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Have you started planning your graduation ceremonies? We know you were thinking about it, so here we are with a guide to a virtual graduation fair. We say virtual because with the pandemic there are many international students who might not be able to join. You don’t want anyone to miss out on the most special and memorable day of their life.
Every single one of your students have milestones to commemorate and graduation to celebrate. You are not leaving behind anyone. So let’s get cracking on how you can honor their time at your school with an exciting and unforgettable online graduation ceremony.
A virtual graduation fair is a graduation ceremony that takes place on an online event hosting platform. It has a virtual environment that resembles a real-life commencement ceremony where students are awarded their academic diplomas or degrees.
With the right virtual events platform, an online graduation ceremony is not just a series of handing out virtual awards and some webinar sessions. It is an entire world where students can interact with one another, with their teachers, and with anyone else attending the ceremony. They can participate in various activities, buy merchandise and so much more!
Let’s see if it makes sense for you to host a virtual graduation ceremony.
If we were to answer in one word it would be: Yes!
Yes, virtual graduation fairs are worth it and here’s why you should be hosting them at your university.
A physical graduation ceremony restricts the number of people who can be invited. Limited hall capacity, limited seating and catering don’t allow students to invite all those they would like to join in on their special day. A virtual graduation fair allows students to invite as many family members as they would like. Their family could be in any part of the world, but they wouldn’t miss this special day. Live broadcasting to remote audiences and on-demand post-event sessions truly ensures no one is left behind, be it students, parents or their families and friends.
At times, students go back to their home country and are unable to come back for their graduation ceremonies. This also helps them attend and make memories with their friends, batchmates and family.
Your commencement speaker plays a critical role in motivating and inspiring students for the life they are about to begin. Your desired speaker might be in another part of the world, or they might have a busy schedule. They might not be able to take the time to travel to your ceremony. With an online graduation ceremony, they need not waste time traveling, all they need is an internet connection and they’re all set. Take travel out of the equation and get the best commencement speaker there is for your graduating class.
Organizing virtual graduation fairs takes up less time than organizing a full-blown physical graduation ceremony. With vendors, venues, decorations and arrangements for seating and catering, there is a lot of administrative hassle. All of this is eliminated with a virtual graduation ceremony.
Moreover, live graduation events are way more expensive than virtual graduation fairs. In physical events, you require money for the venue, food, and other tangible materials. Whereas hosting a virtual event means that you can expect lower overhead costs and maximize attendee turnout rate.
Graduating students also have networking opportunities available at their commencement online. They can seamlessly connect with special guests and industry leaders. Not just guests and speakers, students can easily interact within themselves as they attend the graduation ceremony together. It nurtures that sense of community as they talk to their friends, in groups or 1:1 with the variety of networking features available on the online platform.
Students can even view student profiles of the entire graduating class, and start conversations with anyone they want. This facilitates connection building and helps them expand their circle of friends before they all go their separate ways.
A long live graduation ceremony often means people get distracted or bored. Some students might spend it talking to their friends, skipping sessions or just wandering around. How would you track your attendee journey or figure out where audiences derived the most value?
A virtual graduation fair, however, helps you understand where students enjoyed the most, which sessions they attended and who they interacted with. In short, you can measure not just turnout but engagement as well.
And that’s not all. You can even get insights on where parents found the most interesting content and sessions. Add in on-site surveys and get feedback on the spot on how you can improve the experience for your students in future events.
Now that you know the benefits of hosting a virtual ceremony, let’s walk you through the steps of running a successful ceremony.
How do you make your virtual graduation fair a success? Let’s discuss some of the important steps of hosting a successful graduation ceremony virtually.
Before planning the agenda or the virtual graduation theme, make sure you know the goals you are hoping to achieve. When most certainly you want to honor students with their degrees but graduation day is so much more than that.
As an organizer, you want to invite guest speakers and deliver a motivational commencement address to the graduating students. You also want students to connect with industry professionals for possible future opportunities. It has to be more than webinars. You want to maximize engagement and activity on the platform.
Your target audience is students and their families, so everything you put together at your online convocation must make the experience meaningful and unforgettable for them.
