So, we finished the book. There’s no more copy to correct, people to identify, photos to edit or designs to review. Submitting the last few pages to the plant, I, like many advisers, finally breathe a sigh of relief and take some much needed downtime to catch up on sleep and slowly lower my caffeine intake. It’s not until a few days later when my staff, bored out of their minds, (did they forget how much work we just did?) starts asking me what’s next. Although we create a few slideshows and start organizing next year’s book, distribution is really the last ‘task’ on our radar. There’s no better feeling in the world than handing that freshly pressed book over, but let’s get real for a minute. Sometimes the monotony of handing book, after book, after book out can take its toll. Yerds need to feel the love and appreciation from their student body. They need a chance to celebrate their accomplishment and be recognized before they hand over ‘the baby.’ As an adviser, it’s been my goal from the beginning to make distribution not only a party, but a community event.
So we go all out. I made an investment in my first year and bought some décor pieces straight out of Pinterest that I knew were versatile and would last us a long time. We bought linen tablecloths, sequin tablecloths, gold chalkboards, banners, and dollar store frames. We custom designed everything to match the theme of the book making sure that every detail, no matter how small, was planned out. We even wrapped old yearbooks in gold wrapping paper to create stands for our signs.
Our goal was to involve the community as much as possible so my staff reached out to several clubs and organizations for support. We asked a group of choir kids to perform a selection of songs while people mingled and socialized. The ProStart food classes were generous enough to create a sampling of appetizers, serving up strawberry shortcake kabobs, teriyaki meatballs and mini-turkey wraps. A parent hooked us up with a cheap photo booth so we designed Instagram inspired frames out of cardboard (to match our theme, of course) and included a logo design on the photo strip. I purchased over 50 lbs of assorted candy in our school’s colors and bought a bunch of cheap glass bowls at Goodwill to create a candy bar. One of the yearbook students had a popcorn maker, so we loaded up on seasonings, paper cups, and oil. We printed about 200 photos at Costco and hung them in the commons for students to grab and take home (this was a huge draw for students). I ordered stickers, pens, and swag from Herff Jones to adorn our signing tables. We created an exclusive slideshow with a glimpse of photos only seen in the book, and performed a tech demo showcasing the Aurasma videos, which we were introducing for the first time. My design crew even had enough consideration to design a Snapchat geofilter for the event so that students could share video and photos from the party.
Being that this was our first time hosting a distribution party, we wanted to make sure the word got out and everyone felt included. My design team created a postcard that we mailed out to the school board members, superintendent, CTE director and the yearbook staff parents. The students recruited for next year’s staff were excused from their last two class periods to help us decorate and serve food. You would not believe the morale boosting effect this had on students who had not even made a book yet. They practically soared on the energy my staff members gave off, lifted by their excitement and joy. I even contacted the middle school yearbook adviser and invited the entire middle school yearbook staff to join us, with the hopes of planting the seed of interest before they entered high school. All told, it took us about a month to design, organize and plan the party.
If you’re an adviser, I know what you’re thinking… Is all this work really worth it for a two-hour party? And the answer is yes…Heck. Yes. My staff was overwhelmed with support, love, enthusiasm and pride. They experienced a sense of accomplishment, and acknowledgement similar to the feeling athletes get when they win a state title – but this time they weren’t the ones photographing that joy for someone else.
We all know the wild rollercoaster ride we sit on has many turns and pitches. It’s not easy staying motivated throughout the year when you can’t see or feel that book in your hand until the very end. Giving my students something more than the book felt needed, if not necessary. Pulling the student body and community into our little Yerd world for even the briefest of moments left a huge impact on my staff. We were able to hold onto that excitement as we coasted straight into our summer camps, ready to conquer the next book, knowing that our finish line had a much bigger crowd waiting for us at the end.
Here’s a breakdown of some easy projects for your staff to consider:
- Framed Signs – We bought 11×14 wooden frames and 8×10 standing acrylic frames from the dollar store which we used for our signing tables, food stations and distribution tables. Make sure you design them to match your book’s theme!
- Photobooth Props – Make your own props for students to use in a photo booth. My staff used recycled cardboard; cut it out in the shape of an Instagram photo frame and spray painted them white. We also added funny superlatives like, ‘Most likely to be voted off a reality TV show,’ and, ‘Most likely to take more than one free sample.’ We added gold cardboard triangles to each frame to match our book’s cover and tie into our theme.
- Photo Prints – My school goes absolutely bananas for free pictures! I get so many requests from students throughout the year to get copies of photos that this solution is the best way to attract their attention and get them to show up at the party. We tape them all over the commons areas. Last year I spent $50 at Costco for 250 prints.
- Slideshow + Aurasma Videos – Whether your yearbook staff does Aurasma or not, videos and photo slideshows are always a huge hit. While we make a big assembly slideshow at the end of the year for the entire school to enjoy, students have learned that the best photos are displayed at our party. We only use photos from the book in the distribution party slideshow and mix our Aurasma videos intermittently between photos. Slap some awesome to it and you can bet students will be captivated. My staff loves doing a tech demo and showing students which videos appear in the book and where.
There’s nothing quite like the moments spent celebrating all your staff’s hard work during distribution!
Mead (WA) HS
A self-professed Yerd turned Yerd Herder, I live for pretty much anything yearbook. When I'm not herding my Yerd crew around you can probably find me skiing the slopes, hiking in the mountains or photographing.