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virtual events

How To Engage Hybrid Event Attendees on Social Media

Congratulations! You’ve designed a compelling hybrid event schedule that thoroughly addresses the needs of both your in-person and remote attendees. All that’s left is to put on a spectacular event, right? Well, almost—but there’s still some pre-work to do!

As your team finalizes your hybrid event sessions and activities, it’s important to focus on a critical planning element that can easily make or break the attendee experience: social media.

From the moment you first announce your event on social media, your team needs to understand how to best use social media to drive event registrations and prime your attendees to gain the most value from social media throughout the virtual conference.  

Highlight Hybrid Event Attendance Benefits For In-Person and Virtual Attendees

Your team needs to explain how all your attendees—no matter how they choose to join—will access high-value sessions and engagement opportunities that make the most of each attendance option.

Tailor your conference website and all event promotional content to address the unique benefits of each attendance type, as well as how the two groups can connect throughout the conference. We recommend that you create a dedicated FAQ page on your event site that thoroughly addresses both types of attendance. 

At a high level, here are some of the benefits of attending a hybrid event in-person or virtually to highlight in your FAQs:

Hybrid Event Attendance TypeAttendee Experience Benefits
In-PersonIn-person conference experiences are beloved, and greatly missed, by many professionals. Emphasize the potential for human connection by joining in person, but also reinforce the CDC and local or state guidelines that will be enforced, plus any other ways your team will keep attendees safe.

Certain demos or activities are better coordinated with an in-person crowd, due to the energy level and ability for instant collaboration. Highlight these unique opportunities for attendees who join in person. This prevents virtual attendees from being disappointed or demanding a refund due to missing out on a specific in-person only activity.
VirtualFlexibility is a necessity for virtual attendees. Reinforce how your event is designed to fit within your attendees’ busy schedules, including details on whether sessions are recorded and later available for replay. 

A well-built virtual conference platform can greatly improve the virtual attendee experience. Spotlight the features of your event platform, including specific features that will help your remote attendees connect with the live experience. 

Make it easy to save your must-attend sessions to the virtual attendee’s calendar software of choice. It’s incredibly frustrating for virtual attendees who are excited for a session, and arrive with a question at the ready, only to see a notice that the session was held two hours ago thanks to the agenda only reflecting the live event’s timezone.

How To Promote Your Hybrid Event on Social Media

Social media channels are an invaluable avenue to market and promote your event with ideal attendees, especially given the potential reach of most social media channels. You don’t want to limit yourself to your existing mailing list and blog readers to promote your event when people can join from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. 

Share a steady stream of event promotion content to build excitement for the experience and drive registrations up until the day of your event. By engaging with your prospective attendees on social media, you’re also establishing those channels as a place for attendees to go during your conference to connect and engage with your team and fellow attendees (we’ll discuss that more in a bit).

Here are five ways to drive hybrid event registration through social media:

  • Tag confirmed speakers and spotlight their sessions. Announce sessions on social media by tagging the speaker and previewing their session. Include a video or image of the speaker to help “stop the scroll” on social media.
  • Create speaker, exhibitor, and sponsor social media kits. Share a social media promotion kit with all event speakers, exhibitors, and sponsors. Include event images and draft social media messages for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at a minimum) so your partners can easily promote your event on their social channels. Consider including a unique registration discount code tied to each speaker, wherein they receive some benefit for getting people to register with their code.
  • Provide regular updates about your event’s COVID-19 safety preparedness. Although many people are comfortable attending an in-person conference, your team needs to address potential safety concerns early and often to reassure attendees who may be hesitant about joining an in-person experience. The goal is to provide transparent updates about your onsite plans to show your prospective attendees that you’re doing everything possible to protect their health.
  • Use an event hashtag. Create a custom hashtag to accompany your event. Ideally, this hashtag can be used throughout the year to reinforce a sense of community outside the conference. Research your preferred hashtag across channels to ensure it is not already commonly used for a different purpose. 
  • Share visuals and video sizzle reels. Visual content is more likely to be seen by your community on social media. Invest in custom event images and video sizzle reels that highlight what attendees can expect, both for the in-person and virtual experience. 

6 Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Engagement During A Hybrid Event

Your most engaged attendees will likely use social media to ask questions, share their learnings from the conference, and attempt to network with other attendees during your event. It’s important to prepare your team to effectively find and engage with this content in real time.

After you address these foundational ways to highlight your hybrid event engagement opportunities, follow these best practices to spark conversations and build excitement on social media during your hybrid event.

Create Event Attendee Social Media Groups

In addition to your registration website, your attendees need a central place to go to access all the relevant details about your virtual event and connect with other attendees. We recommend you create a private social media group to grow into an event community. Encourage attendees to join this group when they first purchase their tickets, and regularly promote this group during the event. Assign a staff person to monitor the community throughout the event. 

Enlist Social Media Moderators

Depending on the size of your event and the number of priority social media channels for your community, your team needs at least two team members solely focused on addressing attendee needs on social media. These moderators will engage with attendee content, including amplifying their takeaways, answering questions, and suggesting other sessions they should attend based on what they’ve enjoyed so far. They can also help create excitement by giving away prizes or other resources of value to attendees that are active on social media. Don’t forget to also have the moderators check in with the social media group to share photos and videos and post conversation-starters.

Build a Social Wall

A social wall is a live display of social media posts about your conference, typically centered around the event hashtag or geolocation tags. Your team should include a social wall in your in-person experience and on your hybrid event platform to provide in-person attendees encouragement to join the virtual conversation and help remote attendees feel part of the greater conference experience. You can check out these 10 social media wall tool options for your event. 

Share Polls, Quizzes, and Contests 

Encourage engagement and help attendees get to know each other by sharing polls and quizzes related to your conference. These can include fun facts about conference speakers or preview elements of upcoming networking opportunities. Consider having different types of activities—and prize drawings for completing them—for each social media channel. 

Host a Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt activity that both in-person and remote attendees can join. Encourage them to snap photos or take screenshots during the conference, and share those images on social media to check items off their list. Offer a prize or swag bag for anyone who completes the list.

Use Twitter Lists

Help attendees connect with speakers and other guests at your conference by creating a public Twitter list that attendees can opt into. During registration, ask if the attendee has a Twitter handle that you can include on the list. You’ll want to create an additional list with all of your conference speakers. 

Cohesive Hybrid Event Technology Enables An Engaging Event Experience

Your hybrid event attendees need ample ways to connect with each other throughout your event and across the virtual communication channels they prefer. There are several steps your team can take to facilitate this, including creating a dedicated conference hashtag and actively encouraging conversations about your event on social media. 

But even the best-intended efforts can fall flat if your event platform simply cannot provide the interactive attendee experience that your attendees deserve. With the right hybrid event platform, your team can create beautifully customized event branding that highlights your event hashtag and includes a social wall alongside sessions to encourage engagement. 

Find out why Social hour is your ideal hybrid event platform.

Categories
virtual events

8 Best Practices For a Hybrid Industry Conference and Trade Show

Planning a hybrid event can be challenging for many teams, especially when blending the in-person and remote attendee experiences. Do any of these common hybrid events planning questions sound familiar to you?

  • Should a hybrid event prioritize the in-person audience or remote attendees? 
  • How can attendees of either type network and engage with the other? 
  • Will my exhibitors find value in a hybrid event?

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hosting an incredible hybrid event, we believe the best way to create a cohesive and engaging experience is to prioritize the virtual experience and craft a complementary in-person event that blends seamlessly with the virtual event platform. 

We know this may be a counter-intuitive approach—”but the in-person experience should always come first!”—and it is a tall order to fill. But the brands that experiment with and perfect virtual and hybrid experiences will be best set for success in the future of events and community engagement.

To help you plan your next hybrid event, we’ve gathered these best practices to ensure you create an outstanding attendee experience, regardless of how they choose to join. 

8 Ways To Improve The Hybrid Event Attendee Experience

As more teams experiment with their hybrid event strategies, we can use their learnings to improve our approaches based on what worked well (or not so well). 

After researching recent virtual and hybrid events like Surf Expo, Essence Festival of Culture, CXEnergy 2021 Virtual Conference, and countless others, here are eight ways you can build a seamless event experience for all of your hybrid event attendees:

Broadcast all sessions via live stream with a unified commentary feed. 