There are a few handfuls of platforms available in the market that offer different features from live chat to top-notch moderation tools. But before you decide, you need to pay close attention to your target audiences and the devices they will be used to attend. The seamless user interface, easy navigation and accessibility are some of the top considerations when selecting a virtual event platform. Accessibility includes students’ ability to log in from any device they want, but it also means facilitating differently-abled students to attend just as easily. Look for all these features and accommodations when making your decision.
A few other critical considerations are the type of customer support they offer, the extent of customization available and the kind of post-event data and analytics they offer.
If you want to learn more about choosing the right platform, check out Thoughts To Consider As You Choose A Virtual Event Platform.
Once you have decided on the platform, start planning out your event. Finalize the complete graduation fair agenda, set your budget, invite speakers and iron out the pre-event marketing details. Put together your landing page, content strategy and start sending out your emails.
You will also need to finalize the time, date and duration of your event plus make relevant preparations for entertainment breaks and games to keep people engaged.
Don’t forget to invite your speakers to the virtual graduation fair. Send out timely invites, set up their time slots in advance and send them reminders. You can even ask them to use their platforms to advertise the event.
You can also invite your sponsors. Figure out which sponsorship tier they want to go with. Again, use their social media channels to advertise the event.
The next step is to invite students and their families and capture registrations through a captivating landing page. Your landing page is the first glimpse into your event. You should add images of your virtual environment to this page to give your students a reason to attend. It should also include the complete event agenda, list your speakers and sponsors and a list of FAQs about the virtual event. Once this page is set up, you should use it to promote your ceremony extensively. Visitors to the page should be able to sign up for the graduation ceremony through a registration form.
We know what we expect from physical events right? A great venue, pleasing to the eyes.
Similarly, in virtual events, the user interface tends to have a great impact on attendees. Therefore, your design needs to captivate your audience from the get-go. Work with your virtual event platform provider to create an impactful virtual space for your attendees. You also need to pick the features that will help you deliver the most engaging experience.
Let’s look at what features will work best for a graduation ceremony.
Elevating students’ experience when they are attending the most special day of their life online requires some careful planning. Spruce up your event space with features that add value to their graduation day. Here are some of the most significant features your virtual graduation fair must-have.
Online graduation ceremonies ensure that your graduating students have a memorable day. If the virtual environment replicates the physical one it can instantly bring your event to life. Therefore make sure to have user-friendly 3D designs, a venue modeled after school, custom landing and registration pages, animated graduate avatars, and a help desk.
Your entire university can be replicated in the online platform. Your halls, grounds and all other major spaces can easily be set up in the virtual environment.
Attending a graduation event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students. It brings ample networking chances for students to meet up with industry experts or VIP guest speakers. Therefore, students should be able to set up their user profiles, take part in group chat, and initiate 1:1 conversations through private chat. They can have group chats with their friends and families. In case they want to set up a conversation with the guest speakers or any of the other industry leaders present, they can book a meeting with them, reach out to them and get going!
Keeping the audience engaged during commencement online can be very challenging. Bring your event to life and create some excitement with live polling, scavenger hunts, trivia and leaderboards. You can even incentivize students to earn more points on the leaderboard by going around the virtual venue, listening to sessions and initiating chats. Allocate points to each action and get that competition started.
No event is complete without sharing meaningful content. As an event organizer, you want your graduating students to remember their alma mater for years to come. Hence, sharing online copies of yearbooks or campus videos can always come in handy. For that, your platform needs to have a virtual swag bag, video vaults, and document hosting features.
You can host live, semi-live or pre-recorded webinar sessions. Invite speakers for their keynote address from around the globe, or just ask them to pre-record it so you can easily embed it into your virtual auditorium. Your speakers can answer questions live, conduct polls and interact with the audience in real-time through the virtual event platform. It would be as if everyone is in a great big auditorium listening to the speaker live.
You can add in a shopping cart facility in your event and let students add in the desired items they wish to purchase. Add in product photos so students and parents can browse through, add them in their shopping cart and make their purchase from within the platform.
