5 Virtual & Hybrid Alumni Engagement Events For 2021
After an unprecedented year caused by the pandemic, things have begun to stabilize a little. Last year was disappointing for many, especially milestone classes longing for reunion programs and special events to commemorate their grad year. However, many institutions mitigated the situation by pivoting to virtual events so their members could connect from wherever they were. Going forward, many institutions plan on focusing on virtual and hybrid events instead of going completely in-person, given the flexibility they offer — alumni can choose to attend in person, or hop on a call no matter where they are.
If you are looking for ways to engage your alumni in 2021, consider the following virtual and hybrid event ideas, we have got your back. Let’s dive in and discuss some virtual and hybrid alumni engagement events you can plan for your alumni.
1. Speaking Event with a Famous Alumni
Organize a speaking event involving a public figure or influencer who is an alumnus. This event can be entirely virtual or hybrid to create a homecoming experience for those interested in attending in-person. When choosing the event speaker, consider an individual with a strong personality that can pull the needed crowd of alumni and use their platform to publicize the event. Your team may need to book your famous figure early. It’s a best practice to reach out to the potential speaker about six months in advance to lock down a date with them.
Consider compiling a list of up to three key people and contacting those of top priority first. Once you’ve secured a speaker, other event logistics such as securing a virtual event platform or mobile event app can follow. Consider also allowing the speaking event to be an opportunity for networking and fundraising.
2. Alumni Webinar Series
Bring the expertise of industry-leading professionals to alumni in a virtual setting. These webinars are ongoing alumni engagement events that are geared towards the professional development of members. They could be monthly or bi-monthly, but they must cover a variety of topics that delight attendees. The content related to alumni’s career and personal well-being can be delivered as live webinars, pre-recorded streaming, or uploaded as on-demand content.
To have interactive webinars, use a virtual event platform to host these webinars so that attendees can connect and contribute with their profiles and continue to engage with one another on the platform after the events.
3. Homecoming and Reunion Weekend
A homecoming or reunion weekend is an opportunity for alumni to connect families, faculty, students, and staff. This annual event and usually features a variety of programs such as:
- Live and on-demand faculty lectures
- Moderated panel discussions
- Celebrations of special classes and milestones (50th, 40th, 30th, 20th, etc.)
- Virtual alumni breakout chats
- Sharing moments from their journey at the university
- Drive-in movie premieres which your team can also stream online
- Special artist performance
- Special awards, honors, and dinner
When organizing a homecoming alumni event, focus on content strategies that will provide meaningful engagement opportunities for all attendees. Make event sessions, offers, and experiences contextual to create personalized experiences for attendees.
Homecoming and reunion events are the best fit for hybrid experiences in times like these when things are oscillating between virtual and in-person. Therefore, you should put considerable effort into engaging online attendees in every aspect of the event. It is critical to choose a versatile event platform and app that can provide the required engagement level.
4. Alumni Variety Night
Create a fun experience for your alumni to connect, network, learn and give by organizing a virtual or hybrid alumni variety night. As the name implies, you can be creative to include anything that offers fun engagement and fosters interactions among members. Consider the suggestions below:
- Fireside chats on matters of common importance
- Dinner, in-person and virtual
- Networking sessions, in-person and virtual
- Special honors and awards
- Fundraising gala with silent auctions
You can also make the variety night a fundraising gala with silent auctions that target wealthy alumni groups. The auction items should be distinctive and enticing to encourage bidders. You can make them more special by getting famous alumni like renowned scientists, celebrities, athletes to sign the items that are up for bidding.
The auction can also involve naming rights to a building or facility within your institution’s campus so alumni can secure their legacy at the school.
5. Game Events
Another way to engage your alumni is by organizing game activities as stand-alone events. You can do this virtually and include some fundraising elements in the games as well. We suggest the games below for the best event possible:
Present alumni with zoomed-in images of popular places on campus and ask them to guess what the full image is. To make this game, gather some pictures and create a quiz slide with the zoomed image included. Then have players guess where the photo was taken. Set a time limit and award points based on speed and accuracy of answers. After the quiz is taken, show the whole image in the quiz leaderboard slide and display the top winners.
A virtual scavenger hunt consists of individuals or group hunters racing to find items or solve challenges. The event host creates challenges that members can complete within their homes. For example, the host can ask members to hunt for a list of items that connect them with their alma mater and set a time limit to find them. The host approves the items that are submitted and determine the winners.
Alumni can play the game in groups based on alumni classes and each group can assign tasks to the other groups in succession to make the game more fun.
This game is about putting up an uncommon word from the English language and asking your members to guess the meaning. You will likely get different, fun guesses.
Select a collection of tunes that your alumni can relate with and play each for about 10 to 20 seconds. Ask members to identify the song and the artist to win.
Most likely to...
This game is suitable for smaller rooms with a class of alumni that know themselves well. Name some “most likely to” scenarios and ask participants to vote on who's most likely to do or get involved in a particular thing, whether good or bad.
There are other games and fun activities like virtual jeopardy, virtual yoga, and endurance exercises that you can plan for your alumni. During game activities, encourage members to put their webcam on to make things more exciting and interactive. With an effective virtual event platform and mobile event app, you can host all kinds of alumni engagement events within a calendar year. It will make planning future events easier because you’ll now be able to measure your ROI and engagement success as you begin hosting events.
About the Author
Christina Tomlinson is the VP of Marketing & Events at Pathable. With over 8 years of experience in the event industry, Christina prides herself on her creativity, passion for people, and ability to create memorable experiences. Before joining the Pathable team, some of Christina's experience includes directing a team as the Associate Director of Events for a DMC in Austin, TX and marketing, planning, and executing brand events as the Regional Event Manager at a corporate experiential agency. Through her years of experience, Christina strives to remain a thought leader in her industry, and places a high value on evolution and growth in the events space.