All of your event sessions will likely involve a mix of in-person and remote-based attendees unless you host exclusive experiences only for your in-person attendees. To present a cohesive session experience, broadcast all sessions via live stream to virtual attendees, and project a commentary feed alongside your stage that includes thoughts from all attendees, regardless of location. 

If streaming all the conference content live is not feasible, consider pre-recording all breakout sessions, and having the speaker host a watch party on-site, followed by live-streamed Q&A sessions.

Stream your in-person attendees alongside sessions. 

It may sound strange at first, but we recommend live-streaming your in-person audience alongside your sessions. Why? Because the full scope of your event and its energy is difficult to absorb through a presenter-only one-way stream. 

You can accomplish this best practice with a digital or hybrid event platform that supports multiple simultaneous streams. If possible, consider streaming your remote attendees on a screen to your in-person audience, too, so everyone can realize just how many people are at your event. 

Don’t forget lunch. 

Provide a few lunch options for your in-person and remote attendees and partner with a nationwide delivery app partner to deliver meals to your virtual attendees’ homes. In addition, create spaces during the lunch break so in-person and remote attendees can easily chat and connect. 

Enlist moderators and help them coordinate.

Assign separate moderators to oversee your virtual and in-person attendees during sessions. Gather questions from both groups through your dedicated event messaging platform or audience polls, and then aggregate these questions into a shared document with all moderators. Ideally, you will have at least one moderator gathering questions for both groups each session and an additional moderator solely focused on reviewing/blending the two sets of questions and presenting them to the session host or participants. 

Encourage attendees to pre-submit questions. 

The goal for any event is to host crowd-pleasing sessions. As soon as your attendees hear about your event schedule, they should be excited about the discussion and will likely start to think about their own questions or goals for each session. So why should they have to wait to start engaging? Enable attendees to submit questions through your trade show app ahead of time. 

In addition to getting the buzz started about your event, this will help moderators set initial questions for sessions, can help refine conference presentations (if attendee questions are provided to the speaker ahead of time), and could provide ongoing content opportunities for your team. If a session has many unanswered questions, consider hosting a webinar or publishing an e-book or a series of blog posts to address your attendee needs.

Swag bags for everyone. 

Prepare swag bags for your in-person attendees to pick up at registration and mail similar bags to all virtual attendees. Remember that your attendees want useful items that help them day-to-day or provide instant relief at the event. Most trade show attendees have amassed a seemingly endless stock of low-quality pens, stress balls, and other items that quickly are thrown into a drawer once the event is over. Instead, give them something on-brand that they will actually use, like a USB drive, portable charger, or mints. 

Replicate your trade show floor online. 

Once you have all your other technology in place to enable attendee’s engagement, you can consider building a 3D rendering of your exhibition hall that allows virtual attendees to see displays and setups. You can also spotlight sponsored booths for your attendees to visit and interact with, and use a remote platform that helps attendees easily talk to and swap contact info with exhibitors. Some events have gamified this experience, offering prizes and giveaways to attendees who visit booths, or hosting a scavenger hunt to encourage more booth engagement. Consider adding an online-only exhibitor row to accommodate past exhibitors under travel restrictions and encourage in-person attendees to participate in the online experience.

Widen your exhibitor net but stay local. 

Almost all event exhibitors (96%) indicated that their marketing budgets are decreasing or staying the same in 2021, despite needing to support both in-person and digital versions of many events. Event planners can work around this by conducting a thorough exhibitor search within a drivable distance from their event venue. Although some legacy exhibitors may drop out due to the inability to travel, eager exhibitors in the local area can fill those slots. 

Select The Best Event Technology For an Exceptional Hybrid Event Experience

The above best practices are just a handful of current considerations for hosting a successful hybrid event. Remember to survey your community to understand what they hope to gain from a hybrid event experience and use those findings to build the optimal event for your unique audience. 

