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The Good, the Bad and the Name Badges

mardi, 7 octobre 2014   (6 Comments)
Posted by: Eoghan O'Sullivan (Alumni Officer)
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Our Alumni World Reunions take place every five years. This means it's crucial to capture feedback from attendees while the event is still fresh in the mind, so that whoever is charged with organising the next edition has a good starting point. While we "only" had 69 responses to the survey, it gave us plenty of food for thought.

I've provided a detailed report to the Central Committee of the Alumni Association (formally the body that organised this year's event), but I also wanted to share it with the wider community. I think it's important to "close the circle" in terms of providing some response to you, but also to give an idea of the diversity of opinions there are on how an event like this should be organised.

Who came?

In total more than 600 people participated in the Alumni World Reunion 2014. We had 480 registrations for the on-campus events and the total number of people participating in the Class Dinners was somewhere between 550 and 650. The two biggest events were the Welcome Back Party at LGB, with around 380 attendees, and the combined Class Dinners at the Brasserie des Halles de l'Ile (covering LGB '59 to '71) with around 200 people!

Around two-thirds of those who registered were based outside Switzerland; the USA accounted for around half of the overseas visitors.

Below: responses to the requst "Please rate the Alumni World Reunion 2014 in general".


The good news is that more than 80% of respondents rated the event overall as either "Very Good" or "Good". However, about 10% rated it has "Poor", which is naturally a cause for concern. And even those who rated the overall event well weren't fully satisfied with everything. The criticism was, for the most part, constructive: it will help us to deliver a better Reunion next time around.

Good, and not so good

I won't linger too much on the positive comments here. Suffice it to say that both the survey and the verbal feedback received during the event indicate that the participants were generally happy. We appreciated the many compliments received regarding the organisation, the programme and the general spirit of the event. You particularly appreciated the Ecolint Retrospective presentation from school archivist Alex Rodriguez-Giovo, the Tea with the Teachers sessions, and the Class Dinners. The Vintage Tram Ride was also universally acclaimed. (It's just a pity we could only take 62 people!)

What about the complaints? Well, we have already acknowledged that we slipped up in not providing name badges for all participants. We won't make this mistake again. The message has been heard loud and clear!

The rosettes didn't prove to be universally popular - and certainly no replacement for name badges!


The next most frequently mentioned grumble regarded the lack of a Gala Dinner, which had been held in an off-campus venue on Saturday night during previous reunions. The Alumni Association's Central Committee made the decision not to include this element, citing cost and some logistical problems as the reasons. While a couple of respondees to the survey actually welcomed this change in the programme, many more expressed a wish for the Gala Dinner to be reinstated next time around. It's clear that this is an important issue for many alumni - it should not be ignored in 2019.

There was also criticism of the decision to move the LGB Welcome Back Party buffet indoors. This was a difficult situation for us. Throughout that week there had been rain in the late afternoon and early evening, the kind of Geneva weather that gives the forecasters headaches. In consultation with the Service technique of the school we had to make a decision on Wednesday afternoon, and we decided to play it safe and choose the indoor option. While there were positive comments about the event overall, many people regretted the fact that it couldn't be held outdoors. As one commenter put it:

"And be brave about taking risks with the weather! I would happily take the risk of getting wet."

Best in Class

One other comment made by more than a few people related to the LGB 1980s Class Dinner. It was a very well-attended event, and those who attended had a lot of fun. However, for some Mr. Pickwick as a venue was not ideal - and it didn't help that it coincided with an evening of World Cup matches. While there was a nostalgia value for many in being there, and it made the difficult task of organising this event somewhat easier, some said they would have preferred a sitdown dinner or a "large open terrace".

Some also felt the event at Brasserie des Halles de l'Ile event was too big and noisy. I think this combined dinner covering two big groups was ultimately a victim of its own success (through no fault of the organisers, who did a wonderful job). It's clear to me that the Class Dinners are a very important element of the World Reunion, but that perhaps they need some rethinking - and more volunteer organisers! - to create more manageable group sizes (perhaps with big after parties).

(Speaking of Class Dinners, I want to take a moment to thank again all of those that were involved in organising them. There was a considerable amount of work involved and they simply would not have happened without the volunteers that stepped up to the plate in each case. Thank you.)

Fresh ideas

We received numerous interesting ideas for how the next reunion could be improved. Many alumni seem keen on the idea of including more "conference-style" elements: keynote talks, guided discussions, short presentations from selected alumni. There were also suggestions about alternative approaches to the Welcome Back Party, the barbecue (with the "bring-your-own" format not really suitable for those staying in hotels), and other aspects of the programme.

