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Reunion Day: Managing the Event and the Time

by Edith Wagner

In this column we'll cover a topic that is especially germane to the enjoyment of your reunion days — managing your reunion with your "reunion partners" such as the hotel (or any facility), suppliers, tour and transportation companies.

I've also included information from a sociologist who's looking for families to participate in his research about family reunions. Just send in the answers to a set of questions. Not only will the sociologist benefit, but you will probably learn something about you and your reunions as well.

Managing Your Reunion

Many of these ideas are essential for large reunions and advisable for smaller gatherings. These steps ensure accuracy of your instructions and assure your comfort that everyone is working for the benefit of your reunion.

Before the Reunion

  • If at all possible, arrive a day or two before the reunion. If you're expecting shipments of equipment, displays or materials, check that everything's arrived or arrange for delivery.
  • Meet with hotel staff who've been assigned responsibility for your reunion. Provide member count updates.
  • Confirm details with individual suppliers (ground transportation, destination management, tour, audiovisual companies, entertainment, florist, caterers, etc.).
  • If you expect any hotel department (front desk, accounting, telephone operators, security, conference services, bell staff) to have unique responsibilities for your reunion, also meet with them. You'll find that the more you are acquainted with staff persons, the smoother you can expect your emergencies and requests to be dealt with.
  • Next meet with your volunteers. Conduct briefings for registration helpers, airport and reunion greeters. Ask them to help you set up registration, exhibits and displays.
  • If you are providing welcome gifts and plan to leave them in members' rooms, distribute them as soon as rooms are available.
  • Make an advance check of hotel facilities. Look for cleanliness. Make sure elevators, rest rooms and other public facilities are working.
  • If you're able to arrange advance room check-in, take care of that.
  • Finally, and of great importance for families who include medical needs and have elderly members, identify emergency medical resources nearby.

During the Reunion

  • Conduct a daily review with key hotel and reunion volunteers.
  • Check each reunion room for accurate setup 30 to 60 minutes prior to the start of each function. Allot more time before a major function. You need not only the time to discover problems, but also to fix them.
    • Do microphones and audiovisual equipment function properly?
    • Is a pitcher of water, with ample drinking glasses, set up for speakers?
    • Are distribution materials ready?
  • Check food and beverage areas 30 to 60 minutes prior to functions. Again, allot more time before a special event, such as a banquet.
  • If you are accepting registration fees at the reunion, balance cash against registration records and place in the hotel's safe deposit box or a local bank account.
  • Set aside time to review and record charges from the hotel and suppliers.
  • Ask the hotel for a daily printout of guest rooms used.

After the Reunion

  • While you're still at the reunion location, ask for a post-reunion reunion with hotel staff. Review final bill with accounting, and make required payments on uncontested portion of bill.
  • Have all cash transferred to your reunion's home bank account or request a cashier's check for safe transport home.
  • Send thank-you notes to hotel staff and suppliers, and distribute individual gratuities.
  • Inventory equipment and supervise pickup.
  • Pack all reunion materials and equipment to return home; arrange shipping.

These ideas to manage your reunion are a guideline to help you stayed organized in the midst of what could turn into chaos. Manage your time and details at the reunion and you'll enjoy yourself at your reunion too.

Participate in Family Reunion Research!

We love to hear how people interact and relate during family reunions that last at least three days. Below are some topics amd ideas we would like to hear about — feel free to write about any or all of them. Send your comments to reunions@execpc.com.

  • How many people usually attend your reunion?
  • Who are they?
  • What are participants' ages?
  • Where do they live?
  • Where have reunions gone?
  • How often do you see each other outside of the reunion?
  • What are the first things that come to mind when you think about your reunion?
  • What have you enjoyed most about your reunions?
  • During your time together, how do you make decisions about meals, cleaning, events, arrival and departures?
  • Often, parents and siblings have stories that become part of the family's history. Stories can be about family events, members or other relatives. Are these stories brought up during your reunions? What are they?
  • Are there ways you act with your siblings only when you reunite with each other (special ways of talking or communicating with each other)?
  • When we attend family reunions, most of us are part of two families: the one we grew up in and the new married family. To the family you grew up in, you are still a child (son or daughter) and a sibling (brother or sister). In your new family you are a spouse (husband or wife) and probably parent (mother or father). If you're not married, you are an adult. Describe your role during your family reunion. How do you feel about it?
  • In general, how well do people get along during your reunion?
  • Describe relationships. How do you feel at the end of your reunion? How do you think other participants feel?

About the Author
Edith Wagner is the editor of Reunions magazine, author of Reunions Workbook and Catalog and The Family Reunion Sourcebook (Lowell House, Los Angeles) in bookstores now. She collects material for this column and Reunions magazine from family reunions and invites you to share your reunion ideas, concerns or questions. You can e-mail Wagner at reunions@execpc.com or visit the Reunions magazine Web site.

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