A common thread through all of these best practices is that your chosen hybrid event platform can easily make or break the attendee experience. You need a platform that can seamlessly connect your remote and in-person attendees to make them feel like the stars of the show. Learn how Social hour can make this your hybrid event reality

Categories
virtual events

Bridging the Experience Gap: How to Build Hybrid Events That Excite and Engage

There is a significant difference between hosting or attending an in-person event versus its virtual equivalent. This came into sharp focus for event planners and marketers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as we had to very quickly adapt experiences to an online-only audience. While many of us are looking forward to the return to live events, our event attendees have made it clear that the way of the future is hybrid events. 

Bridging the gap between live and virtual attendee experience means building a hybrid experience that engages both audiences with equal access to opportunities for connection. In order to build these events, we must think differently about event planning from the ground up. 

It’s been said before and it bears repeating: a quality hybrid experience cannot simply be a live event with an online experience bolted on. To blend the two experiences meaningfully, you must plan each aspect of your event around both experiences, or build a quality online event and flow your live event around it. 

To understand how to create a high-quality hybrid event, we need to deeply explore the differences between live and online events and identify how hybrid event planning can create the perfect bridge to merge them. 

Online Versus In-Person Attention Spans

One big advantage of live events is they are mostly a captive, fully engaged audience. They are on-site, immersed in the physical conference space, surrounded by other attendees. They are buffered from whatever is waiting for them at home or the office. The flip side of this is that if an emergency arises that they must attend to in-person, they must leave the event, and risk not returning at all. 

Online attendees, however, are surrounded by the distractions of home or the office, and are more likely to have a split focus throughout the event. While this can be challenging, being a virtual attendee also means it is easier to dip in and out of the event as needed, in order to address external needs. 

Hybrid Events Can Give Attendees the Best of Both Worlds

When crafting a hybrid event, we want to build out an immersive experience for both types of attendees, while also making it easy to come and go as needed. We want attendees excited and focused on the event programming while making it seamless to step away and return as needed.

There are several ways to help keep your audiences drawn in. Effective use of social media to build an online community can help create ongoing engagement and prevent momentary distractions from turning into complete disengagement. Use of virtual lobbies and common spaces to keep your virtual audiences “on-site” between sessions and engaging with content and other attendees is also key. 

Virtual vs. Live Networking 

A major challenge for virtual events is creating easy and fun opportunities for networking. Live event attendees have the advantage of casual chance meetings in hallways while moving about the event space or during scheduled social hours and networking events. 

For virtual attendees, it is critical to choose an event technology platform that makes networking opportunities easy, and provides a way to integrate virtual and live networking. When surveyed, 39% of respondents who had attended a hybrid event expressed feeling left out. Bridging the networking gap is a critical way to overcome this challenge and keep your virtual attendees engaged and feeling connected. 

How to Craft a Hybrid Networking Experience

Employing several methods to improve networking opportunities will help your hybrid event shine. This is another instance where effective use of social media to build and maintain online communities can be helpful — this helps people connect before, during, and after your event. 

Both live and virtual attendees should have badges that provide quick, key details about themselves. Then build a bridge that links how virtual and live attendees can access information about each other. For example, all attendees should have an online profile that is completed ahead of the event. It should be easy for live attendees to point others to their profile (example: a QR code on their event badge that can be scanned with the event app), while virtual attendees’ avatars can contain similar key info and a prominent link to their profile. 

Creating and curating dedicated hybrid networking spaces is critical. As mentioned previously, live attendees have easy access to other attendees. For online attendees, create virtual lobbies and conversation spaces that create the same chance meetings. Set up tables and spaces that draw people into conversations using ice breaker questions, shared interests, or even casual games. By allowing virtual attendees to see who is in the room at large and seek out conversations, they will feel much more included and engaged with your event. 

Differences Between Live and Virtual Agenda Management

One of the biggest challenges of hosting any event is maintaining the agenda and helping people know where they should be, and when. For live events, there are many opportunities to get this right through the distribution of printed schedules, appropriate signage, and audio announcements that help attendees know where they need to be. 

For online participants, this can be a much poorer experience. Having to manually create events on your calendar risks getting key details and times wrong. Connecting to a session at the wrong time and receiving confusing messaging (for example, “this session has not yet started” when the session has ended) can be frustrating and disheartening. On the positive side, if virtual events have intuitive navigation, attendees can change locations with just a click — faster than live attendees could move to a new location.

