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Website affecting Reunion Attendance?

Forums: General Discussion
Created on: 05/20/11 10:00 PM Views: 1620 Replies: 22
Friday, May 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM

We began our website at the end of January and asked for feedback on whether or not we should move forward in planning a 40th grammar school reunion. All the feedback was positive so we then posted an attendance survey. We had 36% of our class say that they would definitely attend, barring any unforeseen circumstances, and 13% say that they might attend. It was only after the survey that we formed a committee and began planning a reunion.
Well, here we are, 7 days from the end of 7 weeks of ticket sales and we've got 22% signed up; this after numerous gentle reminders. With hindsight, a few of us believe that the website is both a blessing and a curse. There is no way that we could have found over 90% of our class without it. Yet, because of the website's popularity, we're beginning to believe that classmates no longer feel the need to reconnect in person. Anyone else experience this, or suspect that it may be happening with your class? Just curious.

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Edited 05/22/11 1:23 AM
Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 8:13 PM - Response #1

What usually happens is people's intent to attend attracts more attendance. It's almost always a good thing. We've certainly seen the opposite scenario though. For instance, maybe the web site is really popular but for whatever reason there's very little interest in attending the reunion... In this case the lack of intent to attend can prevent others from making the commitment to attend. It's for this very reason that we give Admins the ability to show or not show the "attending reunion" icon. If you fall into the later scenario it may be a good idea to disable the icon so the small attendance # doesn't negatively impact additional people's desire to attend. Generally the web site usually enhances desire to attend the reunion in person. For every rule there is an exception though. Hopefully others will share their thoughts on this below.


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Edited 05/22/11 1:16 AM
Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 8:25 PM - Response #2

Well, Brad the jury is still out on us. However, the web site has created amazing interest and people are coming that have not been back "home" in 40 years! I think our registration is about where we thought it would be at this point, despite offering an "early bird special," most people still have arrangements to make. And stuff does happen!

What I WOULD say is that at 40 years, many are coming without their spouses and that does affect numbers, but that's personal choice and I am leaving MINE home! So that will affect our planning.

Thinking further, when we are older and cannot travel and whatnot, the idea of a "virtual reunion" could possibly replace face to face, but I don't really think so! I too am interested to see what others will say!

Denise

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Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 8:39 PM - Response #3

I don't think you're seeing the blessing-curse effect of the website. I think what you're seeing is the problem with people having to RSVP AND pre-pay for tickets for a reunion when all they really want to do is hang out and see old classmates. In this economic climate I think it's ridiculously short-sighted to ask people to pay for a reunion.

When asked how/why ours was such a success (after over 20 years of NO ONE in our class organizing a reunion), I, first of all, give credit to this amazing website and the excitement reading profiles and seeing photos creates.

THEN, I give credit to the fact that we didn't ask for any RSVPs. We simply found a classy, cool martini-bistro type venue that had enough space and was hungry for business. They cordoned off a section of the place with only the promise that we might have 10 or we might have 100. They were---like most businesses these days---just thrilled to have the possibility that they might have a full house.

And full house indeed! We brought in 120 customers. Each person ran their own tab. I billed it as, "If all you order is ice water, that's all this reunion will cost you. It's free."

But most got caught up in the moment of it, ordering dinner and drinks, and made it more than profitable for the restaurant to give us the space. We paid nothing for it.

So, if anyone's planning an upcoming reunion, think outside the box and try to figure out how to make it as easy AND as economical ('free' being an option for someone who doesn't want to order something) as you can for your people. Restaurants, even GREAT ones like the one we used, are hurting these days. And a wisely-run one will work with you.

Your reunion will be a huge success as a result. BTW, we had approximately 80% attendance at ours!

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Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 9:30 PM - Response #4

I appreciate the input everyone.

In our case, Brad, we'd love to have the people show who stated they would in the Attendance Survey. The interest in the website and the idea of a reunion peaked around the end of March. It seems as if once everyone got "caught up" with their classmates, interest began to wane. What I was attempting to point out was we're not even getting the people who said they would attend a few months ago.

As far as us being short-sighted Ronna, I beg to disagree. This is, overall, an affluent bunch. In fact, it seems that the most affluent are the ones who really don't care to attend. Trust me, charging $45 for two evenings of entertainment is NOT a deal breaker for this group. We're all quite proud of the way we've been able to keep the cost down.

