My mom is one of seven siblings. Let’s call them the first generation. Collectively, the seven siblings have 18 children, who we’ll call the second generation. These children range in age from 15 to 48. Most of them have their own children, and a few of them even have grandchildren.
Two years ago, I talked with a few of my first cousins and asked them their thoughts about having a family reunion, with the second generation taking the lead. They were immediately on board. I agreed to get the ball rolling as long as everyone agreed to a few simple guidelines: We would do the planning via e-mail, and we would share the planning.
Last year, we had a grand time! The weekend consisted of a get-together at a game room on Friday, a picnic and bowling on Saturday and a church service on Sunday.
This year was even better! We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant on Friday. Some went to a movie afterward, while others went to an ice cream parlor. Saturday included a lunch cruise and then a skating party, and we ended the weekend with breakfast at IHOP on Sunday. Most importantly, more of my family members attended this reunion!
How were we able to pull this off – two years in a row – with no drama and little stress? We leveraged our strengths and used some awesome PR, communication and leadership skills.
- We established guidelines up front and stuck to them.
- I agreed to serve as the overall reunion coordinator, my main responsibility being to communicate regularly with the family.
- I recruited two-person teams to handle the planning. Each team was responsible for planning a day. There were three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday – and thus three teams. The teams were responsible for planning the activities, communicating with me about them and serving as hosts at the activities.
- Each team was comprised of a representative from each family (the seven siblings). This helped to ensure involvement throughout the family.
- All communication was handled via e-mail. No costs were incurred by printing and mailing information. Also, those individuals with access to e-mail were responsible for communicating with their immediate family members without e-mail access.
- We created an online registration page with detailed information about the family reunion, including the names, dates, times, locations, costs and hosts of the activities. This was an easy way for family members to register. Once they clicked the “submit” button, they received a confirmation of the family reunion itinerary that they simply printed and used throughout the reunion.
- We minimized the collection of money – which can sometimes be the source of much drama – and planned activities where money would be paid directly to the vendors (for example, bowling alley, skating rink and restaurants). That way, if a family member decided at the last minute not to attend the skating rink, no problem. No money was collected for it anyway.
- We selected venues that were family friendly and that most family members would enjoy.
- We used Facebook to obtain e-mail addresses for family members. Specifically, we visited family members’ Info pages on Facebook and copied and pasted their e-mail addresses into an e-mail distribution list.
- We sent e-mail messages to multiple people within the same immediate family to cover our bases. If the husband, for example, did not check e-mail on a regular basis, then we could count on his wife – who received the same e-mail messages – to do so and keep him informed.
- After the family reunion, we asked family members to submit photographs taken during the reunion. We then created a family reunion video – which included the photographs – and posted it onto Facebook. We sent an e-mail message to family members directing them to the video and tagged them in the video so that it would appear on their Facebook walls. Family members who were unable to attend this year’s family reunion saw the video and are already making plans to attend the next one.
I can honestly say that the reunions have been free of drama and stress – no small feat for families big or small. And we are already planning for next year’s reunion.
Have you enjoyed planning your family reunions? What PR, communication and leadership strategies and tactics have been helpful?