Graduation day symbolises both an exciting end and a new beginning for most of us. When you throw that graduation hat in the air, it marks the end of a significant chapter and the start of a whole new journey towards a fulfilling career and life. It is an important day, both for the graduates and for the institutions and universities that help them get to this pivotal moment.
Graduation ceremonies are typically hosted as an exclusively in-person event, but with the digital transformation that’s occurred in recent years and event attendees demanding more engagement from these events, more and more higher-education institutions are now experimenting with virtual and hybrid event formats.
Why are universities and educational institutions opting for hybrid or virtual graduation ceremonies?
Greater flexibility – A hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony offers the unique opportunity to deliver a multi-format show, that is more flexible (should the need arise to pivot exclusively to virtual, for example) and accessible. You can use an effective combination of live or pre-recorded elements to create a more dynamic experience that is immersive, inspiring, and engaging.
Expanded reach – Graduation is a big day not just for the students, but also for their families, friends, and teachers. In-person events can only accommodate those who have the time and the means to make the trip, which often means that many miss out on this special moment and don’t get to watch their loved ones celebrate this accomplishment. A hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony programme offers an opportunity for those who cannot come in-person to still be an integral part of the celebration. Making the event virtual enables wider accessibility, making it possible to join from anywhere. The event now transcends physical boundaries, bringing in a lot more attendees to interact and engage via a single platform. And since you can invite a larger audience through a virtual graduation ceremony, it helps amplify the reach and impact of the event, enabling you to include a more diverse blend of noteworthy alumni, parents, and other community leaders to create a truly memorable speaker line-up that will inspire the graduates for years to come.
Cost effective – If cost is a concern, pivoting to a virtual ceremony can help reduce overall event costs while simultaneously increasing reach. The budget for a virtual graduation ceremony is much more modest when compared to an all in-person event. By hosting the ceremony online, you save on costs associated with travel, venue, décor, F&B and more. Several universities, institutions and colleges found that by hosting virtual graduation ceremonies, they were able to economise their budgets and utilised the additional fund on other critical areas.
Improved creativity: In order to truly deliver a dynamic, engaging experience, you can really tap into your creative side and have fun planning a hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony programme. With the right technology partner, you can club traditional customs with new age tactics to make the ceremony innovative and enthralling. For example, you can live stream an in-person parade and let the families and friends of the graduates cheer online. You can play pre-recorded messages from parents as a surprise at the time of presenting the diploma. You can engage the audience with games and chat sessions. Bottomline: you can make it as creative as possible, as you now have the best of both worlds – a special in-person experience as well as an expanded reach online.
A memory for a lifetime: A key benefit with a hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony is that is has a longer shelf life. You can easily upload the event to your website or on social media for greater reach. Recordings also enable those who could not be a part of the ceremony to easily view the entire show later at their convenience. And of course, those who wish to revisit and relive those moments later can keep the recording with them.
How can you manage a successful hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony?
Find the right technology: A hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony programme relies heavily on having the right technology and the right technology expert. A university, institution or college planning such an event may not necessarily have with the required resources in-house – but fortunately, there are plenty of options out there to support the seamless execution of your virtual or hybrid graduation programme! Look for easy to use technology to ensure greater adoption by your attendees. It should be interactive and self-guiding, and must include attendee engagement mechanisms such as push notifications, gamification, live chats etc. to keep your audience informed and entertained during your show. Ensure that you will get support during the event from an expert – this is especially important if you have a small team.
Selecting a virtual or hybrid event management platform may seem daunting, but you can start your search on sites like G2 that can help you find the right event technology for your unique needs, while also showing its credibility, reputation and demand in the industry.
Remember, content is the king! Effective and engaging content rules the virtual world. Content is what keeps attendees glued to their screens as they view the virtual graduation ceremony. Virtual content should be fun, short, and inspirational, motivational and/or informative. Offering live streaming, pre-recorded sessions, group chats, and even post-event networking opportunities with speakers, fellow students or graduates, all help create a fun and engaging virtual graduation experience.
Keep your attendees informed: When opting for a virtual or hybrid experience, not only is it imperative to inform your attendees about day-of details, but also important to educate your attendees on how to use the hybrid or virtual event management platform well before the event. You can prepare a list of steps required for registration and login and share it beforehand with the invitees so that they do not come across login fails at the time of event. Use your platform to build an event website and display any key event information and news on it to keep your attendees updated. Don’t forget to send out save the date emails, followed by periodic reminders, to ensure they do not miss the event. You can share the link to the event website in all communication emails. This additional pre-event support and communication will not only increase your attendance but will mean a stress-free experience for your attendees who are participating in the virtual graduation ceremony online.
Promotion is paramount: Graduation day is a hugely important annual event. It reflects the hard work and perseverance of every single graduate and is the send-off for a career that’s just beginning. With that in mind, maximising attendance through active promotional campaigns means there will be more people to celebrate the momentous occasion (and maybe inspire future generations of graduates to come to your school)! Promotion of your hybrid or virtual graduation ceremony on social media handles is important. You may want to use unique hashtags and let your graduates be your brand ambassadors in the social community. You can showcase the live feeds and student reels from the ceremony and tag them to create a social buzz.
With these tips in mind get ready to successfully host your next virtual (or hybrid) graduation ceremony and bid a happy farewell to your graduation gang!