Top 5 Tips for a Successful Virtual Commencement

It’s hard to believe spring is right around the corner, which means it’s almost graduation season. As you may have guessed, commencements in 2021 won’t be like they used to be – massive venues with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people gathered for hours as they watched their loved ones walk across stage. But big venues and large crowds aren’t the only things that make a commencement memorable. Many schools are shifting away from cancelling commencements completely and transitioning to a virtual setting. We’ve compiled a list of our top five tips for you to consider when creating a successful virtual commencement.

1. Hire a virtual production partner

First things first, hire the experts. Avoid the added stress of dealing with the technical complexities of a virtual event, and leave it to a trusted team to handle this memorable milestone.

Not only will a production partner help provide the necessary equipment and team to execute a successful virtual commencement, they can act as a guide through the entire production planning process.

Remember, the keyword is a partner. The right virtual event production partner will be more than a supplier of equipment and labor. You can take advantage of their years of experience to get sound advice and new ideas that can make your virtual commencement memorable for all the right reasons. If you’re not sure where to start when vetting out a production partner, keep these 5 items in mind.

2. Use a broadcast stream 

Avoid one-to-one platforms and eliminate outside factors that could tamper with the overall viewer experience. This means your stream should act as though the audience is watching TV. No viewer should have the capability to turn on their camera or mic. This also means their engagement tools are limited, no private chats or hand raising buttons. They should only see what your production team is pushing out.

Most AV or production companies have the capability to provide their own broadcast stream, including Heroic. However, if you opted to go another route, here are a few of Heroic’s recommended broadcast streaming platforms:

3. Pre-record as much as possible

Whether it’s the Valedictorian’s speech, the choir singing the alma mater, the students walking across the stage, or all of the above, you should consider pre-recording. An important question to ask when deciding if content should be live or pre-recorded is “what’s the importance of streaming it live in real time”?

Many virtual events have live components due to the need for engagement, such as attendee chat or Q&A. Being that commencements don’t usually involve attendee engagement, we would highly recommend pre-recording and live streaming the edited video.

Pre-records also help eliminate errors and technical barriers. None of this “you’ve only got one shot” deal. It allows your speakers to rehearse as many times as needed to get the right recording, while also allowing your production partner time to assure they’re getting the best shot.

4. Provide meaningful speakers and entertainment

We’ve always believed speakers and entertainment have been an untapped secret when it comes to virtual events. Give your students and attendees even more of a reason to remember their commencement by providing a speaker people will genuinely enjoy listening to. You’d be surprised what good talent can do for a crowd, even if they’re virtual!

Another element to incorporate in your virtual commencement is music. Skip the elevator tunes and go above and beyond coordinating musical elements throughout the event. Just like you would with an in-person commencement, be sure to showcase the talented students within the music, theater and arts department.

If you’re curious on what a virtual musical performance could look and sound like, take a look at Gustavus Adolphus’ Christmas in Christ Chapel 2020. Everything from this performance was pre-recorded and assembled into the final program.

5. Encourage micro experiences or watch parties

Though large gatherings are currently not encouraged, small gatherings, that allow safe distancing and proper COVID protocols, are a great alternative to share this special occasion with others. Organizing micro experiences or commencement watch parties allow viewers to enjoy the company of others while sharing the energy and excitement for the event.

We know these tips seem different from years past, but different can be good. We are living in a time where people embrace technology. Use this as an opportunity to get creative when it comes to creating experiences, especially when it comes to landmark events like commencement. And when you’re ready to take the next step, always remember your team at Heroic is here to help make it happen confidently, successfully, safely.