Graduations are a right of passage for many students around the world. An occasion once reserved for University leavers, over recent years we have even seen nursery and primary age children donning adorable caps and gowns to celebrate their achievements ahead of moving on to new schools. Graduations are an opportunity for students to take centre stage, reflect on their time studying and celebrate the next chapter.

As more organisations explore virtual graduations as a way of making sure their students don’t miss out during lockdown, we’ve compiled some helpful information for successful, immersive experiences. Having the right technical support and set-up is paramount to ensuring success, and there are lots of options available to suit your organisation. Most  importantly, it’s about making sure each of your students has their time to shine and family, friends and faculty members are able to partake in the celebrations.

Planning

Detailed planning is paramount to a successful graduation event and virtual ceremonies are no different. With lots of moving parts and technical factors to consider, it’s important that your plan is confirmed and well communicated in advance to everyone involved, from your speakers and hosts to the technical crew. Detailed planning leads to flawless production and also allows time for rehearsals and contingency plans.

It’s also important to factor in how much of your event will be virtual – as social distancing guidelines are updated, ‘Hybrid Events’ are a great option for Graduations. The hybrid set-up allows the key people to gather safely in a venue – such as presenters and hosts, along with the production crew. This TV-studio format where the audience tunes in from home allows for greater control over production and a higher quality broadcast with less reliance on virtual technology. It can also help to add authenticity to the event if it is broadcast from the familiar graduation venue.

Speakers

Thanks to the advanced technology available, virtual graduations needn’t be a continuous solo stream – you can still invite your guests and key speakers to be a part of the event and address the audience remotely, or in person for a hybrid event. 

Typically, the broadcast begins with the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor addressing the audience and providing an overview of how the event will run, we recommend allowing 10-15 minutes for this segment. The stream can then be transitioned to a keynote speaker who can deliver an inspirational speech to the graduating class, we recommend keeping speeches to between 15-20 minutes. 

You could also arrange for a student speaker to dial-in and deliver a thank you speech, highlighting their experiences over the last four years before the Chancellor returns to the screen to give closing remarks and bring the broadcast to an end.

Your production crew can set up these channels so that your speakers can address the audience live and can also insert pre-recorded segments into the live stream.

Invitations & Programme

It’s a great idea to create a microsite for your virtual graduation, or at the minimum a dedicated page on your existing website. You can add lots of information and imagery to generate excitement and engagement for your students, rather than simply mailing out a joining link. 

The live broadcast can be embedded into the microsite so family and friends can easily access (instead of, or in addition to, using social media to stream the video). Be sure to create a programme for the event and publish it online so that all attendees know what to expect and can download it for a keepsake. 

It is important to communicate the details of the virtual event in plenty of time, with very clear joining instructions so that everyone is well prepared. You can also decide whether you would like to keep the stream private and password protected, or open for anyone to join.

Welcoming Slideshow 

It’s important that your guests log-in to the broadcast in advance to ensure the event can start promptly and so it’s a nice idea to create a slideshow of images as a holding screen before the ceremony begins. You could ask students to submit their personal photos (approve them first, of course!) and quotes to include in the slideshow to create a nice welcome for attendees. You may also wish to include music in the slideshow too.

The Ceremony 

Whilst ‘walking the stage’ isn’t an option for virtual events, you should still consider how your students can actively participate in the ceremony and receive the recognition they deserve. As a graduate’s name is read out, their live image can be broadcast on the screen to be witnessed by faculty members, family and friends. Their names along with their award and any special recognitions can be detailed on the screen at the same time.

You might want to consider working with your gown supplier to deliver gowns and caps to students so that they can dress for the occasion and capture their own photographs.

It’s important to choose a production company that can provide the skills, equipment and experience to deliver a successful virtual event, and are confident in managing any unforeseen challenges or last-minute changes. By working with a professional team you are free to focus on creating a memorable, celebratory experience for your graduates.

The team at AYRE have been delivering live and virtual events for many years and can offer as much, or as little, support that you need to bring your virtual graduation to life. We can support with all technical solutions from streaming and recording to sound and lighting and we can also provide staging, branding and backdrops if you’re planning a hybrid event. 

Speak to us today to find out how we can help you plan your virtual graduation ceremony…