Community Building

10 Alumni events to boost attendance

10 alumni events to boost attendance

We’ve all been there. You pull a lot of weight to organize a great event that by all means promises to be super interesting. And nobody shows up. No more!

Here are the top 10 alumni events you can organize to ensure a good show up rate. I’ve categorized them into 3 main types:

Networking events

As discussed in a previous article, networking is one of the main reasons why your alumni pay their subscription. So, independently from the type of event you’re planning to organize next, there should be opportunities for your alumni to network.

1. Casual networking events
Casual networking events are the simplest ones to organize. You only need a cool venue. The best way to ensure good attendance is to have a very regular schedule and venue. For instance: every first Monday of the month, we meet at 7PM at this bar. As the months go by, and with a good promotion, more and more people will just know about it and show up.

2. Contemporary meetups
Usually, an alumnus mostly knows the other alumni who graduated the same year. They have a very strong bond, even years and years later. Why? First of all, if they studied in the same field, they had classes together. But even if one was studying medicine and the other political sciences, they still have a strong bond: they’re from the same generation. They remember the same music hits, parties, socio-economical background, political issues, etc. By organizing meetups exclusively for contemporaries guarantees you a high attendance.

3. Speed networking
Speed networking is a derivative of the traditional speed dating concept. It has become popular over the past couple of years and represents a great oportunity for you to give your alumni exactly what they want: fast and efficient networking. Here’s the concept: people sit at a long table, opposite one another. Each person has in turn 1 to 3 minutes to explain who she is, what business she’s in, and what she’s looking for. Once both participants have talked, everybody shifts left. And start again. Until everybody has talked with everybody. Here are a couple of interesting articles to learn more about speed networking: Wikipedia on Speed Networking, How to run a speed networking event.

4. Pitch Sessions
If a speaker event and a speed networking event had a baby, it would be a pitch session: select 5 to 10 people among the attendees, and ask them each to come on stage and give a 5 to 10 minute talk about themselves, their business, and what they’re looking for. You can select the participants beforehand and confirm with them they’re ok to do it, or warn everyone that you’ll randomly pick some of them on the spot, or even ask for volunteers. It’s important to give your alumni time after the pitch session to further network, as many people may be interested in discussing with the speakers. This is a great opportunity for some of your alumni to get some attention, without having to run a full-fledged speaker event just for them.

Guest events

By guest events, I mean events where one or several people will be the center of attention. There are different kinds of guest events you can organize, and I would recommend you to alternate them to avoid boring your alumni.

5. Speaker event
The advantage of running an alumni association is that you literally have a pool of interesting people you can ask to give a talk. It’s always interesting for alumni to learn about the stories of other alumni. There are 2 important points to remember in order to ensure a successful speaker event:

  1. Refined topic: a speaker’s topic should be accessible enough to interest a good portion of your members, but not too vast, so that people will learn something new.
  2. Different verticals: there are many different verticals you can explore to interest a varied audience, so that each event is an opportunity to meet different people. The most obvious vertical is the different research domains tackled in your university or college. But there are many other topics of interest to your alumni: soft skills (e.g. how to better network or give a speach), professional success stories (e.g. an alumnus who has an impressive political, professional or personal story to tell), trending media topics (e.g. how to handle social media and privacy issues).

6. Panel
While browsing through the different verticals you’d like to address in a speaker event, you may sometimes stumble upon a topic that is controversed. This doesn’t mean you should avoid the subject to avoid confrontations, quite the opposite! Try to find several participants with different views, and constitute a panel. A panel is very often more interesting and lively that speaker events. Keep in mind that the moderator is a key participant. You should always select someone who will have the required skills to interrupt speakers and make sure everyone get to tell their part.

7. Field Trips
Many of your alumni work in an awesome company, laboratory, or campus. Why not contact them and ask them to organize a visit of their work place? This is a very interesting alternative that has 1 major advantage for you: the only thing you have to do is to arrange the transportation, but normally, all the rest is taken care of by the receiving institution.

Student-alumni mixes

All alumni remember fondly of their time at their school. Giving them opportunities to mix with the new students and sit in their old chairs are often very well received.

8. Welcome student parties
Every year, as a new series of students join your institution, the usual associated parties and welcome aperitives take place. Why not invite the alumni to join as well? Some may even volunteer to help their Faculty welcome and organize a special program for the new students.

9. Graduation celebration
Similarly, every year, a new series of students leave the school, and become alumni. It’s important for you to have a strong presence throughout their last year of studies to make sure they become active members of your association. Even more importantly, give them opportunities to meet with the alumni. They are your best recruiters. The graduation ceremony is one of many occasions to make these 2 worlds meet more often.

10. Class Interventions
Although this will not directly build a stronger bond between your current members, having some of your alumni participate in classes on special occasions may be a very good way to create and foster your champions, i.e., alumni that are very active in the association, attending your events, and motivated to help out whenever you need a hand.

To conclude, I believe it’s important to organize several very different events in order to see what works best for your alumni. Gather feedback from your attendees after every event, and try to organize them regularly to form a habit amongst your alumni.

Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know!