Reunions by Class Act

Reunions by Class Act

P.O. Box 14016

Houston, TX 77221



Chalk Talk (Q&A)

Here are some questions asked of Class Act over the years by reunion-committee members, reunion-goers, competitors, the curious, and even ourselves:

No. 1, Q: Our committee is thinking about doing our reunion on our own. We'll use the Internet and various websites, such as Facebook, to reach class members and to publicize the reunion. We might even set up a class website. So we don't need a company, do we?

A: Maybe not - if you have 100 hours or more of time and can assume a financial commitment that often exceeds $5,000. But be careful: When you contact possible locations, many will want at least a $500 deposit, often $1,000. In addition, they might put you on a "payment schedule" leading up to the reunion. That can create a cash crunch for the committee because most people attending a reunion don't pay until the last two or three weeks.

Also, if you count on the Internet as your main means of locating classmates, you'll probably be disappointed. By and large, most people in a class aren't listed on Facebook or other social-networking or high school-related websites. And of those who are listed, it's not because they're particularly interested in a reunion: They're simply looking to find, or be found by, some former classmates.

In fact, as we discuss on the Facebook Factor page, for all of its positive benefits, Facebook is having a negative effect on reunion attendance.

No. 2, Q: But we have people on our committee who have planned parties and events like banquets, benefits and galas. Doesn't that matter?

A: A reunion is a much different animal: Party planning is only about 10 percent of what's involved. The other 90 percent is good detective work and communication. Sounds boring, but it's true. Committees working on their own usually focus a lot more on party planning than locating classmates. When that happens, the stress levels are high and they set themselves up to get in a financial bind. We've heard many stories of committees "passing the hat" at the reunion in order to pay the expenses.

Quite a few committees that hire us for their reunion had handled one or more of their previous reunions on their own. If you ask them afterward which they preferred, going solo or using Class Act, they're likely to point in our direction. Freed from the time and financial burdens discussed above, they were able to enjoy the event like the other attendees. Ever see Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion? Staffing the check-in table isn't the most exciting place to be on reunion night.

Why go through all of this when it costs nothing, other than the price to attend, to enlist the services of Class Act? We'll give you the reunion you want, without the hassles you don't want.

No. 3, Q: Is the admission cost really important as to whether a person will attend a reunion? Our committee is thinking that people in our class would pay $60 or $70. Are we right?

A: An unequivocal "yes" to the first question - cost is very important. But a respectful "no" to the second question - most people in a class won't pay $60 or $70. Members of the committee obviously are excited and enthusiastic about the reunion (or else they wouldn't be on the committee). So they're likely to pay that kind of price. But most people in the class won't.

Rule No. 1 in reunion planning: Higher price = lower turnout.  More than any other factor, price determines whether a person will attend. And that's even truer now, with the popularity of websites like Facebook. For some people, a reunion is as exciting as a root canal. They're almost looking for reasons not to attend; a high price all but guarantees they won't. It's not that they can't afford the price; they just don't think this type of event should cost that much.

As we mention on the What We Do page, our advance admission cost is rarely over $45, and sometimes under $40.

No. 4, Q: OK, so you keep the price down. But does that mean you cut corners and offer fewer services and touches than other reunion planners?

A: Not at all. A Class Act event looks a lot like the "prototype reunion" - nicely decorated room - with food, music, a photographer, etc. But there's one key difference: more people. Most attendees judge the success of a reunion primarily by the turnout. A lower price, combined with a good job of locating and getting the word out to classmates, translates to a roomful of reunion-goers.

In fact, of the largest and best-attended reunions held in Houston each year, almost all are coordinated by Class Act.

No. 5, Q: Our committee is deciding which reunion company to hire. What are some of the things we should consider and compare?

A: There are several factors you should weigh. The admission cost is the most important. How much will the company charge? If the cost is $50 or more, ask why. In connection with the price, does the company do a thorough search for the class? It’s become common for companies to simply post basic details on their website and other sites, assuming that if someone is interested in the reunion they’ll “find” the info. We think that’s a lazy way to operate, and it all but guarantees a bad turnout.

