When your reunion is over, it’s still not over
With reunion season almost over, evaluations, closing the books and collecting ideas are essential to complete your reunion.
Wrap-up is the last stage of your reunion. Write thank you notes. Ask for feedback. You always want new ideas for your next reunion.
Hometown newspapers often include reunion reports. If yours or those of family members include reports, send news releases about who received awards or special recognition during the reunion. Everyone likes seeing their name in print.
A crucial final step to all reunions is an honest, objective evaluation. Be sensitive and alert during the reunion; evaluation results should confirm what you expect and observe.
While you’re still at your hotel, pay all your bills and return borrowed equipment. Before you leave the hotel, make sure everything is in order. It’s much easier to solve problems in person than by letter and phone calls.
Collect all the data and information you can about the number of rooms used by your group and the number of meals served to your group by the hotel’s restaurant, room service or catering. This information will demonstrate the business and economic value of your next reunion and will be invaluable when negotiations start for your next event. It is well worth the effort.
Tip hotel staff who deserve special consideration. Make it a point to write a letter to the hotel’s general manager and recognize employees — by name — who did an outstanding job.
All the information you collect (positive and negative) will help you plan future reunions. Urge everyone to share their opinions and observations each chance you get. Make it clear that the voice of members is important.
Each reunion presents new challenges and successes. An evaluation prepares you with ideas and suggestions from members and your committee for the next reunion.
The purpose of an evaluation is to help improve your next reunion. Explain why an evaluation is important and how you will use advice. Be sincere about hearing what people have to say and tell them you want to know what they liked and disliked.
Get evaluations done on the spot. Collect them before members go home; it saves postage, information is still hot and anyone can write more — encourage them to do so. Include evaluations in your reunion packet or information.
Be thorough and do two evaluations — one for members and one for committee members who helped organize the reunion.
Keep it simple. Consider the questions and scoring system you’ll use. Cover basics. It is advisable to use a computer to analyze results for reunions over 100 people.
The evaluation form should be easy to complete and tabulate. Following are suggestions about what to include in your evaluation. Add questions which are specific to your reunion. Don’t get bogged down creating fancy scales.
Use something simple like 1-5 ranking, with 1 as poor and 5 as outstanding. Also encourage narrative answers.
If you don’t evaluate at your reunion, mail evaluations after the reunion — and hope to get them back.
Summarize your reunion
Keith Allen, CMP, Irvine, California, in Meetings and Conventions Magazine suggests these steps to wrap up your reunion.
Before everyone leaves, meet with your committee and key hotel personnel. No reunion is perfect, yet no reunion fails to teach. Gather and offer feedback to those who helped. Build on what worked and learn from failure. What went smoothly? What didn’t? Asking these simple questions and archiving the answers can be invaluable. Share the results – testimonials from attendees.
Be generous with hand-written thank-you notes.
From the Legette Family
“It doesn’t matter how great your reunion is; there are always going to be family members who complain or have negative feedback. You can’t please everyone. Just go with the majority and those family members you know you can rely on.”
How the Jenkins Family Reunion evaluates itself
Sandy Brass Jenkins reviewed the Jenkins Family Reunion and says that after all the hard work it is important to hear cheers and kudos along with constructive suggestions. The following is the result of a survey done at the Jenkins Family Reunion.
Question. What was the funniest thing you experienced at the reunion? Answers. The talent show. Singing “Happy Birthday” to Uncle James at the airport. Laughing, laughing, laughing. Little cousin Jamie “winning” the last musical chair from big Uncle Scott.
Question. What was your most exciting experience? Answers. That Uncle James and Aunt Jennie’s family came all the way from North Carolina to Phoenix. Flying in the airplane. Being excited; the anticipation of it all. Paper airplanes and water balloon fight.
Question. What was the most important thing you learned at the reunion? Answers. That my family is still more important than anything else. We can all be different and still love each other. Tribulation makes us strong and family ties are very important. The power we have when we work together as an extended family.
Question. What was the best part of the reunion? Answers. Being together, the blessings. Having fun. When Grandma and all the aunts, uncles and cousins played musical chairs. Loving. Going to church together, and meeting afterwards for pictures and family pictures.
Question. What could we do to bring our extended family closer together? Answers. Visit individual families more often and for at least a week! Keep the family letter going. Have more reunions. Start a kids’ family letter just for the third generation — on cassette tape or videos for those who don’t write yet. Exchange children during the summer.
The survey contained five questions, but there was a sixth answer recorded: “Meeting Jill. who was just a baby when we last saw her and now she’s — a person!” Isn’t that what family reunions are all about?
Finally, Beth Gay has it right. She suggests that you gather the committee while your feet still hurt. Talk about what went right and what didn’t. Take notes so that you will remember everything that was said and start planning your next reunion.
The Family Reunion Sourcebook©, by Edith Wagner