Tips for organizing a graduation

Tips for organizing a graduation

Today we're going to talk about another very particular type of corporate event: graduations. And our highly experienced Operations Manager, Marga Martín, is going to help us with some tips for successfully organizing a graduation.

Hello, Marga. How are you? Tell us a bit about your professional background. How did you end up working in production?

I studied advertising and marketing. First, I worked for 2 or 3 years at an agency. It helped me realize that I didn't like advertising. But within the same group, there was a congress organizer, a PCO. So, I started working on medical and pharmaceutical congresses of around 15-20 thousand attendees, managing registrations, logistics, accommodations, and transportation. It was there that I began to also get involved in stand assembling and audiovisuals. And after that I switched to production. In other words, over my 30-year career, I've experienced various aspects of event organization, and this has benefited me a lot.

Our today’s topic is graduations. How do they differ from other corporate events?

Graduations are much more rigid than any other event, more solemn and ceremonial. They are even considered old-fashioned because they adhere to unalterable protocols. That's why they may appear serious and boring from an outsider's perspective.

Besides, in the case of graduations, you have to consider very specific things. For example, the arrangement of the faculty. Its members must be seated in a specific way, ordered by the seniority of the universities. The dress code is also very strict. The rector and vice-rector cannot enter through the same door, an so on. There are many details of this nature to take into account.

What you're saying suggests that there could be unforeseen challenges in graduations, right? Strict protocol, a large number of attendees...

First of all, the faculty. Organizing doctors and graduates from different universities is not easy. You have to get their attendance confirmation first. Then you create the seating plan, determining where each person will be placed. However, if for any reason someone fails to attend, due to illness or missing a train, whatever, you have to rearrange everything in record time. Besides, each person must wear their rented gown in the correct size and color because different Degrees are distinguished by colors.

But there's one more thing to be very careful about. Graduations bring together people from different cultures and political situations. Therefore, it's crucial to check every detail to ensure nothing offends the political or religious sentiments of the attendees. This includes symbols, music, and catering, as we know that in certain cultures and religions, dietary practices follow very specific rules.

And in terms of the budget, what would you recommend paying more attention to?

There's not much difference here compared to other types of events. As I mentioned, graduations are very rigid, for better or for worse. Everything is usually measured, calculated, and tested. Budgets often come repeated from previous years.

However, perhaps among the tips for organizing a graduation, the most important one is to budget carefully. Do it with a lot of attention to detail so that you can stick to the plan one hundred percent and not exceed the costs. That's where the secret to success lies.

Marga Martin, Operations Manager at 4foreverything

And what about audiovisuals? What would you recommend taking into account?

In addition to things like good lighting, sound, etc., it’s crucial to make continuous script reviews with the technical team. Again, graduations are very rigid events where you cannot improvise. Everything needs to be well measured and rehearsed: the order of speeches, connecting and disconnecting the microphones, etc.

And also, the streaming. Graduations have many attendees in person, but even more join remotely. These are families of students who, for economic reasons, political situations, or visa issues, cannot travel. They connect remotely. Therefore, good connectivity and streaming coverage are essential.

Is sustainability a must for universities?

All the universities indeed want to emphasize sustainability and ask us to use sustainable materials. Moreover, they want to communicate this both during the event and afterward. However, I think we are not yet conscious enough. Because, although all the materials we propose are sustainable, and this is something that is already achieved and taken for granted, the suggestions that go beyond that often do not succeed for economic reasons.

And to wrap up, maybe any funny story related to graduations?

In my 30-year career, I have enough material to write a book. But there's a good one from the times when social media was still in the early stages. Essentially, the university insisted on installing booths where students, during the cocktail, could take photos. These photos were then directly uploaded to the university’s social media without any filter, despite us warning them of the dangers, and recommending that someone review the content.

Now, with paid education, you can either be very satisfied, or not. And the graduation moment is precisely the opportunity to express all your dissatisfaction. So, imagine the photos that were uploaded. We noticed it ourselves and hurried to inform them because we didn’t even manage the process. But, of course, enough time had passed for people to see it.

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