Don't get me wrong, I love the website and I've had a lot of fun with it, but I think it's working both for us and against us when it comes to reunion attendance. In fact, I just ran across this article from NPR which pretty much supports our observation; the only difference being their story is about Facebook affecting reunions and ours is the website, but hey, it's all social media, right?
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/15/136209590/school-reunions-nah-ive-got-facebook

Jim Marolda

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Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 9:42 PM - Response #5

Thank you, Ronna. I needed to hear that...especially the outside the box remark. I so do not want to put on a traditional reunion. We have done the exact same thing locally but with not enough up front time for the far away to make plans. They were successful on the small scale. I will ponder this idea and might get back to you with questions.

M:O)

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Edited 05/21/11 9:43 PM
Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 9:51 PM - Response #6

A lot of people wait until the last minute to see who else is coming.

I think some people get cold feet closer to the reunion thinking they aren't thin enough, rich enough, etc.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 10:17 PM - Response #7

Might a grammar school reunion bring forth a different percentage attendance than a high school reunion?

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:09 AM - Response #8

That would be MY question, Nancy. But I guess it depends on the size of the town. We had 5 or 6 Elementary schools when I went, but some towns only have one. Everybody went all 12 years together.
Lara

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:20 AM - Response #9

Alumni Guy: I think that is definitely the case for some of the folks. But I really think the rest that said they were coming and now are not, are satisfied with the reconnecting they've already done on the website. It's amazing when you look at the difference in the number of messages between classmates that were sent in March as compared to April.

And Nancy: I agree, we were not expecting our turnout to be anywhere near what the turnouts were for our respective High Schools. Although we've already surpassed the number who turned out for my HS's 35 year reunion [Montini]; which was done the same way that Ronna's VERY SUCCESSFUL REUNION was done. So apparently choosing a restaurant and telling everyone to come if they feel like it doesn't automatically guarantee success. But hey, you're dealing with different people in different parts of the country who attended different schools. You really have to know your target group and "one size doesn't fit all".

Again, I think our class is witnessing the trend that NPR pointed out in their article on May 15, of this year.
http://www.npr.org/2011/05/15/136209590/school-reunions-nah-ive-got-facebook

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Edited 05/22/11 1:21 AM
Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:27 AM - Response #10

I think everyone has brought up excellent points, and I do feel that "some" people get what they want from just connecting on the web site. However, others want and almost need the face to face and the excitement of interacting with old friends they may not have seen in years. For our 50th we are getting what I would call very good response and I attribute some of that to putting together a variety of activities so hopefully everyone has something that will interest them. We've still got some 30 classmates that have been on the site but haven't indicated their coming. I just send out a very corgial email to them each month asking them to join us and reminding them of what we have planned. No one can know what causes some of our classmates to not want to attend. It could be appearance, health, financial, past bad experience at reunion or in school, divorce, family problems and so-on. The only thing you can do is put together a variety of activities and stay up-beat.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:55 AM - Response #11

I agree with your hypothesis. I think we are experiencing the same effect. However, we will still have more people at this reunion (35th) than was at our previous reunion (30th). The internet has allowed people to find us that we had completely lost track of. With a class of over 700 that's not surprising. I agree with the blessing/curse.

We should compare notes after the reunion to see if the last minute crowd rallies in for the fun.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 2:20 AM - Response #12

My Class graduated in 1961 and we had our 50th Class Reunion last week. The majority of my Classmates do not use the Internet. I have encouraged them to open an account using their childrens, grand childrens, friends accounts for access and public Librarys and it is working. we scheduled a trip to Europe, las Vegas, Jamaica, and one to the Bahamas on December 12, 2011. Our next Class Reunion is scheduled for the city of Chicago in 2012. The Web Site will afford us the opportunity to do advance sales of Caps, CD's etc. to pay for a new post office box, postage etc. to cover our start up costs. The Web Site is working excellent for us. I would encourage anyone to request to log on as a guest member and see what we do. We had 25 Classmates log on to our web Site today. We did not use the Web Site at our 50th Reunion because the Chairperson of the Reunion does not use a computer and he lives in Birmingham, Alabama. I live in Washington DC. When we have our next Reunion in 2003 in Chicago, we will use the Web Site exclusively because the Chairperson in Chicago is more skilled. There is no doubt that the Web Site is extremely effective. We also have a trip scheduled for Jerusalem/Cairo, Egypt in March 2012. we are not well off by any means, the Web Site allows you to plan effectively and communicate at low cost. We could not function well without it, we have a robust Picture Gallery and it is very effective in attracting new members and keeping their attention.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM - Response #13

