Guide to Hosting a Salem College Alumnae Association Once a Student, Always an Alumna Dinner

Thank you for choosing to host a dinner with seniors! We hope you will find this to be a worthwhile and memorable experience. We have put this document together as a guide to help your evening run smoothly and to give you some insight into what is typically involved with hosting a dinner. Please remember that this is only a guide and you are free to make adjustments.

Planning

Alumnae Board Member or Salem College Alumnae staff

A program facilitator is the Alumnae Board Member volunteer who works on the administrative side of the program. She will serve as your point of contact and will help with some of the organizational details of your dinner.

Choosing a Date and Time

The program facilitator will provide you with a list of available dates for your dinner. When choosing a date be sure to consider the amount of preparation and clean up time that go into hosting a dinner; it may be best to consider hosting your dinner on a weekend or on your day off. Give yourself plenty of time to make the necessary preparations.

Invitations and Guest List

You do not need to send out invitations or worry about coordinating a guest list. Your program facilitator will take care of this for you and will let you know who will be attending and any dietary restrictions well in advance of the dinner. A general invitation is sent to all Salem seniors to participate in the dinner series through an online tool call Sign-Up Genius. The invitation will include the date and time of the dinner as well as the names of the host, co-host, and faculty guest. Your name and address, degree, and other professional information will be included in the invitation as you provide.

The primary form of contact with your guests, updates, directions, time change, etc. will be through the group mail invitation created on Sign-up Genius.  The Dinner host will be given administrative rights.  If the host is uncomfortable with this, the facilitator can assist.

Be sure to inform your guests of any information that you feel is relevant to the event or selection of the guest list so that accommodations can be made or potential issues avoided (i.e. parking, perfume or food allergies, “no shoes in house policy “, unknown GPS addresses, or pets for those with allergies).

Location

Whenever possible, we recommend that you host the dinner in your own home.  This is an easy way to inject some charm and intimacy into the program and will help make the evening memorable. We recognize that not all potential hosts live conveniently close to campus so treating the students to a just-off-campus restaurant is a great substitute.

Transportation and Arrival of Students

Generally, transporting students to and from the dinner is the responsibility of the individual student.  Almost everyone has a phone these days, but providing your guests with directions, may be useful. Although not expected, hosts who wish to arrange for the transportation of the guests themselves are welcome to do so. A group car pool is a great way to break the ice and also gives you some control over ensuring your guests show up together and on-time.

The Dinner

The Menu

We ask hosts to provide a meal for the guests; the meal can be as fancy or informal as you like, it’s completely up to you! Cook to your comfort level. There is no need to stress about cooking a gourmet meal. Keeping it simple will allow you to spend more time with your guests. Another option is to have the dinner catered. This is one way you can save some time and make things easier on yourself.

Dietary Restrictions

Please keep in mind that some students may have dietary restrictions that prevent them from eating certain foods, so it’s a good idea to keep track of what ingredients are in the food you serve in case a student inquires. A list of restrictions should be provided to you by the facilitator well in advance of the dinner.

Alcohol

We ask that you kindly refrain from serving alcohol to your guests for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that there may be underage guests, and we do not want them to feel excluded or for you to be put in an awkward situation.

The Co-host

When possible, an alumnae co-host is a great way to help with the hosting duties during the event. You are welcome to select your own co-host or your program facilitator can help you find one from our volunteer list. A co-host can be very useful in a number of ways including: greeting students, facilitating conversation, engaging with students, and helping with preparations. Further, the co-host ensures that there will be someone acting as host if you need to leave the room during the course of the evening. Taking some time to plan the format of the evening with your co-host before your guests arrive will help the evening run smoothly. Among other things, co-hosts are a great way to make suggestions to the guests indirectly in a way that will not reflect on your hospitality. For example if you and your co-host decide to end the evening at 9:30 pm, then co-host can suggest it’s getting late, thank the host, and initiate the departure of the guests. Having a plan with your co-host (i.e. when to serve dinner, when to make introductions, topics you might like to discuss) will give the evening some structure, and help nervous students relax and share.

