Planning a reunion can be daunting. But class reunions can be even more so! Seeing people you haven’t seen in years, many of whom might have caused a bad memory of high school is enough to send you running for the closet.
But they can also be a wonderful time to connect with friends you were once close to, but slowly drifted apart from.
Don’t let the fear of seeing someone you don’t want to see stop you from planning this important event.
So, in 2016, I helped plan my 20-year class reunion.
It wasn’t my original plan. But after a few of us inquired and then quickly realized no one was planning anything…the planner in me couldn’t resist. A few local classmates and I burst into action, with only 5-months to plan.
I helped us come up with a general theme. Since we graduated in 1996, we decided on a “flashback to ’96” theme, creating a special logo for the event.
We then themed everything to that sort of retro ’90s design.
Remember those infomercials that were so famous in the ’90s? The ones that say, “You can get this for 1 payment of $19.99+s/h”?
Well, we thought, let’s have a “flash” sale (see the “Flashback” tie-in?) and have a 1-day sale for tickets, for only $19.96! (Tickets slowly went up in price as time went on, to force earlier registration).
It was a hit. So many people found this funny and awesome and took advantage of the sale.
In marketing this, we knew our audience and we knew they would need some guidance to want to attend. So we made sure that we were very clear and transparent in our plans (without giving too much away), and on our price for tickets and what it covered.
We also wanted to increase interest, so to keep up with the flashback theme, we made sure to post on our Facebook Group page every Thursday for “Throwback Thursday” and did a special picture from the yearbook or the team’s collection. We also did “Trivia Tuesday” and would ask a question (and have a coordinating photo) to get increased traction.
Still, I knew how stressful and anxiety-causing reunions could be, so my main goal was to create a space that would have distractions to let people slowly warm up to the event when they first arrive. We did that by having incorporated many things to do.
After checking in at the registration table, we had large printouts of our senior yearbook pages hung around the room, so people could find themselves and friends and even take “selfies” with their old selves.
All the tables had table tent trivia, which had questions (and answers) of various facts from our senior year (such as “name the security guard that you could bride with hamburgers if you wanted to go out for lunch?”). This was a great way to get some conversation going at the tables, or to help start some conversations about old memories.
We put some smaller printouts of pages from our yearbook, scattered on all the tables to assist with that.
We took a LARGE global map, and we had people put a small post-it arrow on where they have lived or traveled so we could see where we’ve all been.
Also planned were music, a photo booth, a taco bar, free soda for that designated drivers, and a cash bar (but did give everyone two tickets for drinks), a cake, and even was able to get a local upperclassman, who owned an embroidery business, to donate some “Alumni” sweatshirts and jerseys as door prizes!
And of course, a special “memorial” section for those of our classmates that had passed on.
All in all, it was a wonderful night. Everyone had fun, and one classmate pulled me aside to thank me for putting together the various distractions. She was very anxious about the reunion and her anxiety was high, but all the different things to do helped to “ease” her into the party, which was exactly what I was hoping to accomplish.
I call that a success.
So think about that if you are planning a reunion. Get your audience engaged and distracted, so they have time to get over that initial anxiety and stress of being at a reunion. Some free alcohol and cake don’t hurt.