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Rock Your Next Alumni Event

Tips from Event Planning Extraordinaire, Alan Schaffranek

I sat down with Alan Schaffranek, Associate Director of Alumni Relations for the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University. He is what we consider a “champion” of Alumni Engagement because he’s always looking for new and impactful ways to engage alumni. I learned a ton in our brief talk, and I’ve collected some of the best for you here.

Keep a lookout for future appearances by Alan, as he shares his deep knowledge of top-notch Event Planning and Alumni Relations!

Here are 3 Power Moves to remember when planning your next Alumni Event:

1. The Power of a Good “Run of Show”

During our interview, I learned what a Run of Show is. It’s basically a document that schedules everything out, down to the minute. “Down to the minute” is a key takeaway here because scheduling your event to that level of detail forces you to “see yourself at the event,” and plan accordingly.

A best practice Alan shared is to think of it as reverse engineering your event, from end to start, while building in “time spacers” (we’ll get to that later). This gives you a little breathing room for unexpected challenges that can pop up during your event.

2. The Power of Personal Follow-Up

Plan for it! You should plan to have a debrief meeting with your team (even if you are a team of one). In that meeting, you should review the success of the event, and craft personal Thank Yous, via email or paper (as we all know, handwritten is always best!).

Questions to ask during your debrief should include:

Where were the bottlenecks (i.e. switching from dinner to dessert)?

Any positive/negative feedback about our vendors?

What can we do to improve our [timing, communication, etc.]?

3. The Power of (certain) Feedback Incentives

Honest feedback is essential towards improving your events and your alumni group as a whole. However, getting a hold of people’s attention in today’s fast-paced world can be a challenge.

Even incentives are played out, as people are used to seeing “Complete this quick survey for a chance to win a free [insert anything from an iPad to an all-inclusive vacation]. Instead, take a hint from the previous tip and make it personal to your group. If you plan on hosting a Happy Hour soon, offer a coupon for “One Free Drink at our Happy Hour on [Event Date]” and send it to them via email or in the mail.

Let’s face it, most people that submit their feedback will be thrilled by the personalized response, and then forget their “Free Drink” coupon at home. That makes this tactic impactful AND cheap!

Thanks again to Alan for taking the time to share his knowledge and expertise. We’ll be working together in the future to share more best practices around Alumni Events, so stay tuned!