Need a dinner program?
The questioner wanted suggestions for “fun things to do during a dinner program for a 40th reunion” but we asked the experts to make their answers appropriate to any reunion. We consulted members of the National Association of Reunion Managers (NARM).
Carolyn Moore of Reunion Planners of Texas in Magnolia, Texas, offered these great ideas. Classmates have gathered to “get back in touch” with old friends. To help them find out about each other and provide conversation starters, we use the following method to determine who “wins” the certificates presented for longest married, most children, most recently wed, youngest child, traveled farthest, changed most, least, etc. Information is NOT compiled beforehand but on the spot. The Mistress/Master of Ceremonies says, “Anyone who traveled more that 50 miles to get here tonight, please stand up. Those who traveled more than 100 miles, remain standing,” and so on, until you have a winner. Next, “Will everyone who is married please stand up. If you've been married more than five years [then 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years] remain standing,” until you have a winner. It sometimes comes down to counting years, months and days. Ask all the questions in essentially the same way. Standing up and sitting down makes it more fun. I find it best to do only five to seven topics, as it takes a long time and classmates want to talk to each other about what they've discovered. Also, I hire a DJ who “does his homework” and studies websites about what was going on (prices, #1 songs and headlines) during the years the class was in high school. He and the photographer work together to “recreate” groups; people who played together in small bands, sang or played sports together and those who went to elementary school together.
Laurie Peppenger of Merlin Information Services in Kalispell, Montana, made these suggestions. Have current students dress in styles that were “hot” during the year when the class graduated. For example, 1963 styles included buzz cuts, letterman jackets, dungaree jeans, penny loafers and high top red ball jets. (I’m guessing on the fashion because I’m much younger.) Set time for a fashion show complete with MC and runway. The MC can introduce each model as the “son/daughter of John Johnson.”
Carol Riley, Owner of Reunions Unlimited in Olympia, Washington, can always be counted on for very sage advice. Carol is also Past President and Treasurer of the National Association of Reunion Managers (NARM).
Whatever you do, make it short and funny. You will lose your audience if it is too long and dry. Be prepared to give awards you may have forgotten about—classmates may suggest one or more. Also brace yourself for the program that may not go as expected; technical difficulties may arise (this happens a lot) or the group may be too large or the crowd may not stop talking (try again later or just drop it).
These are fun things to do for the program in no particular order.
The traditional awards include who traveled farthest or lives closest, married longest or least or never or most often, greatest number of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, highest degree of education, still drives or owns the same car he or she had in high school. The list goes on and on, but never do “who has changed the least or most” as that can be very embarrassing. We recommend having an energetic and enthusiastic emcee who asks questions.
- Build a theme around a period car or other unique era or high school item.
- Bring back the cheerleaders, pep squad, school mascot (give them a donation).
- Reunite school choir members and have them sing the school fight song.
- Pass the microphone for introductions by table.
- Open the microphone for interesting stories.
- Do a slide/video/music show with pictures from the past and present.
- Have a call and response trivia game ( i.e., “Who remembers the name of the school nurse”) with funny awards.
- Have a raffle: committee members solicit donations, give everyone a ticket for a drawing, and give exciting gifts.
- Bring in a casino.
- Revive a high school band for a song or two.
This is all fun, but on a somber note, please remember to have a memorial display and a moment of silence (easily incorporated in your welcoming and call for dinner) for deceased classmates. Remember, each of them was somebody's best friend!
Help! I’m Master of Ceremonies!
Dorothy Huddleston, Ellinwood, Kansas, wrote looking for humorous material for a Master of Ceremonies and material pertinent “to us oldsters” for a 60th high school reunion.
Have you gone back to a history book? Chronicle of the 20th Century is a good one and there are lots of websites, too. It gives you lots to talk about life back then: prices, styles, world and national events.
These additional thoughts don’t have a lot of humor though I suspect with a little work they could:
Read what the yearbook said about classmates and then document what really happened. If you can get a bunch of yearbooks, read what classmates wrote to each other. How many promises were made? kept? broken?
