Commencement day represents the culmination of years of work and a symbolic step into a new set of challenges and experiences for graduating students. The commencement ceremony and its surrounding events are an opportunity for your institution to make a lasting impression on graduates and their family members, providing them with a lifetime of memories and positive associations with your institution. So, commencement day planning and marketing is an essential step for your university.

The Importance of Planning Commencement Day

It is incredibly important to treat each graduation ceremony like a once-in-a-lifetime event—because it is. Sometimes, those of us who see the cycle of education play out semester after semester and year after year can lose touch with the importance graduation season plays in the lives of our grads and their families.

Dedicated, thorough commencement day planning and marketing can keep the celebration centered on the graduating students. They deserve this recognition and their moment in the spotlight with their families. You have the power to make it feel fresh each time.

How to Plan Commencement Day Effectively: The Key Elements

There are multiple elements at play in a successful commencement day. From the in-person logistics to the traditions to the opportunities for virtual sharing, your commencement day planning and marketing should include an array of considerations and skilled stakeholders.

1. Setting Clear Objectives

Start by defining clear goals for your commencement ceremony and any surrounding events on commencement day. Your planning efforts should center around these defining goals, which will act as pillars to return to when debate arises about the best next steps.

2. Selecting a Date and Venue

Choosing the right date and graduation ceremony venue is the cornerstone of crafting a successful event for your graduating class.

If your institution offers mid-year commencements for those graduating in a fall semester, make sure that you have a venue planned that makes sense for the likely smaller number of participating graduating students and attendees.

Spring commencement, however, will likely be a well-attended and popular event. It will need a space with adequate parking lots and seating for a larger crowd.

Regardless of the size of the event, you’ll want to make sure your venue allows for effective acoustics and a clear view for virtual live streams. You will also want to make sure you have a plan for adequate temperature control for the venue to maintain comfort for all participants.

3. Budgeting Effectively

Your commencement day planning and marketing strategy is an important part of your institution’s identity and the experience for graduating students. But it must also find a reasonable place within the larger institutional budget.

Effectively using data from past experiences and your current graduating class can ensure you have a clear sense of the event’s size and scope. Limiting the number of attendees each participant can invite for in-person celebrations can keep your venue costs reasonable and predictable.

4. Using a Central Calendar

Avoid confusion and ensure that your participants and graduating students have clear expectations and all the knowledge they need with a central calendar. By putting the graduation ceremony and the commencement events in one clear, localized place, you can make sure that participants get to where they need to go with ease.

For many institutions with large graduating classes, it makes sense to divide the ceremonies into smaller sections. Perhaps the College of Education ceremony is followed by the College of Engineering ceremony, which is then followed by the hooding ceremony for doctoral students.

A central, interactive calendar like Localist can make it easy for participants to find out the details in real time and get notifications about the portions of the event that matter to them.

5. Designing a Memorable Theme

An effective way to make sure that each graduation ceremony feels fresh and meaningful is to choose a theme. This allows you to streamline repetitive elements of the event year after year while also giving each graduating class a sense of individuality and unique belonging.

Choose a theme that is optimistic, uplifting, and broad enough to cover the wide variety of careers and interests your graduating class represents.

6. Coordinating With Speakers and VIPs

Commencement speakers have a long history of providing inspiration while simultaneously adding prestige and gravitas to your graduation ceremony.

Coordinate with speakers and VIPs to add significance to the event. These are also key moments to livestream and build into marketing efforts. The appearance of high-profile and respected individuals helps demonstrate the event’s importance while also showcasing the quality of the institution as a whole.

7. Ensuring Academic Regalia and Diplomas Are Prepared

It can be easy to overlook the little details regarding graduation day. But it is these details that will help your grads feel supported, seen, and connected to the institution. Avoid last-minute issues by ensuring that regalia and diplomas are prepared well in advance and organized in a way that’s easy to distribute.

Many institutions prepare ceremonial diplomas to hand out during the ceremony while saving the real, individualized documents for students to pick up later.

Make sure that regalia—from gowns to tassels—are ordered well in advance and made available to students for pick up before the event.

8. Logistics and Operations

On the day of the event, you want everything to flow smoothly—literally. Keeping the crowd moving smoothly is a major part of day-of operations for graduation ceremonies.

You can ensure a smooth event flow by using an RSVP system. Simultaneously, enforce a participant limit system to ensure you know how many participants to expect. Using online ticketing software can also provide participants with foreknowledge of seating arrangements.

Make sure that seating is clearly marked. Set aside enough time between ceremonies for participants to find their seats before the ceremony starts. If your commencement day planning and marketing approach involves multiple graduation ceremonies held in the same venue, using signage to direct the flow of foot traffic can ensure that one set of participants leaves while another enters without a clash.

