You’re on your way to enjoying a fantastic Commencement.
Commencement Ceremony: It’s Graduation Time!
Ah, commencement day. This is the day high school and college students look forward to
for many years. This is the day they are recognized for all their hard work and dedication to
their studies. The commencement ceremony does take some time and coordination to plan to
make sure everything goes smoothly. Here are some helpful tips from Gig Salad when it comes
to planning a commencement ceremony.
Location, Location, Location
A commencement ceremony generally takes up quite a bit of space. Not only do you need
seating for those graduating, but you also need seating for family, friends, and guests who are
attending the ceremony. The ceremony is generally held in the high school or university’s gym,
arena, ballroom, chapel, or theatre. This provides ample space for seating and cuts out the
problem of inclement weather. Many schools choose to have an outdoor ceremony, in which
case you will need to have a back-up location if the weather is bad. If the event is outdoors or
if there isn’t enough seating inside, you will need to provide additional seating. If your school
doesn’t have enough, locate a chair rental company in your area. Other items you will need to consider renting,
if your school doesn’t have the equipment, is a podium and staging. For an event outside, in
a gym, or ballroom, etc., you will need to install a stage. There are many portable staging companies who can
do this for you.
With all these students milling about and set-up to do, you will need an efficient staff to help
you. If your commencement requires setting up chairs and a stage, be sure that the venue has
staff that can help set everything up. It takes a long time to set up a couple hundred chairs!
You will also want extra staff to help clean up and tear down everything afterwards. This is
especially true if you’re having multiple ceremonies in the same venue on the same day. You
need a good cleanup crew to pick up any discarded programs and reorganize any shifted chairs
before the next ceremony begins. Lastly, you will need staff to help organize the students.
Your school probably has a system already in place when it comes to determining the order of
Now that we’ve chosen a venue and gotten is staffed, it’s time to move on to the decor.
Obviously, the color scheme is going to go along with the colors of your school. When
it comes to the stage, find a backdrop company who can hang drapery or banners with your school’s colors or
logo behind the stage. The podium should be adorned with the school’s seal as well. You can
also decorate the outside of the venue with banners that feature your mascot or school logo.
There are a few other services you don’t want to forget about when it comes to your
commencement ceremony. Have a portrait photographer on hand to take a photo of the graduate right after
they get their diploma holder. The photographer will be set up for when they come off the stage
and are getting ready to head back to their seat. Another photographer can be there to take
pictures as the graduate is being handed their diploma. These are keepsake pictures that the
student will have the option to purchase later. On the same note, you can have a videographer record the ceremony so
it would be available to students and their family at a later date. One last service you need is
to have the ceremony programs printed. Find a local printer to do these for you.
Choose Your Speaker Wisely
Next up we have entertainment. If you’re school has a band, this is a free option to you
when it comes to having a performance. You could also hire a brass band, classical ensemble, or string quartet to perform as well. If you want vocal accompaniment,
seek out one of your school’s singing groups, or you can hire an outside a cappella group or choir. A traditional song
to begin the commencement ceremony while the graduates are walking in is "Pomp and
Circumstance." However, you may want the band playing some music while guests are finding
their way to their seats before the ceremony begins. Once everyone is seated, you should start
the ceremony with the National Anthem. End the ceremony with your school’s fight song or a
graduation song voted on by the students.
Last, but certainly not least, is having a speaker present to the graduates. If this is for a college
graduation, find a speaker who applies to that particular school’s field. For example, for
the School of Theater, find an arts or entertainment speaker; For the School of Business,
hire a success speaker. It is particularly meaningful if you can find a speaker who has
found success in their field who is also an alum of the university. This speaker can relate more
to your students than anyone else.
This is an important day for the graduates, so make sure to treat it as so. Finding the right
speaker and musical accompaniment can make all the difference. Best of luck in planning and
keep track of what you did so you can use that as reference for next year’s graduation!