Graduation is not complete without pictures. Pictures help your students collect memories for a lifetime. Add in a photo booth where students can click selfies and share to their social media profiles, letting the world know about their online graduation ceremony. You can even host a selfie contest and get students excited about clicking fun pictures.
Invite your students to post about their virtual graduation fair and post on their social media handles with the event hashtag. Show this on a unified feed within your event platform on a social media wall. Every single social media post will be automatically featured here for everyone to see and it helps you engage with your audience, create brand awareness, and collect user-generated content.
You need to measure the success of your virtual graduation fair through data management and real-time analytics. The available data will not only help you measure the event’s success but will also encourage future improvements. You can see what attendees downloaded, which sponsors or speakers students interacted with, and so much more. You can visualize the attendees’ journey to see where they went and spent the most time. This is an entire goldmine of data that can be used for future events.
When finalizing a virtual event platform do your research. Study the platform, their offerings and what their clients have to say about them on platforms such as G2 and Capterra. Focus on what customers have to say about their customer service and technical support.
Platforms such as G2 also award badges to the best performer platform. Check those out as they are a testament to how the organization is performing.
Look at customer reviews and case studies. See what client success stories are mentioned on their website plus any testimonials you can find. Going through their case studies, seeing what type of events they have experience in will also help you see if they are a good fit for you.
Hybrid and virtual events are on the rise. Some universities may have been doing them for years but not many. Choose a platform that can accommodate hybrid and virtual events and has the requisite capabilities and features for both.
Whether you’re hosting a single session webinar or a series of events, you still need an end-to-end platform that not only manages invitations but also payments and content. It should allow you to collect all your attendee data through multi-platform integration so that data can be easily shared in one single place.
Branding throughout the virtual commencement fair helps create a consistent attendee experience. Hence you need to really identify the kind of customization options that the platform offers so that your landing pages, registration forms, emails and the virtual environment itself follows the same design and branding.
You might feel that a virtual event won’t cut it for your upcoming ceremony. You might want to invite some students back on campus, however you cannot ignore all the students unable to travel due to travel restrictions or budgetary issues. Hence hybrid graduation fairs are the next step.
So how can you give your students and their families the best of both worlds with a hybrid experience?
Considering a hybrid graduation ceremony? The first question you should ask yourself is if it’s the right format for you. If it will help you achieve your goals. For that, you need to determine your target audience – whether the audience you’re looking to cater for spans a larger geographic area or not. For example, are your graduating students spread across different states or even different countries? In that case, a hybrid approach might prove to be the best option for you.
Give your attendees (students, parents and families) control of sessions they want to attend and which they would like to let go of. Whether they want to be a part of the live event or want to view only on-demand content later on. Give your virtual attendees options on how to interact whether through public or private chat rooms. Allow your physical attendees to choose their own seating to match their comfort levels.
You can find ways to engage your physical attendees but it is more of a challenge to engage your virtual audience when they are surrounded by distractions as they attend remotely. But if you want to host a successful hybrid event, make sure you align the experience of your virtual attendees with in-person attendees and vice versa. Make sure both types of attendees are getting the same experience. Your virtual attendees should not feel left out. Thus, when choosing the online commencement hosting platform carefully consider the features to suit both types of audience, making sure you’re providing the same experiences.
The best way to encourage communication, collaboration, and engagement is to keep your guest speakers, panelists, or valedictorian onsite whenever possible. Because they are the force that can keep your audience engaged with Q & A sessions. If you want to go hybrid with your commencement ceremony and expect the same level of participation as an in-person event, you need to make sure the sessions reach your virtual audience with as much energy as the physical setup and encourage direct communication between virtual and physical guests, speakers and audience.
A hybrid event has multiple formats. For example, a fully virtual audience with on-site speakers, or pre-recordings, or a mix of both virtual or on-site audiences with both onsite or virtual sessions. To meet your virtual graduation fair objectives, vFairs can help you come up with the best-suited event format. There are various dimensions of hybrid events, and you can use them to make graduation day memorable for students through a virtual graduation ceremony.
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