One Digital Master Agenda to Rule Them All

One of the best ways to provide a stellar experience is to make it easy to create a custom digital agenda that seamlessly imports into the attendee’s calendar. If you are planning to use a custom app for your event, consider making an agenda builder with push notifications a built-in function. This can be helpful for all participants, especially at large events spread out over a large conference center. 

When an attendee is unable to make it a desired session, have the virtual replay, resources, and other key information easily accessible through the agenda when connecting to the online session space to make the experience better for everyone who needs to be in two places at once.

Virtual Audience Participation Largely a Live Event Afterthought

A huge factor in how integrated your virtual audience feels hinges on how you manage interactions between a speaker or panel, and the in-person versus virtual audiences. Handling this poorly can result in virtual attendees feeling hidden behind the screen and not a real part of the event. Frequently, speakers are unable to easily see and respond to incoming questions from online participants, which leads to a poor experience for everyone. 

For the best interactive experience for both live and virtual breakout session attendees, assign a moderator dedicated to monitoring and representing online comments and questions. Consider a setup where virtual attendees can ask their questions live using a video interface that allows the speaker (or even the live audience) to see them. Give dedicated time to both the in-person and virtual audiences for the Q&A. And don’t forget to provide opportunities for the two to engage with each other, as well as with the speaker or panel, throughout the session. 

The Trade Show Floor Is More Than Just a Collateral Library

Trade shows and conferences with a vendor showroom present a special challenge for hybrid events. This takes getting creative to offer a virtual experience that brings that same sense of fun and engagement that walking the floor brings.

When you are live at an event, you get the thrill of seeing the displays, meeting the people, and collecting fun swag as you walk the trade show floor. And of course, the showroom is a classic place for networking and chance meetings. 

Incorporate Your Event’s Networking Tools to Deliver an Interactive Virtual Trade Show Experience

Too often, virtual trade shows consist of a static menu of logos that lead to a document library, and possibly a calendar link to set up a 1:1 meeting. Replicating the live trade show experience virtually requires more than a simple vendor list and/or a static website interface. 

You need to get innovative to meet attendee and exhibitor trade show goals. Consider a 3D interactive model of the trade show floor. Imagine being able to hover over a virtual booth and getting a popup that shows company or product info, videos, and even a way to send messages or questions to the booth staff. Up the ante with the ability to see what attendees are currently visiting the same booth. Create exhibitor-hosted birds-of-a-feather networking table talks or group attendee virtual office hours to provide casual opportunities for networking and interaction. 

Start Building Better Hybrid Events

It takes creative energy and modern event management technology to build out exceptional hybrid events. It cannot be overstated that our approach to hybrid event planning means completely rethinking what it means to blend and bridge these two disparate experiences into one cohesive and engaging event. With the right planning, technology, and inclusive approach, your hybrid events will achieve further reach and superior engagement of your entire audience.

Are you ready to build innovative and exciting hybrid events? Check out socialhour.com.

Categories
virtual events

How To Organize A Virtual Fundraiser

A fundraiser is a quick and easy way to collect money for a cause or purpose. Being able to organize them virtually makes it even more accessible and less troublesome. However, before you invite people and ask them for their spare cash, you need to learn a few things first.

Planning For Your Virtual Fundraiser

Virtual fundraisers can either be a boom or a bust, depending on how well you organize it. It requires in-depth planning and top-notch execution for you to reach your fundraising goal. Here are the things you need to consider while organizing a virtual fundraiser:

Your Purpose For Your Fundraising

Fundraisers are never just for the purpose of raising money. Instead, the money you will collect is only a tool necessary to accomplish a goal. Thus, one can consider this underlying goal as even more crucial than the fundraiser itself.

Although you may already have a general idea of your primary goal, you need to dig deeper. You need to answer questions such as, “How will the money help with your main purpose?”, “How crucial is it for your purpose to succeed?” and “Will people relate to your purpose enough for them to contribute their hard-earned money?”

The Minimum Amount You Need

When fundraising, it is necessary that you have a specific target amount in your mind. Otherwise, you will never know if your fundraising was a success or a failure. To determine the minimum amount you need to raise, consider the following expenses:

  • Your expected costs for your primary purpose
  • The actual costs of your fundraising event
  • The cost of marketing your fundraising event

You can also consider other items that are not on this list. Just remember that including an allowance in your estimate is always a best practice. Doing so will help you mitigate unforeseen expenses.

