistakes we have made in the past and plan a successful and well attended class reunion.
What should you read next?
Read about some money saving ideas for your next class reunion.