Live-Tweeting a Commencement

Show of hands: who participated in some form of live-tweeting during your commencement ceremonies this spring? Here’s a quick informal sample:

With no real planning (and even less thought) I decided to live-tweet the University of Rochester’s commencement ceremonies this year. We have been webcasting the ceremony for the past nine years, but tweeting was a first.

I didn’t promote this effort in any real way at all: didn’t establish a hash tag or include any mention in our student and parent newsletters or make note of it on the commencement website. I just figured that since I had to be on campus all day anyway I might as well give it a whirl. I twittered under the University’s institutional Twitter account (@UofR) and here’s how it went:

Will be “live Tweeting” the College Commencement ceremony, which gets underway in about 10 minutes. 7:50 AM May 17th from twhirl

The procession and “Pomp and Circumstance” have begun! Man, it’s lovely outside. Chilly, but sunny. 7:54 AM May 17th from twhirl

The last of the graduates take their seats as the platform party arrives, led by the Grand Marshall carrying the University mace. 8:09 AM May 17th from twhirl

Ceremony is about to get underway, and the bubbles are already flying 8:12 AM May 17th from twhirl

Trustees chair Ed Hajim ends his speech. “May the force be with you!” to much applause. What, no “live long and prosper?” 🙂 8:23 AM May 17th from twhirl

President Joel Seligman calls out many student-run community projects. We’re biased here, but our kids really do kick butt. 8:28 AM May 17th from twhirl

Faculty awards are being presented for excellence in undergraduate teaching. 8:31 AM May 17th from twhirl

Kodak CEO Antonio Perez receives an honorary doctorate from President Seligman. 8:42 AM May 17th from twhirl

Commencement speaker Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is about to receive the Eastman medal. 8:47 AM May 17th from twhirl

Louise Slaughter’s speech is about to blow off the podium, but she presses on. 8:52 AM May 17th from twhirl

The best advice from Congresswoman Slaughter: Sometimes in life, procrastination pays off! Huge applause. 9:00 AM May 17th from twhirl

This is it! The conferring of degrees for the bachelor’s candidates in the School of Arts and Sciences. 9:01 AM May 17th from twhirl

“I welcome you to the fellowship of learned citizens!” Cue the beach balls. 9:03 AM May 17th from twhirl

Now it’s the School of Engineering’s turn. And those engineers know how to party. 9:04 AM May 17th from twhirl

It’s a silly string explosion in the Engineering section! 9:05 AM May 17th from twhirl

Woohoo! It’s John Phillip Sousa time! It’s what’s become a UofR tradition, the graduates go absolutely nuts to Stars and Stripes Forever. 9:08 AM May 17th from twhirl

The Yellowjackets lead the singing of the alma mater. 9:11 AM May 17th from twhirl

Seligman punches the air. “Congrats Class of 2009!” That’s a wrap everyone. Remember, it’s called Commencement because it’s a beginning. 9:18 AM May 17th from twhirl

We had a grand total of two replies during the course of the event, which was fine I suppose given that I definitely considered this a toe-dipping exercise. Some lessons learned for next year:

  • Get the word out to students and parents (I think parents in particular may be key) that you plan to do this.
  • Establish a hash tag for the event and start using it in advance of the big day to establish that tag amongst your followers.
  • Don’t just post! Search for what others are saying before, during, and after the event so that you can respond, congratulate, converse, etc. Search on your hash tag but also other relevant search terms (e.g. the name/nickname of your university, the name of your speaker)

Commencement is a party, and your university is the host. Like any good host, you want your guests to have a good time meeting and talking with each other. Twitter is an especially fun way to do this on an especially fun day. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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Lori Packer

Lori Packer (@LoriPA) serves on the program committee for the annual HighEdWeb conference, and is the Web Editor at the University of Rochester.

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