All of these suggestions will be considered when we start planning the 2019 event. In terms of timing, while a few people referred to early June as not being ideal for various reasons, more appreciated the event coinciding with the Kermesses at LGB and La Chât.

All of the people some of the time...

The fact is that it is very, very difficult to meet everyone's needs and expectations for an event such as this. Everyone involved did their best to deliver a successful event, but what works for one person often doesn't for another. Look, for example, at some of the comments we received from AWR 2014 attendees:

"Keep it simple, keep the costs down, keep it as far as possible school based." vs. "There seemed to be a lack of events in Geneva. The year we went around the Old City was fun. Maybe a long boat ride on the lake with food and drink."

"I liked the fact events were spread over a few days." vs. "Would be good to condense and have more on the Friday evening and weekend."

"The first night in contrast was unexpectedly great - [...] the atmosphere of a dinner in the Caf by the field was really conducive to chatting and moving about and socialising. The food was also really quite nice." vs. "The food at the Welcome Back Party was BAD."

"I was glad not to have the big dinner-dance this year." vs. "YOU MUST ADD A SATURDAY EVENING EVENT AS IN THE PAST!"

"I am very disappointed how poorly the event was organised." vs. "Brilliantly organised and advertised."

What is it they say about trying to please all of the people all of the time?! I think I'll leave the last word to this commenter:

"Overall the experience of meeting friends from decades past with whom we have lost contact far outweighs any other things like meals, food, drinks, cost etc."




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Community Administrator says...
Posted mardi, 4 novembre 2014
Thank you Joanna. Eoghan
Joanna Clemens Hayne says...
Posted lundi, 3 novembre 2014
Thank you Eoghan for your committed, consistent concern and follow-up. With you in charge I have no doubt that any lessons worth learning will be applied to the next event to make it even better than the last one and I am looking forward to it.
Community Administrator says...
Posted jeudi, 9 octobre 2014
Merci pour le commentaire Donate. Je n'ai pas la ventilation des différentes réponses en termes d'âge et où ils vivent, mais je crois que vous avez raison de souligner ce facteur. Je crois qu'il est nécessaire d'avoir un programme avec "something for everyone" avec un mélange d'événements qui répondent aux attentes des jeunes et plus âgés, qu'ils soient basés localement ou visiteurs (rapatriés !). Nous avons également besoin de simplifier les processus d'inscription et de paiement et à rendre plus facile pour nos organisateurs bénévoles (pour les Dîners de classe, par exemple). Eoghan
Donate Dobbernack says...
Posted mercredi, 8 octobre 2014
Un très grand merci pour cette excellente initiative et nouveauté des plus appréciables: partager avec la communauté des anciens les avis et jugements des participants à une Réunion mondiale. Il n'y a eu "que" 69 répondants à l'enquête? Certes, décevant à première vue, MAIS si nous avions su que ...! Quant aux contradictions dans les appréciations exprimées et aux suggestions pour l'avenir: peut-on décerner une différenciation en fonction de l'âge des anciens ou encore en fonction du lieu de résidence en Suisse et hors Suisse (continental ou outre-mer)? Par ailleurs, pourquoi une si grande différence de participation aux Class dinners et à la Welcome Back Party? Je suis bien évidemment déçu du désintérêt marquant de la part des anciens du côté français, du moins de ceux de mon époque, en particulier de ceux habitant à Genève et dans la région! Et pourtant, ils avaient aimé l'Ecolint !!! Bravo donc et bonne chance! Donate Dobbernack / LGB '62
Community Administrator says...
Posted mercredi, 8 octobre 2014
Thanks for the comment and the kind words Robin. I think it's very important to share the results of such surveys with the community and not just discuss them in a closed room. As for the response rate, I suppose that 69 out of the 480 that registered with us - 15% - is not all that bad when compared to general benchmarks of 10-30% for surveys of this kind. Can we assume that the other 85% were 100% happy?! Eoghan
Robin Dormer says...
Posted mardi, 7 octobre 2014
Disappointing that only 69 people out of hundreds responded to your survey. As to the results, as you say, you can't please all of the people all of the time (as President Lincoln might in other circumstances have said). I think you have done an excellent job in analysing and presenting the results -- I'm not aware that this has ever happened before and I applaud the initiative. Good luck with the next one! Robin Dormer (LGB 69).

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