You also want to look at how many different venues (locations) the company uses for its reunions. It's smart to have a reunion at a place that makes some sense geographically for the group. Does the company have reunions in “stand-alone” venues, meaning places other than hotels? Some groups don’t want to be in a hotel. If the company suggests a certain hotel, you should ask where specifically in the hotel your group would be. Will you be in a ballroom, or a piece of a ballroom, or in a smaller area such as a meeting room?

Also, how well does the representative for the company communicate? For example, if a group says they want their reunion after Labor Day, we explain that you have to be careful about the scheduling or it could hurt the turnout. People seem to get busier with work and family commitments at that time of year. Also, you have to pay attention to the college football schedule. One of the first reunions we coordinated was the same day as the Texas-Oklahoma game. Not smart. But we learned from that. In fact, if Texas and Texas A&M are playing at home on the same day, that's a perfect time not to have a reunion.

No. 6, Q: I see that your company does most of your reunions on Friday night, instead of Saturday. Does the attendance decline? Are there any advantages to it?

A: We've found the attendance not only is on par with Saturday, but usually better. Worried that Friday will make it hard for people from out of town or out of state to attend? You shouldn't: Most of those who live a considerable distance away come not just for the reunion, but also because they still have family here. So they like having a long weekend to visit with family (and close friends).

Another advantage of Friday is that it can enable the group to be in a location that would normally be too expensive on a Saturday night. Since we're not competing as much with events like wedding receptions, venues often charge less for space on Friday night. That allows us to set the admission price even lower than we normally would. And that, in turn, boosts the turnout.

Also, by having the reunion on Friday, it makes it less likely that someone will put together an "icebreaker" event the night before the reunion. (Please see the Facebook Factor page for more information on that.) In the era of Facebook, there's no need for an icebreaker........because Facebook is the icebreaker!

Finally, as we mention under No. 5,  for reunions held after Labor Day, Friday is the way to go. It means not "butting heads" with college football (which, as we all know, is a really big deal in these parts).

No. 7, Q: I've heard that reunion attendance has dropped in recent years. That seems really strange, especially in the age of the Internet and instant communication. Is it true, and why?

A: Yes it is. The Internet helps to spread the word about the reunion. But, along with cell phones and cheap long-distance rates, the Web - and especially the social-networking sites - makes it easier than ever for people to "reunite privately." People don't need to come to their reunion to re-establish contact with each other, like they used to.

The fact that people are busier than ever also plays a part in the attendance decline. They're working longer hours. They have more family commitments. It's harder to get their attention than it used to be. So, it's especially important to make a reunion appealing and affordable. Maybe we're succeeding: Of the 10 reunion companies that served the Houston area when we began in 1995, Class Act is the only one still doing it full-time. And another 10 or so have started and shut down besides those.

No. 8, Q: How many people in our class will come to the reunion? Is there any way to predict? Will half of the class be there?

A: Let's put it this way: If half of each class would attend their reunion, we'd be retired by now - and you wouldn't be reading this! Unfortunately, half of each class has little or no interest in a reunion. It's not that they hated high school. (Well, OK, in some cases they did.) But, for a lot of people, they keep up with one or two friends from high school, and that's about it. A reunion just isn't important to them.

So we're drawing from the remaining half of the class. Generally, at most 20 percent of the class will attend. So, for any group interested in our services, don't worry: We won't be retiring anytime soon!

No. 9, Q: Just as people scrutinize the elements of a reunion, so too do they question whether they really want to attend. The decision-making can be quite personal. People ask themselves: "How do I look?" "Am I doing OK financially?" "Will I feel awkward attending the reunion by myself?" "Have I achieved the goals I set when I was younger?" How does your company address those concerns?

A: The best way is by staging events that appeal to a wide variety of people. One thing we've learned is that if a reunion is perceived as being too expensive, formal or stuffy, people will stay away. And the purpose of a reunion is to bring people together, not to scare them off. Remember: A Class Act reunion is a party, not the prom! ©

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