Reunion Lessons Learned

Prepared By Ron Haworth

July 1999

Editor's comments:  These notes were written immediately after the reunion event, and reflect my impressions, as close to the event date as possible.  Ron Haworth

1. Early Planning  I started first to find a group that would sponsor the 300 year reunion celebration in 1995. To do this, I contacted the known regional reunion groups; all declined to sponsor the 300 year reunion. With the help of Lowell Scarbrough and via the Scarbrough/Haworth Events newsletter, I was able to get the interests of others, who agreed to help in the planning.

Next, I decided that a reunion should be held in the same general area as the 1899 and 1902 reunions. That is, in the middle of the country. As to the size of a convention type facility, we estimated that a 300 to 600 person facility would be needed as a minimum size. We first looked at Tulsa OK as a site because it was near the home town of Ms. Marilyn Winton. A site search quickly found that Tulsa would not be adequate. We also looked at Springfield MO as a site and it was not adequate. At the same time, Mark and Will Haworth of Kansas City volunteered to help, and we journeyed to Kansas City to meet. I obtained a list of hotels (from the internet) and they did a site review. I requested bids from about eight hotels and narrowed the selection to two hotel. I followed with another visit to Kansas City for a site review and signed contracts with the two facilities.  The site recommended by Mark Haworth proved to be the best selection.

We selected Kansas City because it was in the middle of the country. We selected June 26th because it was the last Saturday in June and before the weather turned too hot. We selected the Ramada hotel because it had a 300 person capacity, free ballroom, free hospitality room, a guaranteed $59 per night room rate for guests, and a free shuttle to/from the airport. These all added up to a very reasonable cost. The hard part of selecting a facility  is deciding on the size of the facility, and signing a contract (a financial commitment).

Good Idea: A signed contract with a facility at least a year or more in advance. Two years would be better.

Comments about a large facility:  We visited a large 900 - 1,200 person facility.  The room was huge, and this fact kept telling me that anyone at the corners would not have had an enjoyable experience.

2. Facility Funding  We were very fortunate that the Ramada did not require advance payment for the facility. The fact that we made a personal visit and Ramada's apparent trust in our commitment helped.  The Holiday Inn required a $25,000 deposit four months in advance of the reunion date, and included escalating penalties for cancellation starting at the four month point.  I cancelled this contract prior to the four month date.

The fact that we would require three meals served to 200 plus people, and that we would need a block of 100 rooms, allowed the Ramada to let us use the large ball room for three days without cost.

Good Idea: Sign a contract that limits advance payment.  Meet personally with the facility manager.  Get the ballroom at little or no cost.

3. Advertising and Announcements  I had early help from Judy Haworth and Kathy Mills. Both got the reunion word out on various internet facilities. I paid $25 for a 18 month running ad in a reunion publication.  Rootsweb now has a place for free reunion ads.

We sent out two flyers with information about the reunion; the first one was announcing the reunion and the second notice covered information for people who had actual said they were coming.

Bad Idea: Not sending a final notice with reminders and an agenda; this was a mistake. We should have sent out a final notice, including the agenda.

Good Idea: Do advance advertising. Enlist the help of everyone that attended the 300 year reunion, for the next event.

In May of 1999, a month before the reunion, I was able to enlist the help of Sue and Loran Haworth to work on the agenda. We met at their wonderful cabin and did a "brain storming" session to do the final planning for the actual reunion events.

Good Idea: Have a "brain storming" session up to six months before the reunion. Then published the agenda.

4. Funding Deposits  We separated the reunion expenses into two categories: general expenses and food; personal hotel rooms were the responsibility of each person.

However, I nearly had a funding problem with late deposits and "no shows". This was caused in most part by my not sending a final reminder. The food deposit count is essential to a good food count for the hotel. Any error could have resulted in a food order that was short; or, a food bill that was long on price that exceeded the food deposits. As it turned out, we were able to adjust the food count to within plus/minus 10%, thanks to the great cooperation of the Ramada people.