Your Target People

The purpose of your fundraising significantly affects your target audience. For example, if your goal is to raise funds to set up an animal shelter, your target will include people interested in saving animals. If your purpose is to organize a tree planting, you can expect environmentally conscious people to donate.

Knowing your target people is very important as it would help you market your fundraising to the correct individuals. It is no secret that marketing costs a lot unless you are super lucky. By having a good idea of who to target, you can effectively budget your marketing and customize your messaging.

Your Fundraising Budget

As we have mentioned above, fundraisers can cost you some money. These costs may include venue rentals, labor, marketing expenses, logistics, and more. Fortunately, virtual fundraisers can eliminate some of these costs. Nevertheless, you must set a budget for your fundraising event at the early stages of your planning.

Your Marketing Plan

Inviting people personally to join your virtual fundraising event can be helpful. However, solely relying on such a strategy can take a significant amount of time and effort. Marketing your virtual fundraising on various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help you reach a broader audience.

When creating a marketing plan, consider your target audience, your goals, and your marketing costs. You must balance between getting to as many people as possible without breaking your budget.

Social Hour Can Help You With Your Virtual Fundraiser

Organizing a virtual fundraising can be a drag. One of the biggest worries of most virtual fundraisers is finding the best platform for their events. Social Hour is a virtual fundraiser platform packed with features to help you organize the best virtual fundraising event for you and your attendees.

Social Hour Tables

Probably one of the best features of Social Hour is its customizable Tables. With Social Hour’s Tables, you can create groups within your event that cater to different needs or provide different activities. This feature allows participants to jump between Tables as they wish, leveling up your fundraising from being just a simple video call to a full-blown online convention.

For example, you can create a Table where attendees can check how close you are to your fundraising goal. You can then create another Table that allows participants to speak with each other. This way, your activities are not getting mixed up, giving your participants a better experience.

Spotlight Multiple Speakers

Social Hour’s Stages feature allows you to spotlight a single or a group of speakers. With this feature, you can give your participants a similar feel to face-to-face panel discussions. Thus, it will be easier for your participants to understand the importance of your fundraising.

Easily Manage Your Participants

Managing a large number of participants can be hell for many organizers. Luckily, Social Hour’s participant management system lets you do everything you need in just a few clicks. Its Participants Listing allows you to view and chat with any of your attendees. You can also use it to join any participant at their current Table.

Apply Your Own Branding

Giving your participants a feel of who you are and what you stand for can make them more likely to donate to your cause. Social Hour allows you to apply your branding to your virtual fundraising event.

You can display your logo across events and choose colors that match your brand. You can also customize your landing pages to give participants a better welcoming experience.

Fun Activities For Everyone

Who said that fundraising events could not be fun? Social Hour provides ready-made fun activities that your participants can join. You can choose from ice breakers, word games, and jigsaw puzzles to break any monotony. Social Hour’s photo booth is also a great way to build connections between your participants.

In-Depth Metrics Of Your Event

After your virtual fundraising event, it is helpful to measure the success of your event. Social Hour’s Event Metrics lets you see the total number of participants that joined your fundraising. It also shows you which events or Tables were most popular, helping you plan better virtual fundraisings in the future.

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virtual events

4 Ways To Invite Alumni To Your Virtual College Class Reunion

Have you been planning your virtual college class reunion? It can be easy for your reunion planning committee to get wrapped up in all the details—from setting goals for your event, creating an exciting schedule filled with activities and fun networking opportunities, and finding a platform to meet these needs.

But if you spend all your time planning those above areas, your event can still fall short if you neglect one key area: promotion.

It’s hard to forget that your reunion is just around the corner when you’re part of the planning committee. But your alumni need ample notice in a few different places to maximize their likelihood of attending and ensure they have a fulfilling reunion experience.

 Let’s explore the best practices for promoting your upcoming virtual college class reunion. 

Create A Virtual Class Reunion Hub

Before you start promoting your online college class reunion, create a central location for your alumni to access key information about the event. Then, regularly update this hub as new details emerge and the reunion gets closer. 