Format

We recommend not seating your guests at the table as soon as they arrive. Mingling works best if participants are free to move around and people are generally more approachable standing up. Schedule 10 or 15 minutes for mingling at the beginning of the evening to allow the students to start getting to know each other and pass the time until everyone arrives. When it is time to gather at the table, you may want to suggest a seating arrangement, or simply invite the students to sit where they please. In order to encourage mixing and conversation, we do recommend that you try to avoid having all the alumnae/faculty at one end and all the students at the other.

After everyone has been seated is a great time for you to formally welcome everyone and introduce yourself or give a little background about yourself, your work, or your Salem experience (or maybe the co-host would like to introduce the host). Going around the table and giving students a chance to introduce themselves is a good way to build on this and can lead to some interesting group conversation. If an end time for the dinner has been established in advance, it is a good idea for the host or the co-host to politely remind the guests of the approaching end at least 15 minutes in advance. This will give them an opportunity to arrange transportation (if calling for a ride), finish their conversations, ask any remaining questions they may have, and properly say goodbye to everyone.

Some Helpful Suggestions

Prepare Early

The more you can do to prepare for the dinner ahead of time, the easier your evening will go. Having the food already prepared or pre-cooked can save you a lot of time and effort. Little things like setting the table, planning where to hang coats, and setting out snacks will allow you to stay with your guests once they arrive.

Keep it Simple

The purpose is to show share of your time and create a warm personal space to chat. We want the students to feel relaxed and comfortable; and, therefore, we recommend you keep the evening relatively simple and avoid anything too complex. Students may be nervous enough without having to worry about excessive formality.

Attire

Normally we suggest students dress casual dinner attire- to promote the relaxed and friendly nature of the program. However, if you feel it might be fun to dress things up a bit or plan a themed evening, let your facilitator know.

Attendance and Punctuality

Be prepared for the fact that, when dealing with students, there are likely to be some last minute cancellations, no-shows, or late arrivals. The program facilitator will do their best to limit these occurrences or a least give advance notice when possible. If a student or two has not shown up by the scheduled time, it is nice to wait a few minutes for them, but don’t wait forever. It is perfectly okay to begin without late students and let them catch-up when they arrive — your punctual guests will appreciate it. Offer an arrival range rather than a single arrival time. This will help ensure that guests arrive when expected and not too early or too late.

Contact Info

We recommend that you ask the program facilitator to provide confirmed guests with your contact number where they will be able to reach you on the day of the dinner in case they get lost or need to cancel at the last minute. The facilitator should also provide you with the contact information for the guests, in case you need to contact them on the day of the dinner (in case of an emergency change of location etc.).

Be Welcoming

Simple things like informing your guests what name to call you and where they can find the washroom can go a long way in helping them relax and be outgoing during the evening.

Dealing with Cameras

Students often bring cameras to these events. If you are uncomfortable with photographs being taken throughout the night, you may want to mention that to the group early on.  If not, you may like to suggest a particular background or room where you prefer pictures to be taken.

Conversation

Don’t be afraid of silence or feel you need to lead a group discussion over the entire course of dinner. Allow your guests the chance to mix and mingle with each other. They may feel more comfortable talking in small groups, so try to encourage both types of conversation throughout the evening. Having a list of general topics, such as clubs at Salem or current issues, can be useful if you find conversation stalling throughout the night.

Staying in Touch

We suggest that at the end of the dinner, you ask all students to fill out a sheet with their names and e-mail addresses to be distributed to the entire group. You can even ask a student to send out the list to everyone for you. This will allow guests to stay in touch with each other, an essential step toward building lasting connections!

For more information or to sign up to host a Once a Student, Always an Alumna Dinner:

Contact: Emily Hinesley
Emily.Hinesley@capital.org
Phone: 336-653-8995