Some milestones in life deserve a special celebration, and graduation is definitely one of them. It marks the end of a period of study and the beginning of new horizons, an important transition for students.
The graduation ceremony is a moment that students will always remember, and organising it requires special attention. To help you make this event a success, focus on these 6 key points.
- Project overview
- Send invitations for the graduation ceremony
- Logistics and equipment needs
- The graduation ceremony protocol
- Preparing the graduation speech
- Organising the graduation dinner and party
Like any other event a graduation ceremony needs to be well planned, detailed and coordinated. The first step is therefore to define the project and thus establish the structure within which you will organise it.
a) Identify the organising team
Depending on the establishment and usual practice, either the students or the school itself will be responsible for organising the graduation ceremony itself. It is common for both to collaborate to a greater or lesser extent. For this collaboration to be agile and effective, good organisation and a clear division of tasks are necessary.
It is a good idea to designate one project manager on each side: the students and the school.
b) Determine the type of graduation ceremony
It’s different to host a graduation ceremony for a middle school, a high school or a university. What tone do you want to set for your graduation ceremony? Do you prefer a formal ceremony or a more relaxed one? Do you want to have an “American-style” ceremony? How big will the ceremony be?
All of these decisions will help guide the rest of the choices you will have to make when organising your graduation ceremony.
c) Setting the date and venue for the ceremony
Graduation ceremonies usually take place a few weeks after the end of exams. Set the date as early as possible to ensure the availability of students and their guests, as well as any speakers and contractors you wish to involve.
The most common venue for graduation ceremonies is the auditorium of the university or school itself. If such a setting is not available or does not exist, it is also possible to hire a venue for your graduation. With a little patience, you will certainly find the ideal venue for your graduation.
In either case, make sure that the venue is accessible to people with restricted mobility, that it has good lighting and sound, that it is the right size for the expected audience and that it is easily accessible both by public and private means of transportation.
The budget is the lighthouse of any event and a graduation ceremony is no exception.
This basic element of event planning is often feared as a burden, but it is the budget that will allow you to prioritise the various expenses and to make informed decisions.
There is no graduation ceremony without guests. Primarily, you are expecting graduating students, their guests and your own guests. Depending on the venue and the number of students, teachers and other institutional guests, will impact on how many guests can be invited per student.
The next step is to send out the invitations for the graduation ceremony. These days, it’s common to send out digital invitations, but regardless of your choice, you can get inspiration by searching the Internet for graduation ceremony invitation templates. Gather the best ideas and adapt them to fit your identity.
To properly manage capacity and material needs, which we will discuss shortly, it is important to have an idea of the final number of expected attendees. The easiest way to do this is to send a link where guests register to confirm their participation. Ideally, each student should be responsible for confirming their and their guests’ presence.
The registering system is especially interesting as it allows additional data to be collected through a registration form: from dietary restrictions, special needs, to voting for ‘teacher of the year’!
Having an online registration and invitation system will also allow you to quickly and easily control access to the venue by scanning the QR codes on the tickets.
Depending on the type of graduation event you are hosting, its style, location, etc., you will need to call on a number of service providers to ensure the following needs:
- Equipment: chairs, tables, stage, audio, visual etc.
- Decoration, matching the style of your ceremony
- Music: create a playlist to set the mood for the different moments of the graduation ceremony – from the arrival of the participants, through the transitional moments and the closing. You can also include an anthem or song that is representative of either the institution or a song that students feel reflects their time at the school. You might even consider hiring a band for the occasion.
- Photos and video: If your budget can accommodate it, hire a professional photographer and videographer. In addition, it is a good idea to create a hashtag so that anyone taking photos or videos can share them on social media using it. This creates a sense of unity and helps to bring the shots together. Photocalls or adding a photo booth are nice touches.
- Video editing: Create a video montage with photos of the students during their time at the school to show on the day of the event – they will enjoy seeing photos they may not have remembered, reminiscing about fun moments and sharing them with their loved ones.
- Catering: After the ceremony and before moving on to a dinner or party, offer a small catering service with drinks and snacks to round off the event.
In the days following the ceremony, compile a file with photos and videos of the graduation and send them to the participants as a souvenir. You can segment the audience into students, their guests and institutional representatives to select what should be sent to each group of people. An e-mailing and CRM tool, especially if it is connected to your online registration software, will be a great help in this task.
Graduation is an official ceremony and is full of traditions, such as the wearing of graduation caps and gowns. Although you can embrace a more casual touch, it is best, if not necessary, to follow a protocol:
With or without a gown, the attire must be appropriate. Choose formal and simple clothing, and don’t forget to remind your guests about the dress code of the event when you send out the invitations.
The programme for the graduation ceremony should cover, at least, the following essential points:
- an introduction
- a speech by a school representative
- the graduation ceremony
- a few words from one of the new graduates, often the valedictorian
- a farewell message
- a closing ceremony
Within this structure other elements can be added. The idea is to create a narrative that holds the attention of the participants and makes the event memorable. This can be done by using a master of ceremony to lead the event and even an external speaker to give an inspirational speech to put the icing on the graduation cake.
The seating arrangements for the participants should also be taken into account. It is necessary to allocate some seats for administration, teachers and speakers. If there is a president’s table, it is advisable to have an odd number of people at this table and to leave the central seat for the guest of honour. For a more orderly graduation, students should be seated in alphabetical order, or by field of study.
Both the speech from the institution’s representative and the student representative are central and will not go unnoticed. The most important tip for a successful graduation speech is to practice! Reread the text to remove any superfluous material, look for new ideas and practice to get the rhythm and emotion spot on.
Sometimes an external speaker is invited to give a graduation speech. This may be a public figure, someone from the graduates’ field of study or an inspirational leader. There are some classic speeches of this type that can serve as inspiration or even just to get you in the right frame of mind for delivery! An iconic example of this type of graduation speech is the one by British writer Neil Gaiman, called “Make good art”.
After the graduation ceremony, some schools hold a dinner. This precedes the evening party, which is almost systematic. These additional steps are a very positive conclusion to the students’ academic life.
The graduation party lends itself more to a relaxed atmosphere, with music, dancing and entertainment. It can be a more or less independent event, which is often organised by the student office.
If you pay attention to all the topics covered and the advice given, graduating students will enjoy the most important, and last, of their student events.
Si vous prêtez attention à tous les sujets abordés et les conseils donnés, vous obtiendrez la satisfaction des étudiants dans la célébration du plus important, et du dernier, de leurs événements étudiants.