A well-executed college graduation ceremony can do more than just commemorate a major milestone in students’ lives—it can also be an important tool in fostering future alumni engagement with your institution. With the right plan and an eye for detail, you can craft a day that celebrates your graduates’ hard work and gives them memories to cherish.
With that in mind, we’ve created a list of 10 essential steps to planning a fulfilling ceremony.
1. Set Your Timeline and Budget
The first step in planning a successful commencement ceremony is to set a timeline and establish your budget. Since college-level commencement ceremonies are such a huge ordeal, you’ll want to start preparing as soon as summer vacation ends, if not earlier. Consider when you want to hold the ceremony, how long it will last, where it will take place, and estimate how many visitors you should expect. This will help you determine the staff and resources needed for the event.
Additionally, be sure to factor in extra time for any unforeseen delays or complications that may arise during the planning process. Once this is ironed out, you can move on to the next step of gathering your team.
2. Assemble Your Planning Team
The success of a college graduation ceremony largely depends on the people behind it. That’s why it’s essential to assemble your planning team early on in the process. Select staff members from various departments across campus—such as alumni relations or event services—who are familiar with event planning and understand its nuances. They can help bring different perspectives to the table while ensuring everyone works towards a unified goal.
3. Choose a Venue
Choosing an appropriate venue for your graduation ceremony is one of the most critical steps in planning a successful event. Even if your institution commonly uses a particular space for commencement ceremonies every year, don’t assume you can host your ceremony there without researching well in advance.
As you secure a potential space, consider factors like the anticipated number of guests, whether your equipment is compatible, and if the venue is indoors or outdoors. Once you’ve selected a venue, make all necessary arrangements with any staff (assuming they are not employed by the university), such as ordering chairs and tables, setting up audio/visual equipment, etc.
4. Choose a Theme
Choosing the right theme for your college graduation ceremony is key to ensuring an unforgettable experience for graduates and their families.
While most institutions accentuate their venues with simple variations of their school colors, you can break tradition and find ways to incorporate your colors, mascot, or motto to create a memorable theme that will give the ceremony an extra special touch. Consider also selecting a unique hashtag that your future alumni and friends can use when sharing photos on social media.
5. Provide Invitations
While it’ll largely be on your future graduates to send personalized invitations to their loved ones, ensure the university has done its part by providing ample time for your grads to prepare for the big day. Many institutions require students to apply for graduation months (sometimes a year) before the ceremony. This way, students know exactly what to look forward to and the school can adequately plan.
Additionally, you should offer students the option to order customized invitations with professional letterhead, photos, or other adornments that add a bit of charm and formality. This can easily be ordered on a site dedicated to purchasing graduation regalia, like caps and gowns.
6. Direct Grads to Order Their Regalia
Speaking of regalia, most universities require students to wear a cap and gown during their graduation ceremony. Provide a source for your grads to order these necessities, such as your university’s bookstore or an online retailer. Also, consider smaller regalia items such as tassels, stoles, and cords to commemorate graduating students who have achieved special honors.
7. Secure Your Equipment and Logistics
Preparing for technical difficulties is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of failure. That’s why getting your equipment and logistical elements in order well in advance of the event is important. This includes presentations, live streams, music, photos and videos, and other audio and visual elements.
Managing equipment doesn’t simply involve plugging a few things in, either. As college graduation event planners know, having a resource like our NameCheck Pronunciation Tool is essential for ensuring everyone can hear their name correctly as they walk across the stage. Plus, in the days after the commencement ceremony, using an e-mail or CRM tool is helpful for tasks like keeping up with the names in your school’s alumni registration software.
8. Choose an Inspiring Speaker
Inviting an insightful speaker to deliver the perfect college graduation message can add a unique element to the ceremony that students and families will remember for years to come. Consider inviting someone with personal connections to your institution, like an alumnus or noteworthy faculty member, or even famous individuals with ties to higher education, such as politicians or entertainers who have received degrees from other universities.
9. Secure College Graduation Gifts
Finding the best gifts for college graduates may be challenging, but you should prioritize it anyway. Upon graduation, your students officially become alumni, so delivering a gift on behalf of your alumni association is a great way to congratulate them and encourage them to start thinking about their newfound status. A gift like a free degree frame, blanket, or mug with the university’s logo and alumni-branded slogan can be a fulfilling gesture.
10. Drive Traffic to Your Alumni Portal
Most importantly, and long before the degree conferral process occurs, you should have an alumni portal that drives future and current grads directly to your site. That way, as they prepare for the exciting event, they can look ahead and map out things like alumni benefits, discounts, memberships, and more.
Additionally, create social media accounts for your university’s alumni office. A dedicated page on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram will help spread the word about events and activities related to your school’s alumni office. This is also a great way to keep alumni connected with each other and the university.
And even better, with helpful tools like rewind clips that can be distributed after the ceremony, your grads will always remember the experience you provided them.
Let StageClip Help You Put the Finishing Touches on Your Graduation Ceremony
As a trusted commencement partner, StageClip specializes in creating custom graduation clips that allow your new grads to share and enjoy their important moments as much as they want. Not only is this a fulfilling way for graduates to reminisce on their dreams coming true, but schools love us for our proven results. We keep alumni engaged from graduation day and beyond by integrating alumni surveys into our specialized graduation clips.
Start planning the perfect college graduation ceremony and simultaneously boost your alumni engagement strategy.Partner with StageClip today