You must have created a great website. I try to change the pages of the website weekly so I can keep the attention of the alumni. Our 50th reunion is a little less than 2 years away so I havn't experienced that potential problem as yet.
Let me ask you,,,Is the paid attendance 22%? and reminders haven't worked? We're going to put a "donate" post on the sitr so we may help some of the alumni attend who feel they are not able because of monetary reasons. It might be too late for that for you. But I do believe there are more than you think in that position. I went to a private girl's school in NYC and still found a percentage in that position.
Barbara E.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:49 PM - Response #14

Jim,
Your anxieties are understandable, but have No Fear. It will all work out and those that really want to show up will make it the Best Ever.
Those that seek a FB reunion will have that, but there is nothing like the Real Thing and your efforts will be rewarded. Those that choose to stay away will find out how much they missed! And most of us do not get many "Do Over" moments anymore!
We had many show up that had merely heard of the website but do not use computers,etc, and many that came only because the web site helped decrease their anxiety levels to a point where they could face the feared "unknown"!
the biggest factor , in my opinion, is making everyone feel welcome and loved! A big smile, hug and a warm reception can melt the most challenging situation. Laughing at our common bonds, and the fact that we all "turned into our parents" helps provide some levity.
Make sure to take pictures as people enter,if at all possible! The time flies and it's difficult to recapture the moments!
Most of all, Have FUN and welcome those that show up with open arms and an open heart!
You can use anything form our "reunion humor" page that you might find useful...it was started with the list of "35 Reasons to attend your 35th reunion" list.
Do your best and enjoy the wonderful moments and make some new memories!
The stuff you have no control over will take care of itself. Your classmates will pleasantly surprise you and you will be the Rock Star for pulling it off!

p.s. we had many who said that they were coming and even "registered", but we had no pay up front fee or mandatory price,etc, Those that decided not to come disappointed many, but they found out how much fun they missed. There's not much you can do except remind them of the good time they will have just knowing that they are Loved and welcomed! And celebrate those that show up, rather than waste energy on those that do not! Life is way too short! Carpe Diem! and Have FUN anyway!

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Edited 05/22/11 2:52 PM
Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 12:55 PM - Response #15

Hi Barbara,

Thank you for your reply. I'd say our website is just average. I think for awhile most of those who signed on liked the idea of reconnecting after 40 years and were excited at the prospect of a reunion. But as time went on, I believe some realized that they'd done all of the reconnecting they felt they needed to do, so there was no need to actually attend the reunion. But the jury's still out because there's 5 days remaining to purchase tickets.

Here's the rundown on the numbers:
We had 100 in our graduating class and we added 5 who transferred out before graduating. Of that 105, there are 79 who have created a profile. The rest were either contacted and opted not to join us on the site or were never located. Of that 79, there are 24 (as of today) that have signed up and paid for the reunion.

I can say with relative certainty that the $45 for 2 evenings is not a factor with those who at first expressed interest and then (apparently) changed their minds.

Again, thanks for your input, Barbara


Hello Kris,

We appreciate your words of encouragement! I love your idea of getting pics of classmates as they enter the reunion, I think we'll try that. I'm going to spend more time later on perusing your website, there's quite a lot to see there (love the reunion humor btw)!

Thanks again,
Jim

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Edited 05/22/11 1:36 PM
Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 1:32 PM - Response #16

I do not think you should have any fears, you are two (2) years out. If 100% paid today, in two (2) years circumstances may have changed to the extent that Five (5%) still would not show because the circumstances in there life may have changed over time. As you get older, weddings, Graduations, Family Reunions and many other conflicts change things. If you can get people communicating and put together a good program they will come. Our assessment is generally around $150.00 per person. We have a very nice meet and greet reception which costs out at $15 - $25.00 per person, a banquette (good guest speaker non-political) and a picnic both of these events are @ about $35.00 to $50.00 per meal. Hotels and caterers charge the same all accross the US. Erace all of your fears and be very transparent, let your membership know what your plans are long in advance, adjust accordingly, but have a good well thought out basic plan and it will work for you.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 4:40 PM - Response #17

Have you considered inviting former teachers, principals, or other classes also?
Barb's idea of a donation fund to defray expenses or give any assistance is an excellent idea, one that many do not want to bring up, but once expressed, may be utilized for many things.
It never hurts to ask. And most people procrastinate as long as possible, so give those a call, if you have a number and remind them, if possible. the personal factor should not be overlooked. And in reality, there's nothing better than a phone call, even for those on Facebook!
Finally, don't take it too personally, but follow your dream of making the reunion come true! It will be well worth it and you will have "created" more wonderful memories because of ClassCreator! The site really does "create" moments to remember!
Thanks again Brad and crew! The ripple effect of your "creation" has made others find each other, even if on FB, the starting point was your "creation" of your website vision! You are still the Best!
Tusen Tak!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011 at 5:39 PM - Response #18

We were able to locate 3 teachers and our old School nurse, all were invited. Of those, 2 teachers have committed to attending.

