Alumni events can represent wonderful professional and personal development opportunities for former students or employees, and they can also offer real benefits to the organising institution.
Whether you’re looking to raise funds for your institution, encourage volunteers or recruit new students/employees, bringing alumni together can galvanise the support you need.
However, you may need to offer more than simply the chance for a catch up over canapés to attract attendees. Read on to learn how to host an event with wide ranging appeal.
Define the goal of your event
Decide on the core purpose of your event; what will it offer to alumni? You might simply want to provide an opportunity for fun and socialising, or something more strategic that facilitates career advancement or personal development.
If it’s the latter, it’s worth consulting with your membership – or at least a sample of them – to identify the event format/topics that would be of most use to them. Ask for their suggestions or for feedback on a shortlist you have already compiled. Before committing to any idea, it’s important to confirm that your community actually wants or needs that activity. Gauge interest in an event before committing your time and energy to organising it!
If the main purpose of your event is not to educate but to promote networking amongst the alumni, the options for socialising are myriad. However, it’s worth giving careful thought to the types of activities that might appeal based on the age and background range of your membership. Think too about the most convenient location and date given their geographic spread and other commitments.
Offer unique opportunities
To be truly valuable and attractive, your event should offer alumni an experience that they cannot easily get elsewhere. So if, for example, the alumni expressed an interest in improving their C.V. writing and interview skills, you could seek to secure a keynote by a high profile recruiter or respected careers consultant.
You can use your sway as an alumni association to gain exclusive access to both people and places. You might invite an author in to talk about their new book or take a group to a museum or exhibition, led by an especially insightful guide.
Using your alumni connections is another way to secure money-can’t-buy experiences. For example, if you have former students or employees who have gone on to find notable success, you can ask them to host a workshop or give a tour of their company/factory with behind-the-scenes access.
You can also seek to negotiate exclusive discounts and benefits for your alumni, such as offering a training course at half price.
Choose an attractive venue
Where you host your event will also play an important role in its attractiveness. If this will be the first time your alumni has met up in years then nostalgia will certainly see them keen to revisit their former school, university, or place of work.
However, if you intend to host regular get-togethers, or your membership remains familiar with the surrounds (i.e. recent graduates) choosing an off-site venue may have more appeal.
Networking in the headquarters of a prestigious company or lunch and a round of golf at a posh local club will give your event a point of difference. Think about unusual venues and activities, such as wine tasting at a vineyard, boating at a yacht club, or dinner in a unique historic building.
Harness the competitive spirit
Another way to pique interest is to add an element of competition to your event. Organise a one-off football match or maybe form an alumni five-a-side football team that plays regularly.
A golf tournament, tennis match, sports day, quiz night or even a scavenger hunt can be a fun way to induce friendly rivalry and enhance networking.
Involve friends and family
While your association is for alumni that’s not to say you can’t include others. By opening your event up to the friends and family of your members you can increase both your appeal and your attendance.
If you plan to organise an event at the weekend, doing something family-friendly, with activities for children as well as adults, means more people will be able to get involved.
It could be as simple as a low-key picnic in the park or perhaps something larger scale like a summer fete. A museum or zoo tour are other good options for including children.
Keep it small
Your event doesn’t have to be huge to be a success. By keeping it small and exclusive you can create demand. Consider hosting intimate events at alumni homes with cool speakers or offering limited places to hands-on workshops.
Don’t be afraid to charge a reasonable amount to attend these events to reinforce the value they offer and make your efforts as worthwhile as possible.
Providing events that are useful, relevant and interesting to your alumni will guarantee good take-up. Stay close to the community so you understand their interests and needs and build your events around them.