Graduation Ceremony Planning: How to Prepare for the Unexpected

graduates smiling holding diplomas

graduates in line holding diplomas

You’ve heard the old saying, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Along with the complexities of producing a commencement ceremony, unforeseen problems can arise on graduation day that could potentially put a damper on the celebration.

Even the most experienced event planners are not immune from issues like severe weather, medical emergencies, power outages or vendor no-shows. But how can they keep calm when chaos comes calling? They have a plan.

Here are some proven tips to help you prepare for the unexpected:

Before the Ceremony

  • Create a plan or run sheet outlining the timing and flow of your ceremony.
  • Check your plan for gaps. Identify potential problems before they occur.
  • Communicate your plan to your team and train them on their individual responsibilities early.
  • Test the equipment including sound and video systems, computer connections, scanning devices and other equipment that you will use during the ceremony.
  • Run through your plan at the venue with your team, venue staff and vendors before showtime.
  • Have a backup plan. Have backups for your backups.
  • Know your venue’s severe weather and emergency procedures and communicate them with your team.
  • Share a communication plan with staff and vendors, including emergency phone numbers (fire, police, etc.).
  • Check-in with your MarchingOrder Client Success Manager to make sure you have everything you need to run a successful ceremony.

Day of the Ceremony

  • Bring a preparedness kit with items to solve minor issues:
    • Technology: device chargers, cables, etc.
    • Writing: pens, paper, sticky notes and notecards
    • Tools: flashlight, screwdriver, hammer, pliers and scissors
    • Tape: different types including electrical, masking, duct and clear tape
    • Student Support: hair ties, tissues, bottled water, bobby pins and safety pins
  • Arrive at the venue early and have vendors check in with you or your ceremony coordinator as they arrive.
  • Post signage so graduates, guests and event staff know how to navigate the venue.
  • Station volunteers at potential bottlenecks, such as check-in, line-up area and near the stage, to keep people moving as needed.
  • Be calm and don’t point blame if an issue arises. Focus on correcting the problem and how it can be avoided in the future.
  • Reach out to your Client Success Manager if you experience any issues with your MarchingOrder software or equipment.

After the Ceremony

  • Export your ceremony logs and other reports before you clear your Ceremony Display laptop. The procession log is a helpful list of each graduate that crossed the stage and can be used by your photographers to match photos with graduate names.
  • Make time to meet with your team and to review the events. Your instinct may be to run off and relax after such a monumental project, but time spent reviewing when the events are still fresh in your team’s memory will translate into hours saved next time. Celebrate successes and make clear notes about things that could be improved upon at your next ceremony.
  • Solicit feedback from graduates, guests, faculty administrators and other stakeholders to learn how the ceremony looked through their eyes.
  • Meet with your MarchingOrder Client Success Manager to discuss ceremony outcomes and identify opportunities for improving future ceremonies.

Follow these tips and you’ll be prepared for anything, especially success!

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