Having your own class web site can be a wonderful venue and attraction for your classmates to communicate with each other and a powerful tool for reunion committees who need to reach classmates and maintain up-to-date contact information for classmates.
Having your own personalized web site for your class can be a powerful draw that will give your classmates a real sense of home and belonging. A place on the internet where they can personally connect with their past and share changes in their lives with other classmates. Done right it can be a very powerful and moving experience for your classmates.
Most reunion committees will devote a significant amount of time and energy just to the task of locating missing classmates. Many will even suggest this is where they spend the majority of their effort especially for larger class sizes. This is the one area where a web site can really be invaluable by creating an interesting and appealing venue and providing an easy opportunity for classmates to reconnect and spread the word. You'd be surprised how fast word gets out about your web site just through word of mouth and rather than devoting enormous amounts of time trying to find classmates you will have a place for them to come to you. Establishing a web presence for your class should be a high priority in your planning activity and take place very early in the development of your reunion plans as it will serve as one of your key communication vehicles. Your classmates aren't suddenly going to appear overnight...it's gonna take some time so the earlier you get a web site setup the better.
Having interactive features is a very important element in developing a successful web site for your class. Some of the most popular and successful class web sites in addition to supplying news about their upcoming reunion will also incorporate message boards, photo sharing, contact information sharing, etc. that give classmates an opportunity to participate, interact and contribute to content development of the web site. It gives them a sense of ownership. Throwing a web page up that simply contains reunion information is not going to create any long lasting draw. Neither will a web site whose content does not change. Creating an environment that allows classmates to easily contribute content through dynamic interactive features will help to keep your content fresh which in turn will keep the interest of your classmates and keep them coming back to visit.
If your web site is equipped with message boards or online chat features, your reunion committee might want to consider taking advantage of these features by holding online reunion committee discussions. This can be a very convenient and economical venue that will help draw more participants into your reunion committee, especially those who want to participate but are from out of town. This can also provide a convenient means of capturing and archiving your meeting minutes. Many classes who have their own web site report they are able to draw larger attendance at their class reunions because they are able to reach more classmates and keep them better informed. It also gives your classmates an opportunity to see who else is attending the reunion which generates a sort of participation snowball effect....'Oh! I see John Smith and Jennifer Green are attending. Maybe I will go too'. If your web site is equipped with features that allow classmates to share photos, your site can serve as an 'icebreaker' in that your classmates will be able to see they are not alone in this wonderful aging transformation process we all go through in life. Classmates won't feel as much anxiety in attending the reunion as if they were walking into the reunion cold for the 1st time as they will already feel connected. Seeing images of the past helps us remember things we have forgotten and makes classmates feel that connection to each other again which by itself generates classmate interest.
To promote your web site you might want to ask your school, alumni association or other class years in your school that have their own site to provide a pointer to your site. You can also list your site for free with some of the major search engines such as Google. Of course there is also email and the good old fashioned word of mouth method to help get the word out.
Creating a web site from scratch for your class can be a lot of work depending how elaborate you want to get. There are several options you can consider. Some of your classmates may have skills in the area of web site development. You could pay someone to custom design a site for you. You could use a prepackaged class reunion web site like that from ourclassonline.com. You could use alumni services such as classmates.com, reunion.com, alumni.net or you can set up an internet group at Yahoo or MSN. Whatever the format do not underestimate the value of having a place for your classmates to connect before the reunion and after the reunion is over.
But a web site doesn't have to be just for promoting your class reunion. You might want to think of it as a permanent place for your classmates to stay in touch with each other between reunions, a place where you can record your class history, a place where high school and reunion memories are archived, a place where other missing classmates might just yet find you, a place where you can watch each other grow older together. There is a certain comfort for many classmates to know that they have their own personal place on the internet that they can go to reconnect. Of course, another major benefit in maintaining an ongoing website is that it will simplify your task of locating classmates for the next reunion....do you really want to go through the pain of finding everyone all over again in 5 to 10 years? Wouldn't it be easier if they knew they had a place to find you?
If you've created an interactive web site you should not be surprised to find the majority of activity to your site will take place in the months leading up to your reunion and the period just after. Don't get discouraged if activity on your web site drops off outside these times and that classmates don't visit as often. There is ongoing value in that your classmates now know there is a place to go to in the interim periods to connect with classmates, find information about friends and future reunion plans. You've established a sort of product branding for your web site...why throw away the effort you put into establishing an online presence for your class. After all hosting a web site has really become a very inexpensive proposition these days.