We thought about giving everyone a call, but with this group of people it may work against us. We've kindly asked former classmates various questions via private messages through the website and I'd say that only around 50% respond in any way. They're on the site because we can see when they log in, but for whatever reason they seem to not want to be bothered.

We have absolutely nothing against the website and Class Creator, we think they're great! I started this thread asking if others suspected that a good percentage of their classmates were content with only reconnecting via the website and not in person. Social media replacing face to face encounters, the same trend that NPR pointed to in their recent article.

Jim

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Edited 05/22/11 9:05 PM
Monday, May 23, 2011 at 12:04 PM - Response #19

I.C.G.S. Reunion wrote:

I started this thread asking if others suspected that a good percentage of their classmates were content with only reconnecting via the website and not in person. Social media replacing face to face encounters, the same trend that NPR pointed to in their recent article.
Jim

That observation might only relate to more recent classes. Our reunion is in August, but to me it looks like the total number is going to be the same as it's always been - before websites - around 80. Some are hoping for much more since it's the 50th Cool

Our attending percentage looks more or less the same as your stats we have 58 confirmed attending (that includes spouses). Your joining percentage is much higher - ours is 38% 107 out of 282.

I'd say it's a hit and miss statistic and that NPR (others) have really not done a thorough job of finding out IF there is a difference or if it's always been the same. Pretty hard to find stats pre-web/social site - so that would have to be a guess.

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Monday, May 23, 2011 at 4:30 PM - Response #20

Those who prefer FB over face-2-face reunions will perhaps never change, unless they experience the genuine joy of the personal interaction and reunion of old and new friends!

FB, and the other social sites allow one to stay inside their comfort zone, all the while reenacting the fear of "the girls' bathroom" in high school. Too Much Information but little sincerity, for the most part, remaining somewhat superficial and far from "real". Of course that's my limited opinion.

I feel sorry for those that continue to live in the shadow of fear of the unknown. The web site has done wonders to help in that area and i have tried my best to alleviate those fears in our class interactions. We are drawn together more by our similarities, than our differences, and with a Big hug and dose of laughter and acceptance, everyone that decides to risk it on the reunion will find they are delighted and blessed with something more precious than money can buy! There is no substitute for the Real Thing!
Have an excellent reunion and give it your best, with fewest regrets!
As a Navy Doc i used to work with always said, with a wink and a smile, "If you're not having Fun, you're not doing it right!"Cool

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Edited 05/23/11 6:54 PM
Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 8:27 PM - Response #21

Hello Jim,

I must agree with your findings and those of NPR. The ClassCreator website has been an amazing tool in helping us create our upcoming reunion. Sadly though in this day and age of social networking we have come across alumni who feel that Facebook and Twitter are more than enough in keeping in touch with old friends. These alumni have learned to prefer a life of anonymity and keeping folks at arms length. Though they share pictures and clever quips online, they don't want anyone honestly and truly knowing anything about them. It all goes back to insecurity. We've been trying to address those issues in our e-mail blasts, but it is what it is. There are those who prefer not to know their nextdoor neighbors, make eye contact while waiting in the grocery store check out line, or god forbid speak to someone they're standing next to. We just have to hope that there are alumni still willing to take a risk and personally interact face-to-face. That in the long run the benefit for attending a reunion far outweighs the erroneous perceived risks in attending such an event. It seems it all goes back to high school insecurities... yes, some folks never leave high school.

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Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 6:35 PM - Response #22

We waited until eight months before our reunion to even "hint" it "might" happen. We then waited until five months before to launch our website and begin the "real" work. Our reason - the wish to avoid having people "get caught up" on the web and possibly affect attendance. We have crunched numbers and kept our ticket price at $25. Nothing fancy - our old gym, a local band known to everyone (old classmates), buffet style meal. It's too soon into preparations to see if our efforts will be successful, but we're hoping. In 12 days we've had 140 people join the site (out of a possible 1400 - we're a multi-year reunion). Considering the economy, our first concern was keeping the costs low. I'll let you know if this strategy works for us.

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