30 September 2010

How To Run A Successful High School Reunion

Five hours, two years, a quarter of a century.  Amazing as it sounds, they all went by in a flash.  Just a few days, I had my high school reunion, a Silver (25 years) Reunion as a matter of fact.  It took about two years of planning and lasted five hours.  I was part of the Reunion Committee and based on the feedback it was a great success.  Partly for me to look back some day on the event and what led up to it, partly for anyone wishing to organize a high school reunion, here are the process on how to run a successful high school reunion.

You need a committee.  It is a lot of work for any one person.  We were lucky to have people who good at dealing with the various vendors (catering hall, photographer, DJ), taking notes during meetings and sending them out, finding old friends or at least reaching out strangers with the same last names and first names in hope they are your old friends, balancing the checkbook, make polls, keep lists of attendees, and taking care of many other tasks required of the committee.  Not only we put in the work, we also put some some money to get things going.  After all, vendors mostly require deposits.

You need a place to hold the event.  Not one who cares about dancing and drinking, I would have suggested some quiet place to reminisce the past, like a library of sort.  Luckily, we decided the event to be held in New York City so there were many choices to choose from.  We settled upon the Astoria World Manor and pricey as it may be, it was a great choice.  Great location, not too far from the two airports in Queens and near a major highway, roomy hall, great parking, good service, and fancy d├ęcor.  Of course, depending on the size of your party, you need to find something that fits.  Whatever, you cannot go wrong if you have dancing and drinking.

You need lots of participants!  According to my yearbook, there were over 800 students, a large population.  It was 2008 so naturally we went mostly with Facebook (FB) to locate those 800+ people.  One nice thing with FB is that when opening up an account, people get to indicate their high schools and such.  The info is then collected in one place, sorted by graduation year, ready for others to pore over.  We found many people this way but it helped also to have our own high school group.  We also had premium accounts with Classmates.com and MyLife.com and they helped somewhat.  Don't forget the personal connections.  Many people kept in touch with their own small circle of friends over the years.  If you are lucky enough to connect with an individual from these circles, you have a good chance of locating even more.  Don't be surprised or discouraged if someone responds coldly upon being found.  Twenty five years is a long period of time, people change, or maybe no longer care about certain aspect of their past.  Or maybe they are too tight with their privacy and freaked out when they somehow got found.  Just move on to the other grads.

I got pretty good at finding people, both through free services on the web or premium accounts so perhaps I can delve into that area in greater details.  The process may not be earth-shattering amazing and probably can be found out there in the library or on the web, but it's something that worked for me.

Happy Organizing!