Your Guide to Top Alumni Event Ideas & Planning

If you're looking to plan an alumni event, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by where to start. Although building a guest list is pretty easy, deciding what to do at the event may be more challenging. After all, your school likely has a wide variety of alumni who may be interested in different things. You have to gather ideas that will appeal to a broad cross-section of people. 

Fortunately, we're here to help. We’ll break down everything you need to know about top alumni event ideas and how to plan your event effectively. Let's get started. 

Step One: Determine your Alumni Event-Type

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events are not necessarily the only way to go. Modern event technology enables organizations of all shapes and sizes to host hybrid and virtual alumni events quickly and seamlessly. So, before sending your invites, you need to know the type of alumni event you'll be hosting. 

Even though the pandemic is subsiding, there are some tangible benefits of hosting your gathering online, such as: 

  • Lower Overhead - Building virtual rooms and venues is much more cost-effective than renting a physical space. If you have limited funds, a virtual alumni event allows you to create eye-catching, on-brand spaces that encourage engagement without breaking the bank. 
  • Easier Logistics - Realistically, many alumni are no longer in the same city or state as your college or university. This means attendance for an in-person event might be challenging since many guests will have to travel to enjoy the occasion. When hosting a virtual gathering, however, guests can log in from anywhere, making it much easier to draw a crowd. Also, attendees don't have to worry about babysitters, parking, or even dressing up. 
  • More Flexibility with Entertainment - Another primary advantage of hosting a virtual alumni event is having a captive audience. Playing games or sharing presentations is easy since everyone is already staring at a screen. 

Now that you know the advantages of virtual and hybrid events, let's look at some of the specific elements to consider during the planning stage. 

In-Person Event

With vaccines and boosters widely available, many people are far less hesitant to travel and gather in large groups than they were before. You can likely secure pretty good attendance numbers for an in-person alumni event. Some points to consider include: 

  • Venue Space - You'll need to get an accurate headcount to ensure you'll book a large enough venue. Also, make sure the venue can accommodate your entertainment options. For example, if you're hiring a band, will there be a stage for them to perform? 
  • Registration and Ticketing - Alumni will likely bring extra guests, such as spouses and children (if it's that kind of event). How will you handle registration, and will guests need a ticket or badge to enter? If not, how can you prevent party crashers? 
  • Catering - No matter what kind of event you're hosting, you need to feed your audience. Even if you're looking at providing light snacks, you have to source these items and determine how to serve them. 
  • Decor and Entertainment - How will you decorate the venue space for your event? What kind of entertainment will you have? We'll discuss specific ideas later, but you need to secure these items well in advance to ensure you're not scrambling at the last minute. 

Hybrid Event

This event type is the most challenging because you have to determine the logistics for both in-person and virtual attendees. While you might not need as large of a venue, you must address some of the more technical challenges, such as: 

  • Broadcasting - How will online guests view the event? Will they be able to interact with guests or presenters onsite? If it's a one-way broadcast, will you have multiple streams so users can bounce back and forth between feeds, or will you only have one camera available? 
  • Interaction - Ideally, online guests can communicate with people onsite via chat or a microphone setup. You have to think through how you’ll make this interaction available. Otherwise, it's hard for virtual guests to stay engaged, and they'll likely leave the event early. 
  • Entertainment - Some entertainment options work well for virtual alumni events, such as bingo, a comedian, or a game show. However, if you want virtual guests to participate, you have to understand your software limitations and troubleshoot any potential issues that might arise at the event. 

Virtual Event

The most significant challenge of hosting a virtual alumni event is maintaining engagement for long periods. As a rule, guests can only stay focused for up to two hours at a time, so either you can cut your event short or break it into sections. However, if you go with the latter option, it's hard to ensure guests log in for each session since it's easy to opt-out. Some other virtual-specific obstacles to consider include: 

  • Event Tech - Which platform will you use to host your alumni event? How many people can log on at once, and how easy is it to manage large crowds? An event management platform such as 6Connex is scalable and easy to use, and you can customize the format to fit your specific needs. 
  • Simultaneous Activities - If you're hosting a virtual event with more than 50 people, you might want to have multiple activities happening at the same time. For example, you could create a lounge room for guests to hang out and chat while others play a game in another room. 
  • Onboarding - Even if you're dialed in on your end, your guests might have technical issues. You need to anticipate these problems and have solutions ready to go beforehand. 

Step Two: Come Up With a Theme

As a rule, a themed alumni event is much more engaging than a generic gathering. Some themed ideas can include: 

  • Decade Styles - This option is one of the easiest as you can simply choose the decade from which the alumni class graduated. For example, if graduation was in the 90s, you could have a 90s-themed party. An excellent twist on this idea is to have guests dress up based on how they looked when they attended school. 
  • Hollywood - A cinema theme is always fun as it allows guests to dress up in their finest attire or wear costumes representing their favorite characters. You can also incorporate movies into the entertainment, such as a Hollywood-themed trivia game or movie-themed game show. 
  • College - Even if your alma mater is not a traditional college or university, you can utilize standard collegiate themes, decorations, and games. You can also lean into your school's history and use it for inspiration for costumes, entertainment, and more. 

Step Three: Find Entertainment

While one appealing element of an alumni event is visiting with old classmates, you also have to find high-quality entertainment to boost your attendance numbers. The activities you choose will vary based on the type of event you're hosting. Here are some ideas that can work for in-person, hybrid, and virtual events. 

Casino Night

You can take your guests to Las Vegas or Monte Carlo with various casino tables such as craps, blackjack, and roulette. This option works well for virtual events, as some companies offer digital tables with live dealers. This way, your guests can get a taste of Lady Luck but without the risk of losing their shirt! 

Game Shows

Shows such as Jeopardy and Family Feud are easy to do both in-person and online. Better yet, you can customize your questions to relate to your group. For example, if you're hosting Family Feud, you can send a poll to each registered guest before the event and tally their answers. This way, alumni are more likely to attend because they want to see whether their response was the most popular. Other options include bingo, Name that Tune, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or a straight trivia game. 

Game Tournament 

Is your school well-known for a specific sport? Even if everyone on your guest list isn't athletic, you can incorporate some kind of sports into the night's itinerary. For example, if your school has a basketball team, you can have a HORSE tournament. Also, not everyone has to participate in the game, as it will still be fun for spectators. This option mainly works for in-person events, but you might be able to find digital tournament-style games as well. 

Carnival

Who doesn't love a carnival? If you can secure an outdoor venue for your alumni event, you can have guests try their luck at midway games (i.e., ring toss) and win prizes. You can also book carnival-style entertainers such as live bands, stilt walkers, magicians, and balloon artists. A carnival is also a family-friendly option, which might entice your alumni to attend since they don't have to worry about a babysitter for the night. 

Let Us Help You Make Your Alumni Event a Success!

Hosting an alumni event comes with many challenges, especially if you're planning a virtual or hybrid event. Fortunately, we can help you with logistics and technical assistance, so you can focus on making your event as engaging as possible. Contact us today to find out more!


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