If multiple communications hubs pop up as you plan and promote your event, your alumni will likely become confused about where to receive the most up-to-date information. Instead, maintain one core page—be it a dedicated website, an event page on an existing alumni site, private social media group, etc.—that links out to all the alumni resources for the reunion.

Your virtual class reunion hub should, at a minimum, include these details:

  • Date, time, and location of the reunion
  • How to register or RSVP for the reunion, including any fees
  • A detailed schedule of events
  • Networking opportunities
  • Contact information for more details
  • Asks/considerations for guests
  • Answers to frequently asked questions, like the ideal attire
  • Technology troubleshooting guides

4 Ways To Promote Your Virtual College Class Reunion

It’s not enough to send a single invite to your alumni and expect your registrations to skyrocket. Your reunion planning committee needs to send multiple invitations and reminders through various channels to maximize your RSVP count. 

Partner with your alumni association to source contact details for your alumni. Use this initial list to start your outreach, but you will need to expand this list and your outreach strategy to get in front of more alumni.

Consider a combination of these four primary ways to reach your potential college class reunion attendees:

Digital or Physical Invitations

Share a digital or physical invitation to start promoting your virtual reunion. A direct invitation is a perfect way to announce the event, and these invitations should guide your alumni to your class reunion hub.

Ideally, start inviting alumni up to a year before your event. This leaves ample time for your invitations to navigate the mail system and eventually reach your invitee. However, digital invitations are a much more direct (and potentially trackable) way to invite your alumni.

Consider a combination of both print and digital invitations if your time and budget allow.

Email Newsletter

Create an email newsletter to keep your alumni up to date on the latest plans for your college reunion. Start light with the number of your messages, ideally sending just one update every one or two months when you are a year out from the event. Then, as the reunion gets closer, you can send weekly or more frequent emails as needed.

Use the email newsletter to drum up excitement for the reunion, encourage donations to the university, and ultimately drive more attendance.

A few ideas for what to include in a virtual college reunion email newsletter include:

  • Fun photos from your graduating year, presented in a fun trivia style, such as, “can you guess what this is?”
  • Spotlight notable alumni who will attend the reunion, ideally with a quote about why they are excited to attend
  • Promote speakers or sessions at your reunion
  • Discuss the networking opportunities available to your alumni at the reunion

Social Media

Social media channels will widen your net of invitees. There are a few ways to maximize the effectiveness of your social media promotion:

  • Reunion event page. Invite your former classmates to an event page on Facebook or LinkedIn. Ensure that a member of your communications and marketing committee monitors these event pages for questions or comments from your prospective attendees.
  • Hashtag. Create a hashtag to accompany your reunion posts. This will help your alumni sort through information about the event and connect with others who are attending.
  • Direct messages. Social media’s “social” aspect is vital for getting people excited about your online reunion experience. Have each member of your planning committee directly message any of their friends and former classmates, and encourage those friends to invite their friends. 
  • Paid posts. Promote your virtual college reunion with sponsored posts that will directly target members of your alumni network. Most social media channels offer cost-effective promotion that can greatly boost the reach of your event’s promotions. 

Phone a Friend

This strategy will be necessary if your alumni network is not particularly active on social media channels. However, it will require a more significant time investment. Directly call alumni that you have not been able to reach by other means, and quickly let them know about the reunion and where they can get more information.

It’s important to respect your alumni’s time when calling. Leave a clear and concise voicemail if you cannot reach them live, and only call them up to three times leading up to your event, ideally one time a month.

Delight Your Alumni Network For Reunions to Come

As your team continues promoting your reunion, tap into your alumni network to refine and improve your reunion experience. Share short surveys and polls to gauge what your alumni hope to gain from the experience, and use this information to put the finishing touches on your planning. 

By directly engaging your alumni ahead of your event, they’re more likely to be excited about your event—and possibly return for your next reunion.

But promotion is just one part of hosting a successful online college reunion. Learn more about how to plan a virtual college reunion event that your alumni will love. And once you’re ready to get started, see how Social hour can help you make it an event to remember.