Good Ideas: The two part funding. A general expense deposit and a food deposit.

An accurate meal count from the food deposit.

Be sure there is a good written "no show" policy in the final reminder announcement.

Better Idea: Round all money to a whole dollar and even consider rounding up to increments of $5 where practical.

5. Registration  Sue Haworth took this task and did an excellent job. I had made a listing of the attendees and e-mailed it to Sue, and she did the rest of the work.

The sequence of the names on the registration list was by registration number. The list showed the amounts of all deposits.

The reason for giving everyone a number was that the family data base, Family Tree Maker,  used the maiden name of the person.  In many cases, this was different from the registered names. More on the database names below.

Good Idea: Use individual pre-marked envelopes.

Use the registration numbering system; cross referenced to a listing by name.

Include additional data in the envelopes, including a listing of all that attended with addresses, etc.

Restrict access to the personal data of the attendees (only the attendees received the data).

Include on the CD, a listing of attendees with only the names, City and State referenced.

Better Idea: Use name tag holders. Get a good brand and insert pre-typed where possible or hand written names.  Use a good (no a cheap one) plastic holder.

Consider using a computer program such as "Access" to print name labels.

Consider making a computerized database of the 300 year reunion attendees.

6. The CD Project  We had decided early on in the reunion planning that a CD of the reunion activities would be a good idea. Then, we also decided early on that all the presentations at the reunion would be made via the CD.  We then merged the two needs.  We rented a computer projector (these are $250 a day pieces of equipment). The hotel had an on site rental company that setup the computer projector. After discussing the CD project with a number of people, it was decided that the CD would be a "pre-reunion" project. That is, the CD would be made prior to the reunion and distributed at the reunion (rather than an after the event CD). I then arranged for a local CD manufacture to make the CDs and hand carried the CDs to the reunion.

We also assumed that the CD would be only popular for those people who were computer literate.   Our assumption turned out to be incorrect. While about only half of the people that registered for the reunion had an e-mail address, everyone wanted a CD.  Every CD was spoken for at the reunion. The CD was thought of as a way to preserve history for our descendants. Many non-computer people purchased the CD for their grand-children.

And because the CD was a pre-reunion project, increased data started to be added to itís content. Note: A CD will hold 650 MB of data. This is an enormous size under current standards. The actual CD used at the reunion totaled about 225 MB in size. That is, we could have included much more data on the CD.

However, the CD started to balloon in size as did the man hours to do the project. The CD took a huge amount of time to create; an estimated half man year of effort. The increased data also caused a significant indexing problem both technically and logically. How to design a CD that would sequence the data in a logical manner within the confines of the DOS and Windows computer requirements was the problem.

We also had to figure out how to scan multiple page documents and save these documents with a single file name. Solving this problem made it possible to scan documents such as the 1899 reunion minutes and identify these with a file name so that it could be found and read.

Good Idea: Scan and record family history via the PDF format.

Better Idea: Prepare a CD index long before the next reunion. Request skilled "library" trained people to help.

Request submission of data to be included on the CD, and properly index the data.

Include the CD in the general cost of the reunion.  Ask if they want an extra copy, at an additional cost.

7. Haworth Database  At the reunion, we printed an ancestor report for everyone (an ancestor report unique to each person). We gave a copy of this report in the registration envelope. We also made a copy for the display table and sorted the reports by the names of the children of George. We also put a colored marker on each badge as to which child of George they came from.

Bad Ideas: The display table copy of the ancestor report was only marginally successful. And I believe that the color coded badges was also only marginally accepted.

Better idea: Print only one copy of the ancestor report to be included in the registration envelope of each person.

8. Conclusions  The above comments are meant to facilitate a future reunion event. My thanks to all the people who helped in staging the Haworth 300 Year Reunion. My reward is that everyone had a great time. Our ancestors would be proud of what we accomplished.

Ronald L. Haworth, July 1999


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