Spectator outbursts at commencement are an unfortunate reality. As a commencement coordinator, you obviously cannot control when these outbursts will occur, but you can take proactive steps to discourage such disruptions, and reduce their effects on the next graduate waiting to be recognized.
Let's face it: spectators who would do this are usually in attendance at even the most solemn and dignified of ceremonies. If the extent of their disruptions is simply a brief outburst, then that is actually quite tame compared to the deranged screaming, air horns, and vuvuzelas that some ceremonies experience.
Here is the first takeaway:
If yelling and cheering for one graduate carries over to significantly interfere with the individual recognition of the next graduate in line, then a disservice has been done to that second graduate and his/her family.
The truth of the matter is that the level of disruption of any spectator outburst depends on many factors, including:
- The size of the venue
- Number of people in attendance
- Ambient conversational noise
- The length of the ceremony
- How well the venue muffles sound
- Volume of the PA system, and the reverberations it creates throughout the venue.
For example, a short burst of loud yelling for a single graduate may not significantly disrupt a large commencement held outdoors at the school's football stadium with a powerful PA system. Yet the exact same yelling at a ceremony held inside a small auditorium could be quite disruptive. Therefore...
The second takeaway is this:
Your approach to handling spectator outbursts at commencement needs to take your ceremony's unique circumstances into consideration. What is best for one ceremony may not be right for another.
Discourage & Respond
In Part 2 of our series, we will discuss ways to help discourage spectator outbursts at commencement.
In Part 3 of our series, we will introduce you to ways several schools and universities are responding to spectator disruptions once they occur during the ceremony.