7 High-Tech Class Reunion Ideas to Boost Attendance

Our ClassFinders.com survey of more than 10,000 people who had major class reunion anniversaries last year (10-, 15-, 20-year, etc.) found that for those who didn't have the best time, they tended to have one complaint in common: Not enough people attended.

In fact, 87 percent of those surveyed said less than half their class attended the reunion. And while many folks blame social media and technology for the decline in class reunions, the truth is smart organizers and class reunion planners can harness the power of technology to boost attendance and make their class reunions events to remember. Here's a list of our favorite ways to use technology to boost class reunion attendance.

What percentage of your graduating class attended the reunion?

Build a database

When we surveyed our members on their suggestions for improving the reunion experience, the most common idea was contacting everybody in the class. For class reunion planners, that means tracking down dozens and dozens (if not hundreds, depending on class size) of people who likely are spread around the country and the world. Using spreadsheets like Excel or Google Sheets will allow planners to easily organize the contact info and other information about class members, making it easier to ensure every person has been contacted and allowing ongoing communications.

According to our survey, 29 percent of alumni didn't even know there was a reunion. The single most important job is letting people know the event is happening, and compiling contact information for your entire class is a big task, to be sure, but by using readily available technology, you can set yourself up for future success.

To your knowledge, was there a reunion last year?

The results of our survey were clear, though: Increasing attendance raises enjoyment dramatically, as those whose reunions had three-quarters or more of the class attending rated their reunions about 35 percent higher than those with fewer than 25 percent attending.

Average rating by percentage of graduating class attending their reunion

Automate communications

Another common complaint was a lack of communication in the lead-up to the reunion. Particularly for those with busy schedules or who will have to travel long distances to attend, consistent communication about the event is crucial. When you consider that generally, reunion planning tends to fall on just a few class members (in our research, a quarter of reunions had three or fewer planners), you need all the efficiency you can get. (Our research very clearly suggests that a "the more the merrier" approach to planning is wise -- reunions with five or more planners had nearly double the attendance of those with a single planner.)

Even if it's just to keep people excited about the event, you can use automation tools to schedule and send emails or messages to class members. Your database will help with this, and planners can save time by scheduling messages to send out months in advance. These tools are present on most social media platforms, as browser add-ons, or (depending on your budget) available in event planning software. Some software also allows for automation of text messages, so be sure to include mobile numbers in your database.

Automating communications also helps support long-term planning, which is crucial for boosting attendance. Letting people know about reunions at least six months in advance boosted attendance by about 30 percent when compared to reunions that were announced only one or two months ahead of time.

Average attendance by how many months before the reunion an attendee heard about it

Use Facebook, but not only Facebook

About two-thirds of American adults have a Facebook account. While that's a huge number, that still means that at least 80 million adults aren't on the platform. Those numbers go up as you look at older age groups, so, depending on your class year, it's likely lots of your classmates are not on Facebook. But it's unlikely many of your classmates have no digital footprint whatsoever, so be sure to explore other social media, such as LinkedIn, local newspaper websites, or simple Google searches.

According to our survey, only 20 percent of respondents were contacted by mail and even fewer got phone calls.

What methods were used by class representatives to spread the word?


Finding the perfect date

One of the hardest parts of planning any event with potentially hundreds of people attending is finding the ideal date. Luckily, there are lots of apps that will help you find the ideal date, or find a few that will work and allow your classmates to vote. This could be as simple as setting up a poll on your reunion's Facebook page. Democratizing your event also is likely to boost attendance, as participants will feel they've had a voice and helped to create a good time.

Our survey found that while most reunions take place in the fall, attendance is highest between May and September.

Average attendance by month of reunion.

Survey says

Using Facebook, Google Forms, or some other method, poll your classmates on what activities they would find the most fun. You likely won't be able to accommodate every single idea, but if you want people to attend your class reunion, you should ensure you've planned activities that enough people will find interesting and worth their time.

But according to our data, only 10 percent of people attended specifically because of the events planned, so one potential way to encourage out-of-towners to make the trip. Our survey also found that inviting kids to some (but not all) reunion events further boosts attendance.

Face the music

Using Spotify, Pandora, or other music streaming platforms, allow class members to create and contribute to custom playlists of songs that bring back memories. You can either run the playlist during the event, or if you've been able to hire a live band, ask them to play as many of the playlists songs as they can.

Live-stream the event

Using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, or some other video broadcasting platform, assign a class member to serve as the virtual emcee, live streaming the event for those who couldn't attend or friends and family of classmates. Encourage participation of the stream watchers by asking who they'd like to hear from, then finding that person to share a message or even answer watchers' questions. You never know -- if your live-stream makes the reunion seem fun enough, you might just get a few last-minute attendees.

All the super-fun activities in the world won't be successful without robust attendance from your classmates. So be sure to take advantage of rapidly advancing technology to make your event easier to organize and more fun to attend. Not only will it improve the event you're currently planning, but it'll help ensure future reunions are even more well-attended.