Summer can bring people together in the most unexpected of ways, but sometimes those events (like family reunions and church retreats) need some more forethought and planning. Here are a few tips to get you started on the path to a successful soiree.

» Decide whom to invite. Will it be immediate family only or do you want to include descendants of your great-great grandparents? As you branch out on the family tree, you will undoubtedly have more people. Don’t exclude part of a branch. You don’t want hurt feelings.

» Contact your guests in an efficient manner. You’ll need to know how many people you can count on to attend. If your list is short and familial, start with phone calls; or use email or Facebook to let everyone know what is in the works. If you are working with your organization to plan an event, send a survey to update everyone’s contacts and then form committees to plan budgets and organize activities.

» Be pragmatic in selecting a date. Is summer break the best time to get everyone together for a reunion or should you instead plan around a special holiday or anniversary date to celebrate? For retreats, weekends might be a better option for those who work during the week.

» Find a location that works for everyone. Is there a special destination to convene, or is it better to host the reunion or retreat in a central location for all attendees? Hotels can be a good option since they have overnight accommodations for travelers but also have built-in activities with pools, game rooms and large lobbies or hospitality rooms where you can gather together.

» Research group rates. Group rates for airlines, hotels and meals may start at as few as 10 people. Just remember that the time/dates you choose can affect the cost of travel and hotels.

» Tap into your local CVB experts. Your convention bureau can assist with location selection, recommending available dates for your event and other services.

Melinda Garritano is the senior account executive for Meet Chicago Northwest, a CVB servicing Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village, Itasca, Rolling Meadows, Roselle, Schaumburg, Streamwood and Wood Dale. Her tips were originally presented at a free workshop in January 2015. 

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