This post originally appeared on the Social hour blog.
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 Reunions||In-Person College Class Reunions|
|Pros||No 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
|Cons||Some 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.