With the current pandemic and Shelter In Place / Social Distancing rules in place in the United States, graduation ceremonies have shifted to a digital graduation. Here are some tips on how you can help your school enable a virtual graduation.
This is the outline for Mercy High School Burlingame’s 1st Virtual Graduation. As you can see, it’s a combination of live and pre-recorded segments like a TV show.
Just like the example above, you can ask participants to record their content in advance and send them to you to review. This should be completed at least two weeks or more in advance. The last week should be used for the dry runs with the content.
Many of the students just used their phones or laptops to record themselves. Just be sure to have them set their video at 1080p HD quality, have clear sound, and good lighting. Having good sound is more important than good video, so avoid large rooms that may have echos. Using headphones with a microphone helps. Once the participants record their video, have them send it to an online drive platform of your choice. Dropbox is great because they have a request files feature. This allows them to upload files to a folder without seeing any other files. This keeps the event a surprise.
In the final video seen below. The faculty created a slideshow for each of the graduating students with a photo and name announced. This was to mimic what was done on site. With multi-media, you also have the option to highlight any awards, or quotes they may have. Ideally this is pre-recorded so that the timing is on point. Use light, or ambient copyright free music in the background.
You or the students who are creating any slideshows may be tempted to use their favorite song. YouTube and Facebook have algorithms that can instantly recognize copyrighted music and can shut down your stream during a broadcast. Even after the broadcast is over, it may be analyzed and the graduation video could be deleted or audio muted for copyright infringement. Fortunately, Pomp and Circumstance is not flagged for copyright since it is part of the public domain.
The beauty of using Zoom is that you can also capture all the students in a Gallery View to catch their reactions, or to have them interact with the show.
Even famous actors or news anchors rehearse their roles. There’s a lot of moving parts in a live stream, and it’s best to work out most of the kinks so that everyone is prepared and knows what to expect. For example, we did 3 dry runs with the faculty that was presenting live. And we had a separate session where the students tested their Zoom connection. This was facilitated by the admissions director. As a technical director, I’m providing guidance to the students and the staff.
The outline above is part of a master script that is shared on Google Docs. This allowed us to make real-time changes and share the screenshots of the flow of the event. We all can follow the scripts accordingly. I even recommended that anyone reading download a teleprompter app to reduce any issues with manual scrolling.
Keep in mind that technology does not always go as planned. The Internet can be spotty for any of the participants. I’ve been on corporate webcasts for Fortune 100 companies and even the CEO’s video was choppy or the audio was out of sync for another executive! Sometimes we are at the whim of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). With that said, offer a place where students can download an edited copy of the graduation that removes any accidental dead time or errors in the feed. I’m not saying that you should re-write history (since the live feed should be available right after the graduation) – but at least they can have a high quality copy of what the vision of the graduation should be so they can share with it with family or friends and not have to fast forward through the issues. To ensure your participants have the best audio and video, have them review these tips.