In March 2020, commencement organizers at virtually every college and university were already in the thick of planning season. And while some event planners may have had contingency plans in place for weather, no one anticipated the upheaval that a global pandemic would bring. However, in the scramble to take commencement online, we learned something: it’s worth developing a plan B that is flexible enough to accommodate any emergency, from a freak springtime nor’easter to a public health crisis.
In the years following the onset of Covid-19, Stagedge has worked with higher education institutions to plan accessible, flexible commencement ceremonies in some of the most uncertain conditions in recent history. In this blog, we’ll share the top three takeaways you need to know to ensure your students get the memorable graduation ceremony they deserve.1. Go hybrid
Our top tip for event planners working during Covid is simple: go hybrid and stay hybrid. Hybrid events provide the social connection and ceremony of an in-person event, while offering the flexibility of tuning in online. Many institutions are opting to stream commencement via their website to make the event more accessible for far-away family members, elderly or immune-compromised relatives, or those who want to join and simply can’t get a ticket. However, you should keep in mind that the logistics of planning a hybrid event can be more complex than a typical in-person ceremony. Working with a production partner can ensure that your online components run smoothly on the big day.2. Book extra days at your venue
One of the primary concerns for higher education institutions planning commencement this year is the uncertainty of Covid regulations. Will there be social distancing, vaccine, or masking mandates at your event? Should you plan for limited attendance like many schools did last year, or will spring 2022 mark a return to business as usual? To accommodate this uncertainty, some colleges and universities are opting to book a few extra days at their venue, so they can split commencement into multiple, smaller ceremonies if necessary. This gives event organizers more flexibility if Covid numbers increase unexpectedly in the weeks before the event.3. Prepare for a variety of seating arrangements
On commencement day, the last thing you want is a ceremony that no one can see or hear. Stagedge’s AV experts recommend that commencement organizers plan for various seating arrangements for in-person guests. Suppose stricter social distancing guidelines come into play and some attendees are further away from the stage than they usually would be. In that case, you want to ensure they can still witness that critical moment when their loved one walks across the stage. Your production partner can help you design and test a wide range of AV set-ups ahead of time, so you are ready for any seating arrangement.
Planning for commencement under Covid is a unique challenge, but you can avoid last-minute panic with a bit of forethought. By partnering with an experienced events technology provider, you can develop a comprehensive backup plan that is sure to deliver on event day. Plus, you benefit from their decades of experience and deep knowledge of event planning best practices for the pandemic era and beyond.
For more tips on planning commencement during Covid, download our e-book: Planning for Commencement in Uncertain Times: 5 Tips for Event Organizers.