Family Reunion Retrospective

Family Photo

Our Family!

TL;DRWe helped plan our family reunion with a few week’s notice. Learn what went well and avoid the mistakes we made! This is part 3 of a 3 part series.

In my experience of writing software in a team, one of the most important steps – if not the most important – is the capacity to speak objectively (as a team) about the events that led up to the release of the software.

I like to call this the “the good, the bad, and the ugly“.

While the act itself is important as a team learning experience, I believe that the retrospective is critical because it’s another step towards being able to speak objectively and critically in a team setting – an act that promotes “psychological safety” within a team.

Google the term if you want to learn more about high-performing teams, but having worked on a number of them in my career, I’ve always found that the most functional teams I’ve been on have exhibited characteristics of being “psychologically safe”.

Obviously, this takes both comfort and practice, but after 8 years, Sara and I are more than comfortable enough to be able to speak critically of one another, so I’m sharing what we discussed privately in our retrospective of our family reunion.

The Good

If expected outcomes were our measure of success, we definitely succeeded because we fulfilled them all! Not to mention, quite a few family members thanked us for our efforts – that should be one of the first signs that we did a lot of things right.

  • People mingled
  • Took a great family photo
  • Ended up with a lot of corrections to the family tree
  • As an added bonus, got email addresses for a large chunk of the family where I’ve been sending updates about this blog to! Hi fam! 😀

For having only a week’s time to prepare for the 50+ person family reunion, the organizing went extremely smoothly. We weren’t cramming the night before and had spread out the tasks over the entire week.  I attribute this to Sara’s planning / organizing skills because they’re much, much better than mine. Here’s some protips (from Sara) on how to make an event go smoothly:

  • Create a timeline of the day’s events and print out hard-copies to distribute to everyone
  • Put all assets in labeled manila folders to be distributed on the day of the event – the more granular and contextually organized the items, the better.
  • Always carry extra items like pens, post-its, extra copies of print-outs and what not.
  • Pack the night before so you’re not scrambling the morning/day of.

The print out of the family tree definitely worked out better than we imagined. There were a lot of family members who fixed the tree, but it also acted as an event anchor that encouraged interactions between members of our family. If we were to recommend one item to be reused from our reunion, this would be it.

The Bad

There were a few hiccups on the day of the reunion. First, the venue actually didn’t have the appropriate seating arrangement so we had to move people around 30 minutes before everyone arrived. I won’t lie – it was a bit hectic because there were only two of us that knew all the details. In critical situations, I tend to wear my manager hat and give orders. Ultimately, I have to remember that it’s family and not a place of business.  Who cares about these minor inconveniences? I definitely don’t think I handled that as well as I could have.

Second, while we did have a planning schedule, we misplaced it in the chaos and so we  improvised in the moment. As a result, we failed to give detailed instructions to the people at the check-in table. This led to pseudo-random distribution of favors and missed collection of email addresses. Ultimately, this was totally our fault due to the lack of communication. On a good note, we did later remedy the situation by manually walking around the venue and collecting email addresses.

Last, while I tried to stick to the schedule on the sheet that Sara printed out – and I kept reminding myself to, I ended up making up the schedule on the fly. While it worked out this time, in future events, that may not be the case. I really have to get better at sticking to pre-planned schedules. 😀

The Ugly

We have a fairly decent camera, but unfortunately, because of a camera setting and the poor lighting, a lot of the pictures were blurry. This was partly due to the fact that the camera is new, and Sara didn’t have a ton of experience using it. With that said, the group photo of our family was taken by another member so we did end up with a nice photo. We should have taken a few shots the night before and checked them out, but in our haste, we didn’t and ultimately lost a bunch of photos.

Our next Family Reunion…

All in all, I think given the circumstances, we planned a great an amazing family reunion, but if we’re never critical of what we’ve done, we’ll never improve. So, here’s a list of items in no particular order of what we would have done differently:

  • Have more people show up early and be involved in the setup. We should have communicated a setup plan the night before with a small group of people instead of shouldering it ourselves.
  • Take practice photos the night before to see how the camera would perform.
  • Highlight features of Ancestry.com earlier in the event. We didn’t show all the amazing features of Ancestry until the end. There’s a lot of documents that Ancestry has collected that people were interested in – such as the census scans, draft cards, yearbook photos, etc. It piqued quite a bit of people’s interest.
  • I really wanted to print out something physical that everyone in the family could take home. While we are giving out a family photo as a prize for this reunion, one of my dreams is to be able to print out family baseball cards where the back of the card would have trivia about a person’s life. One of these days, I tell you…

In case you want to read about the setup and program for our family reunion, please see the following:

Summary
Our family reunion retrospective! - [ Part 3 of 3 ]
Article Name
Our family reunion retrospective! - [ Part 3 of 3 ]
Description
We helped organize a successful family reunion, so can you! Learn what went well and how we plan to improve for the next one! Part 3 of a 3 part series.
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From Pineapples