Lime Crane recently had the honor of producing a virtual graduation ceremony for a nationally recognized arts school in California. Here’s what we did to make the event a resounding success.

When it comes to significant milestones for young people, perhaps there is none more important than a graduation ceremony. Walking across a stage to receive that hard-earned diploma in front of friends and family is a rite of passage every graduate deserves. Commencement ceremonies are also a chance for students and their families to celebrate each other and find closure as they move forward into the next chapter of their lives. When COVID-19 unexpectedly paused most in-person events last year, educational institutions all over the world were forced to find alternative ways to keep this time-honored tradition intact, despite “stay-at-home” orders.

In June 2020, Lime Crane had an opportunity to add some “pomp and circumstance” to a graduation ceremony for a nationally recognized arts school in California for an audience of over 2500 people. We are happy to say that the audience and participants were blown away with the end result. 

Here’s what we did to make this event a success.

We embraced the virtual ceremony as an opportunity.

Nothing about a virtual graduation is going to feel like the traditional in-person ceremony that you’re used to. Our advice is to let go of any expectation that you’d be recreating that experience and accept the fact that what works for live, in-person ceremonies might not work for a virtual ceremony.  

One of the primary reasons this event was a success is the school administration chose to view the virtual graduation as an “opportunity” and not a “hindrance”.  For example, the alumni association understood they were not bound by the limits of time and travel, so they were able to book well-known, highly esteemed speakers who would not have had the time to participate otherwise. They embraced  the “weirdness” of the virtual world and let themselves get creative with the program.

CalArts Virtual Graduation Speaker

We took the time to prepare everyone involved.

To ensure everyone was on the same page, our production team set up weekly meetings with the alumni association, the school administration, and two outside technology companies over the span of about 2 months. This gave our client an opportunity to ask questions and be a part of the planning process which helped them feel more at ease.

We understand that the virtual environment can seem awkward and even intimidating for the average person, so we supported the school’s decision to go with a safer, pre-recorded approach for their speakers. Prior to the recorded interviews, Lime Crane worked one-on-one with each presenter to put them at ease, which made them appear more confident and relaxed on camera. Each presenter that we recorded took about 15 minutes of setup, 15 minutes of coaching, and 20 minutes to record their speech.

We embraced and featured the school’s talent and unique qualities.  

Since our client was a prestigious arts school, they boasted a gifted school community  we wanted to feature throughout the ceremony. We were fortunate that many of them wanted to participate and add to the program. The event organizers opened the program up the student body, alums, and to all faculty by asking them to answer a “what do you love about the school” type question in a pre-recorded video that we were able to show throughout the livestream.

Virtual Graduation Performance

But, perhaps it was the “walk the stage” portion of the ceremony that was the most moving for us.  Each graduate was asked to submit a pre-recorded 5-second clip of them doing whatever they wanted- whether it was dancing, singing, jumping, cooking, being outside, walking, etc. These personalized clips were edited together with each student’s name and were played during the event.  Giving them that “special moment” was critical to making the event feel like a genuine graduation.

CalArts Virtual Graduation Ceremony

The ceremony was well-paced and concise. 

Pacing is everything. There is only so long you can keep a remote audience engaged, so it was important to keep things moving along. There were about five speakers from the school, two speeches from noted alums (both well-known actors), pre-recorded musical performances from campus music groups, a keynote address given by a famous relative of the founder and a special moment for each student to “walk the stage as mentioned above.  Because most of the elements of the program were pre-recorded, we were able to edit together a beautiful, meaningful, seamless ceremony that lasted just under two hours.  

We were willing to accommodate a range of needs. 

The school was expecting an audience of thousands that would tune from all over the world and needed us to add multiple features to make that work. They did not want the audience to be restricted to watching the ceremony on a laptop. To achieve this, we added “casting” capabilities to the live stream so the ceremony could be comfortably viewed on larger television screens via AppleTV, Roku, or Chromecast devices. 

The school also requested we provide live “closed captions” in seven different languages to accommodate all cultures represented at the school. Closed captions, even for network broadcasts, rarely provide captions in more than two languages, but Lime Crane partnered with cutting-edge captioning and translation services to ensure the broadcast was streamed in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese (simplified), and Korean. We later received feedback on how much the viewers appreciated us making the ceremony accessible to multiple cultures, which was true to the institution’s priorities of inclusivity.

What can we do for your virtual graduation?

Even though Lime Crane has live-streamed dozens of graduation ceremonies through the years, this was our first all-virtual graduation experience, and it was an unmitigated success. We were able to tap into our many years of film-making and editing experience to go beyond the humdrum “webcam” look and make each presenter look and sound like a seasoned broadcast professional. 

By engaging the services of Lime Crane, our client could properly honor their graduates with a highly engaging program guaranteed to stream to an unlimited audience with excellent quality. The difference in our live streams is built from 20 years of understanding how online video is consumed, and making sure the experience is excellent. We have all watched virtual events with low resolution, stuttering video, and it gets in the way of experiencing the event. If Lime Crane is doing its job, the technology should be invisible.

We don’t know what the future holds for in-person ceremonies like graduations or when life will return to “normal’. But as long as there are companies like Lime Crane that can optimize your virtual event with technology, graduates will still be able to celebrate their achievements with dignity and the “pomp and circumstance” they deserve.  If you’d like to discuss your upcoming virtual meeting with our team, contact us or give us a call at (404)-954-1930. Even though we are based in Atlanta, we can accommodate your needs from anywhere.

Join our hundreds of business communicators.

Get our most recent posts delivered to your inbox.