P R E F A C E
Temple University was forced to host their 2020 Commencement virtually due to Covid-19. In 2021, it was really important that they would be able to host graduation in-person – for students to be able to walk down the aisle, received their diplomas, and celebrate together with their professors, deans and most importantly, their fellow classmates.
T H E C H A L L E N G E S
Although the University had produced commencement many times, this year presented new challenges. They had to take social distancing requirements, and the faculty and students’ health and safety, into extreme consideration – especially given the fact that Temple University would be the first in Philadelphia to host an in-person commencement amidst the pandemic. Below are some difficulties the University faced while planning:
- What would commencement look like at the Sports Complex? The venue had never been used to host the event before, but it was the best option given the city’s guidelines and capacity restraints surrounding Covid-19.
- There was concern surrounding the student experience. Now that they would be seated three feet apart, would the students all the way in the back still be able to have the same experience as those seated in the front? Would they be able to see and hear clearly, even though they were spaced drastically across the field?
- Each school within the college wanted to have their own, separate live stream. Some wanted the stream to be hosted on YouTube, while others wanted to host their stream on their school website. Each school had a different set of expectations, with varying levels of technical knowledge about how to accomplish them virtually. Who would manage creating each stream, ensure their typical commencement expectations were met in the virtual environment, and host the streams on many different platforms?
- Closed captioning and ASL interpreters needed to be incorporated into every stream. How could that be done in real-time for remote viewers to ensure everyone watching had access to an equally great experience?
- Hosting commencement outside also presented the University with some concerns surrounding visibility when it came to video content. Would faculty and students be able to see the video walls in the middle of the day when the sun would be at its brightest?
- Each school had a different run of show, and as a result, all different kinds of content they wanted to show both the in-person and virtual audiences, such as photos and pre-recorded videos. Who would manage collecting all of this content from each school and ensuring it was shown at the right moments throughout each ceremony?
- The new venue did not have an adequate power supply for the equipment that was needed. Who would manage this, and ensure all vendors had the power they needed to be successful?
- Having never produced commencement in this environment before, the University needed clear and constant communication leading up to the ceremonies. They needed to be informed, educated, and reassured that their plan would work – that they could offer students the celebration they deserved after their most challenging year of college.
T H E S O L U T I O N
The University started planning well in advance, which was extremely beneficial to identifying the pros and cons of their plan, and provided Synergetic with the time to come up with solutions to eliminate or mitigate the cons. Below are the solutions we provided to ensure confidence and success leading up to, and executing, each school’s ceremony:
- We provided just one point of contact from our team throughout the planning process. We know how confusing it can be to talk to multiple people over the course of a typically stressful process. So, while we had multiple people working alongside the POC to support Temple, they had just one person they had to talk to from our team.
- We created multiple CAD drawings and visual renderings of the proposed layout so the University could see exactly what our plan looked like prior to any equipment being set-up.
- Since the students would be spaced 3 feet apart across the field, we designed a sound system that ensured everyone would be able to hear loud and clear – which included rigging d&b audiotechnik speakers high on truss towers to provide maximum coverage.
- To mitigate concerns surrounding visibility due to bright sunlight and social distancing, we utilized 16’ x 10’ video wall trucks which were the perfect solution due to their extremely bright panels and quick set-up time.
- To relieve the stress that inevitably comes with working with multiple vendors, Synergetic managed the entire virtual broadcast. We assigned one project manager and one account manager to each of the different schools to manage their individual run of shows and ensure we had all assets in-hand. We provided an easy-to-use resource for the schools to upload their content to. Our stage manager and technical director on-site were able to walk through the ROS with each school prior to start time to ensure all of their content was correct, and be able to accommodate any last minute changes.
- We provided (3) cameras in order to give remote attendees the closest experience to being there with the students on the field. Two were positioned in the back to capture speeches and performances, while one was operated by a technician in the front who could move around to capture each moment as the students’ walked across the stage, received their diplomas, were hooded, and waved to family and friends at home.
- Synergetic provided portable power, and managed the distribution of it to each of the vendors that needed it.
- Our team managed hiring third party vendors to accomplish the closed captioning and ASL. We took one more thing off Temple’s plate so they could focus on celebrating their students and faculty. We designed a layout for the live streams that ensured closed captioning was visible, but did not clutter the screen.
- We provided two separate technical teams: one who was responsible for the live stream, and one who was responsible for the production on the field. This ensured each audience was catered to uniquely and had the best possible experience.
T H E R E S U L T
The University’s commencements were a huge success. Well over 10,000 people watched online and were able to enjoy the experience remotely, while the students got to celebrate being among their classmates one last time. It was an emotional event for everyone involved – to be together again, get back to live events, and share the moment with even those who weren’t able to attend. It was a proud moment for Synergetic to be able to produce the first in-person commencement in the City of Philadelphia amidst a pandemic, and to be able to do it flawlessly with a dedicated team of talented technicians and managers who had spent the past year struggling to find ways to support the events community.
The feedback we received from Temple was quite nice: “Synergetic made the venues “spectacular and nothing short of miracles” that thousands of people were able to enjoy because of their hard work.”