It is also important to offer transportation and parking solutions to minimize inconvenience for guests. You can designate certain lots for particular schools that coordinate with the timing of individual ceremonies to keep the traffic flow under control. Shuttles that run on a regular and frequent route can allow you to utilize parking that’s further away from the venue.

9. Accessibility and Accommodation Considerations

Make sure that your commencement day planning and marketing include a thorough consideration of accessibility and accommodation needs for graduating students and their family members.

Some accessibility and accommodation considerations include:

  • Getting a sign language interpreter for the event
  • Ensuring accessible seating and ample accessible parking, making sure the venue itself is equipped with ramps and elevators
  • Setting up seating with rows far enough apart for ease of navigation

10. Enhancing the Experience

Remember that this moment should feel magical to graduating students and their families. You can add unique elements to the commencement ceremony that will leave a lasting impression on participants.

Give participants a way to feel connected. Small tokens can enhance the experience. Consider options like specialized tassels, speakers chosen for their relevance to the graduating class, music selection, and decor.

Don’t forget the power of your alum network when it comes to commencement day planning and marketing. Alumni participation can enrich the commencement experience and provide the potential for fundraising opportunities leading up to the event.

Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Commencement Day

Students celebrating after commencement day planning and marketing made the event a success

Commencement day is likely already on the minds of the main participants. But that doesn’t mean you can skip on marketing. This event is a huge opportunity for your institution to showcase its accomplishments while honoring the graduating students who represent those successes.

Make sure that you are utilizing marketing strategies that make commencement day memorable and visible to your network.

Branding Your Event

A commencement event is an excellent opportunity for you to utilize your existing brand identity in a productive and meaningful way. Ensure that your institution’s key characteristics (from the school mascot to the school colors to the school motto) are included in your commencement program and other ceremonial events.

Engaging on Social Media

Take full advantage of your social media accounts leading up to commencement day. Strategically create a posting schedule that includes more formal announcement posts (linking back to your centralized calendar). Also include more personal touches like:

  • Short videos of members of the graduating class
  • Key locations on campus
  • Highlights of graduating students and their future plans

Use your social media channels to build anticipation for commencement day events and celebrate your students!

Personalized Email Marketing

Personalized email marketing is a great way to engage your potential attendees and communicate key information. Send your RSVPs directly through personalized email. Link back to your centralized calendar to highlight the value of the event. Also, showcase key speakers and VIPs who will be in attendance.

You can use targeted personalization to make sure that your email subscribers get information about commencement day that’s tailored to their interests.

Utilizing Your Website

For most participants, your website will be the first stop for commencement day information. Make sure that it’s organized and links to your centralized calendar. Then the ticketing information, scheduling, and logistical details (like parking instructions) are all easy to find.

In addition to serving an informational role, your website can also provide marketing opportunities through engagement and interactive experiences related to graduation day.

Media and Public Relations

Leverage your local media relations and public relations to promote your event beyond your own audience. Let the surrounding community know about opportunities for joining in on commencement events. Use news articles, flyers, and other promotional avenues.

More Creative Ideas for Commencement Day

Keep the creativity of your commencement day planning and marketing flowing. Consider this range of ideas that will make commencement day uniquely yours. Here are some commencement day planning and marketing ideas to consider:

Event Hashtags

Hashtags make social media posts easier to navigate and share. Create hashtags unique to your campus or even specific to particular departments and schools within the institution. Then, graduating students can capture their own moments leading up to commencement and share them broadly.

Going Live on Social Media Platforms

Not everyone will be able to attend the commencement event live. But you can make sure they’re still part of the experience by leveraging your social media channels to the fullest. Streaming the ceremony live via Facebook or Instagram is a great way to let family and friends who couldn’t attend in person feel connected to the event.

Repost and Share Attendees’ Content

Your students will be capturing a perspective of commencement day that’s different from the top-down approach of a marketing team. Capture all the emotions and little moments that make the day matter by reposting and sharing content directly from your attendees. (The hashtag strategy above will make this easy to do.)

Social Photography

Social photography aims to examine an event and its community impact. Use this kind of framing to show that commencement day is not just about the individuals participating in graduation. It’s also about the community as a whole. Even more, it’s about your institution’s commitment to ongoing success and educational value.

Plan and Market Your Commencement Day Effectively With Localist by Concept3D

Commencement day has the potential to be a crowning achievement for your institution and your graduating students. Successful commencement events are framed by thorough commencement day planning and marketing, special touches, and clear communication.

Localist by Concept3D can help deliver a commencement day experience your graduates will remember for the rest of their lives. Get in touch today to learn more!