Categories
virtual events

How Your Online College Reunion Goals Should Adapt To New Alumni Needs

Are you hosting an upcoming college reunion? Although it is natural to default your planning to a traditional in-person reunion experience, there are several advantages to hosting an online event experience. But how can you tell which event style will be best for your alumni?

To help plan your college class reunion, let’s explore the pros and cons of virtual event experiences and in-person event experiences, and how your audience needs should shape your reunion agenda and activities

How Is A Virtual College Reunion Different From An In-Person Reunion?

Virtual college reunions provide many of the same benefits and possibilities as an in-person reunion without the costly hurdles of travel for your alumni. 

You can replicate most aspects of an in-person college reunion online using on-demand or live-streamed videos and a combination of open networking rooms and channels for your alumni to mix and mingle. 

At a high level, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each type of college reunion:

Virtual College Class ReunionsIn-Person College Class Reunions
ProsNo travel hurdles for attendees

Potential cost advantages for reunion organizers

The online format makes it easier to track engagement and essential information for future reunions

Recorded sessions can be accessed and replayed after your reunion is over, serving as promotional materials for future reunions
There is an innate appeal and excitement with in-person gatherings and reunions

The local community receives a business boost thanks to the alumni who travel to the reunion

Group activities and happy hours are easier to plan when everyone is in the same location
ConsSome attendees may not be tech-savvy and have difficulty navigating your event experience

The local community receives no boost in business
Travel needs and costs could detract alumni from attending, limiting the size and diversity of your group

In-person events require a significant time commitment and lock your attendees into the experience

Goals For College Class Reunions By Audience

When planning a college class reunion and deciding whether to offer a virtual or online event, it’s important to consider the different audiences and their respective goals for the reunion. Your alumni are certainly a priority audience, but this group is filled with unique individuals that each have their own hopes for the event. Then there is also the greater university ecosystem that relies on reunions to fulfill other needs.

Alumni Goals for College Reunions Evolve Over Time

Your alumni will have a range of hopes and goals for attending your college reunions, and these needs will change depending on if you are hosting a five-year, ten-year, or 15+-year reunion.

Generally, your alumni will attend the reunion to:

  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Relive the excitement of college days
  • Forge new professional connections or partnerships
  • Show their family their alma mater
  • Assess whether your college is a good fit for their children or other loved ones to attend

Your reunion planning committee will need to build an agenda that provides ample open networking space, as well as more structured talks and sessions to appeal to these diverse goals.

According to information from Stanford University and Harvard University, you can expect reunions shortly after college to be most popular, with a sharp dip in attendance at the 15-year celebration, followed by a pickup from the 25th reunion onward. The earlier reunions are often characterized by alumni insecurities about their work and life; it is often best to prioritize open networking opportunities and high-energy games and activities for these events. As your alumni become more comfortable with their lives, they are ready to engage in more intellectual-focused topics and presentations (typically around the 15-year reunion mark). 

University Goals For Class Reunions

The second most important audience for your virtual class reunion is the university, or, specifically, its current leadership, faculty, and students.

Reunions are an important opportunity to reconnect alumni with their alma mater and instill a sense of pride in their university. Ideally, college class reunions will encourage alumni to donate to their university, helping to sustain its work and support future generations of students. 

Actively partner with members of your alumni association to ensure that the university’s fundraising goals and other needs are accounted for during your virtual reunion planning. 

Survey Your Reunion Attendees To Understand Their Needs

The best way to build a fulfilling virtual reunion agenda is to directly ask your alumni and leadership of your university what they hope to gain from the reunion experience. Employ a mix of short survey questions and targeted 1:1 conversations to dive into the full range of considerations for the reunion. We share a few questions to consider in our college reunion planning overview.

The Future Of College Reunions Is Online

With your audience survey results analyzed, your reunion planning committee is better prepared to deliver a fulfilling reunion experience for your various audiences. Track how your alumni needs change as you advance in your reunion years and adjust your strategy to continue delivering an outstanding reunion for everyone involved.

Even as more communities reopen and resume in-person activities, we expect virtual college reunions will remain popular for their ease of access and unrivaled conveniences for attendees—especially as committees show just how impressive an online college class reunion experience can be.

Learn more about how Social hour can help you host an incredible virtual alumni reunion event