Distribute a questionnaire before the reunion, tabulate information about your classmates and make a report at your reunion. In other words, find your class’s footprint in time. I’ll guess it’s pretty impressive. How many went into the military? How many went to college? How many children did you all produce? grandchildren? great-grands? What occupations did you pursue? How far did you move away? How many stayed close by?
At the reunion, pose a provocative question and ask everyone to answer: What is the funniest thing you remember about high school? Or, how did life turn out for you?
Talk about how your town has changed since you graduated from high school or how the world has changed. Have someone read one of those impressive lists of things invented/discovered/developed since you graduated from high school.
Editor’s note: What material do you have or have you used that might help Ms. Huddleston? Email the editor or send to Reunions magazine, PO Box 11727, Milwaukee WI 53211.
How to make a power point presentation
Bruce Mewbourne asked: Do you have any recommendations for hiring someone to create a media presentation for a reunion? I’m interested in showing “before and after” photos in Powerpoint.
We turned to members of the National Association of Reunion Managers (NARM). These are their answers.
Nancy Shirey at A+ Reunion, LLC, Ellicott City, Maryland, recommends contacting a high school or college for a suggestion and perhaps your need could be made into a class project. If not, they may be able to suggest a student and/or instructor willing to help out for a few dollars.
Carol Riley, Reunions Unlimited, Olympia, Washington, says budget is the biggest factor in multimedia presentations. If money is no issue, hire a local, regional or national media professional who can coordinate details from production to presentation, using the latest technology. If, on the other hand, you’re on a budget, ask classmates. You will be amazed at their talents. Carol says, “We’ve always found a volunteer to create the presentation. Many times they even have access to equipment to save money on rental fees.”
Carol’s final word of advice is that getting the old stuff for your presentation is easy. Collecting new pictures from classmates is a little harder. Be patient and prepared to send a few reminders and include instructions for how to send, when and where.
Janice Masciarelli, Reunion Central, Inc, Bear, Delaware, says they don’t do many Powerpoint presentations at reunions because they are costly and time-consuming to prepare. Committees who do use them usually have a professional graphics person willing to donate a lot of time and talent.
Committees who want a show but are unfamiliar with Powerpoint, scan or photograph yearbook pictures and make them into slides. They need a projector and screen at the reunion. Photos can be shown in constant rotation or made into a “presentation” and shown all at once. A presentation should not last more than about four to five minutes, as reunion attention spans are extremely short!
Finally, Jonathan C. Miller, Reunited, Inc, Weston, Florida, says while it is tempting to hire someone to produce a presentation, the technology exists for even the most novice user to achieve professional results. Most newer computers are equipped with software to produce a multimedia presentation with minimal effort. Macintosh has a well-known reputation for its ability to easily create these shows. Windows-based PCs usually have excellent utilities that are surprisingly simple. A trip to an office supply or computer store will reveal several off-the-shelf programs which can help you produce incredible shows. MyDVD Studio by Sonic has earned widespread accolades for ease of use and final results.
Miller cautions that, if you produce a show (either yourself or professionally), plan for the cost of projection equipment. If your show is on a DVD, you will need a DVD player, digital projector and screen. This equipment may usually be rented from your reunion venue, purchased at a local store or borrowed from a classmate or reunion member.
Or maybe, Miller suggests, you should work with a professional reunion planner who includes production work among their services. Miller’s company, Reunited, Inc., produces a digital slide show for all their reunions. They include photos from alumni, images from the yearbook as well as video footage from previous reunions and other related events.
What programs are presented at reunions?
Keep it simple and fun and totally volunteer. The most popular is awards where you ask questions to get to know alumni better (i.e., who traveled farthest? who has the most children? grandchildren? etc.). Give fun awards—for example, ask the local newspaper to donate a one-year subscription to the person who traveled the farthest.
Present a slide show from old photos (in your yearbook or that you and the committee have between you).
Ask a prominent alum to speak. Suggest a round table/round robin discussion. Or ask questions from your class year (i.e., who can sing our class song? what was the principal's name?). Give awards appropriate to the question or answer.
Ask a classmate to speak about trivia from the graduation year (i.e., commercials, foods and clothing, favorite hang-outs, sports or history events, etc.).
Welcome attendees and guests, announce the agenda and invite them to participate on the next reunion committee. Nice and simple.