8 Tips for Hosting a Virtual Graduation Ceremony during COVID-19
Virtual Graduation Ceremony during COVID-19

The world is mourning for the class of 2020 as they miss out on their last precious moments of high school. Though limited by social distancing mandates, school districts refuse to give up on finding ways to honor their seniors this year. Hosting a virtual graduation ceremony is one way to let your seniors know they haven’t been forgotten. To help your district pull off a memorable online event, we’ve compiled eight helpful tips to consider while preparing for this momentous occasion!


Prerecord Speeches

Your valedictorian and salutatorian worked exceptionally hard to earn their titles. Ask these honorees, along with any other guest speakers, to record their speeches in advance so they can be part of your virtual ceremony. Your school community will want to hear from them!


Slideshow

Create a Slideshow of Graduates

As you recite the names of your high school graduates, consider displaying their picture for a more personalized experience. Some schools are taking this idea a step further by allowing each graduate to design their own slide and submit them in advance (pre-screening is likely a smart idea).

If using pictures of students, be sure to keep any applicable legal documentation in mind. For instance, many schools ask parents to return a photo/media release form at the beginning of the school year.


Entertainment

Include Entertainment

Graduation ceremonies traditionally feature musical performances – and your virtual ceremony should be no exception. Ask students with special talents to submit recordings to use for graduation. Your school choir or band can even record a virtual collaboration!


Platform

Choose an Appropriate Platform

Choosing the right platform is one of the most difficult decisions when planning your virtual graduation ceremony. Virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts may be worth exploring, or you can live stream on social media. Your ultimate decision will depend on the details of your ceremony and the anticipated number of participants.

To eliminate the guesswork, your school district may consider purchasing a product that’s specifically geared toward this purpose, such as Herff Jones’ Virtual Graduation Program.


Access

Ensure Access

Perhaps the most significant downside to a virtual ceremony is that some students and families may be prevented from participating due to hardware and internet limitations or compatibility issues. You can take some precautions to ensure that everyone can enjoy your virtual celebration. Be sure to choose a platform that’s smartphone-ready and compatible with multiple operating systems (Mac, iOS, Windows, Android). Additionally, there should be a call-in option for those without internet access.


Instructions

Communicate Access Instructions

Provide students and their families with detailed step-by-step instructions on how to access the ceremony. Be sure to include any applicable access codes or registration requirements. Also, provide contact information for families who may need technical support.


Test Run

Perform a Test Run

Technical issues are a common occurrence with any virtual meeting, so an event of this magnitude is apt to have some kinks to work out. We recommend performing a test run to make sure people are able to connect with, see, and hear the ceremony. Taking this precaution will ensure that your audience downloads any necessary software in advance and has enough time to become familiar with the platform. Not to mention, holding a trial run will give families a chance to contact support for troubleshooting any issues that come up – without having to miss a moment of the big event.


Share

Record and Share the Virtual Graduation Ceremony

Your virtual graduation ceremony is history in the making. As such, we recommend recording it so people can look back on this unusual time. Many virtual meeting platforms feature the option to screen-record your “meeting,” allowing you to capture the entire ceremony. If your platform doesn’t have this capability, you can record the event with a smartphone or camera. Be sure to send a video link to your graduates and their families to look back on, as well!


We hope these tips come in handy as you plan your virtual graduation ceremony! For more resources to help your district make the most of these unprecedented times, check out: