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How to Organise a Memorable Graduation Ceremony

Who would want to have a memorable graduation ceremony? The answer would undoubtedly be: everyone! It goes without saying though that it should be memorable for all the right reasons and not for being a total mess-up. These kinds of ceremonies are often part of a persons’ significant moments in life and as such require thorough planning, back-up for unforeseen events and flawless execution.

  1. Venue Size

Knowing the number of graduates, faculty, members of staff, senior management and family members who are to attend the ceremony is critical as this would dictate the size of the venue that would be suitable

  1. Location & Parking

Depending on the number of attendees, a decision can be made on where the ceremony can take place. If it’s a small crowd, perhaps the school/university may have a venue on-site that can be transformed to host the ceremony. Wherever the ceremony is to be held, ensure there is sufficient parking spaces to avoid people having to park some distance from the venue and then walk

  1. Timing

Decide on the time for the ceremony whether morning or evening. An evening ceremony would make it easier for working-parents to attend. If the ceremony is to be held on-site at the school/university during class hours check if the ambient noise levels would affect the event. Usually, an hour for the entire ceremony is sufficient however it would differ dependent on the number of graduates

  1. Seating Set-Up

Will there be tables or only chairs? If it is just the ceremony, placing chairs in theatre style may be all that’s needed however if there are to be refreshments or a light meal served after the ceremony, tables may be required

  1. Décor

No matter where the venue, decorate it with banners in the school colours or artwork contributed by the students or maybe even a photo slideshow of the graduating students

  1. Speakers

Decide on the list of speakers for the ceremony. Ideally there would be someone to do the Opening Remarks, a Student Speaker, Keynote Speaker and someone for the Closing Remarks. It is important to inform all of the speakers of the set time limits so the ceremony does not drag on

  1. Special Awards

Everyone graduating has a lot of which to be proud and rightly so. There are however some students who may have excelled and the school/university would want to bestow upon them special recognition or awards. It could be something as simple as a distinctive ribbon to be worn as part of the attire or a special ceremony within the main ceremony.

  1. Announcer

No one likes their name pronounced wrong so have the designated announcer go through the whole list of names to ensure they get the pronunciation of names right

  1. F&B

Most graduation ceremonies are just that, the ceremony and then you go home. If, however the school/university would like to provide refreshments like juices, canapes, etc or a full-on meal, catering would need to be organised

  1. Dress Code

As part of the invitation don’t forget to specify the dress code for the ceremony so there will be no ambiguity on how people should come dressed

  1. Cap & Gown

The school/university most likely already has the caps and gowns that the students can rent but if not, create a simple design that can showcase the school colours and share it with the students so they can get it tailored

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  1. Invitations

Create an e-invitation for the graduating students to share with their family

  1. Diplomas

Have the school/university decide if they want to hand out blank scrolls (placeholder diplomas) or the actual diplomas at the ceremony. If the actual diplomas, then a system to make certain that the diplomas are handed out in the precise sequence to the right recipients is critical

  1. Program

Just so everyone attending knows the sequence of events, create a program and either have it printed to be placed on each seat or in the interest of saving trees, create an e-program to be displayed on screen

  1. Safety & Accessibility

Check the venue to ensure that there are sufficient emergency exits clearly marked and accessibility for physically handicapped attendees is provided. Have an action plan in place in case of any emergency. Safety should always be a priority

  1. Music

Put together the sound track for the event and include any school theme that can be played before or after the ceremony

  1. Live Video Feed and Live Streaming

Not everyone will be able to get seats close to the stage so it would be ideal to have a live stream of the close-up view of the stage so even people towards the rear of the venue can see the graduates clearly. There may be some family members or friends unable to attend the ceremony in person and live streaming the ceremony through a platform would be an excellent way to let them feel a part of the event

  1. Photographers

Hire a professional photographer so every graduate can receive (or purchase) a good, close-up photo of them receiving their diploma

  1. Photo Backdrop

Create one or more photo-worthy backdrops so everyone at the ceremony can gather and take pics to post on social media

  1. Invite the Media

Contact the local newspapers and magazines to have then send someone to cover the ceremony so they can publish photos of the ceremony along with a small write up

  1. Social Media

Everyone now lives their lives on social media therefore don’t forget to create a ceremony specific hashtag so any photo posts can be tagged and accessed using this hashtag

Final Thoughts: Organising a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event puts added pressure and involves a lot of facets to make everything run smooth while creating joyful memories. Listed above are some of the major steps that will help in reaching this goal. Getting accurate information from the start and staying organised are probably the most critical to have the ceremony flow seamlessly. More than all the fluff like photo backdrop, the media, etc give the most importance to ensuring the names of the awardees are announced accurately and the sequence of awardees is followed to avoid any embarrassing on-stage larks.

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