Turning Reunion Planning Upside Down

Has it been five or maybe 10 years since your last reunion?

If your next reunion is due to occur in 2012, the time to start planning is now. The sooner you start, the more successful your reunion will be. Many committees on the next go-round will be dealing with the decision whether or not to engage the services of a professional reunion planner. Facebook certainly gives savvy committees an edge they didn’t have five years ago. But locating classmates, while certainly made easier by Facebook, is only part of the planning puzzle that demands consideration.

The behind-the-scenes work is really where most committees either achieve great results or fail miserably. This is where a pro in reunion planning can make a huge difference. Putting together a reunion, contrary to the belief of many who have put together other events, is a different animal altogether. Compared to a wedding or a corporate event where you have the luxury of a fixed invitation list, reunions depend on an on going effort to find and convince members of the group that they need to attend. Attendance numbers are always a source of concern until the very last minute when more reunion attendance are made.

The personal contact with classmates is the single most important function of the committee. Classmates want to hear from other classmates, not from a staff member of an outside interest capitalizing on the reunion as a business opportunity.

For more than 21 years, Reunited.com, a full-service reunion planning organization, worked with over 1,200 high school reunion committees to relieve alumni of the headaches associated with reunion planning. The company handled every single aspect of the event and allowed committee members to enjoy a free ride from the time a contract was signed to day the reunion took place.

That business model today is dead.

The amount of money a reunion company needed to tack onto individual admission rates pushed ticket prices way beyond a threshold of pain for the majority of classmates. The reunion ceased to be an event for the masses and turned into an exclusive experience reserved only for those who could afford to pay.

The choice for Reunited was simple. Change or let the last bell ring on its business. Plus, the company needed to remain relevant to reunion committee – in other words, provide a significant service that committees still need. In order to do so, Reunited had to turn just about every committee’s expectation of the reunion company business upside down.

First, Reunited requires all reunion committees to secure the event with a fully-refundable deposit that is tied directly to an attendance goal based on 20 percent of the total size of the class database. Once the goal is reached, the deposit is returned to the committee. This gives everyone on the committee and Reunited a vested interest in assuring the success of the reunion.

Next, booking the reunion venue is the responsibility of the committee. Reunited coaches committees on how to work with sales and catering departments and provides the committee with a contract review to assure the terms of the venue deal are in favor of the committee.

By making these two key changes, Reunited was able to not only market its service to a national audience, but cut its fee by nearly half and push reunion admission tickets back down to a level not seen in nearly a decade. The company continues to offer its core back office services which includes classmate search (for those who are not on Facebook and other online alumni sites), publicity (online and regular mail), secure online payment processing, customer service, name badge and slide show production, and ongoing consulting and advisement to the committee throughout the planning process.

Reunited’s new approach to reunion planning provides reunion committee’s with the best of all worlds. The committee maintains control of the event while the company remains in the background — minimizing the commercial identity of the reunion. Further, committees remain focused on the personalization of the reunion, reaching out directly to classmates and creating an experience that is free of the cookie-cutter nature often associated with professional reunion planning.

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