Resources for Graduation Event Professionals

Why reader lists can cause problems at commencement

why-reader-lists-can-cause-problems-at-commencementIn this article, we will explore why using a reader list to announce graduate names as they cross the stage is not a best practice for commencement ceremonies.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that a "reader list" is simply any printed document with the names of graduates, sequenced in the order in which they are to be recognized on stage.  Additionally, let's assume we are talking about a commencement ceremony with a significant number of participants, not a small, intimate ceremony where the reader likely knows each graduate by name.

Reader lists at commencement do have some advantages, since they are easy to:

  1. Compile and maintain
  2. Duplicate and share with other individuals
  3. Add and remove participants at the last minute
  4. Have font sizes adjusted for the reader

Despite these benefits, there are significant drawbacks which make it impossible to recommend the use of reader lists at commencement ceremonies to our client schools.

It Happens Frequently

At most commencements, care is taken to make sure graduates are correctly ordered.  Yet despite rehearsals, roll-calls prior to the ceremony, and double-checks, the accuracy of their sequence cannot be guaranteed once the processional begins.  Imagine the following:

  • As the processional line is moving, but before a graduate reaches public view, he drops down to tie his shoe.  The other graduates behind him go around.  Once he is done, he simply re-inserts himself into the line, although now he is several slots back from his reader list sequence.
  • Before crossing the stage, a graduate falls ill and leaves the ceremony floor.
  • Two friends are seated on the same row separated by a few chairs, or on two different rows - one right behind the other.  What is the harm in swapping seats so they can sit together?  (Yes, you warned them against this.  No, they did not listen.)

The point is that these scenarios are not uncommon at commencement.  Yet using a reader list does not afford you the flexibility to handle missing or out-of-place participants gracefully, particularly at medium-to-fast paced ceremonies.

The Fallout

Think about what happens when a graduate is #1 in line, about to start walking across the stage, and the wrong name is called.  She only has one of three way to respond.  Either:

  1. She does not cross, because it was not her name that was called, which awkwardly stops the line and potentially confuses the reader.
  2. She verbally corrects the reader (which is sometimes caught by the microphone), who then has to regroup after announcing her correct name.
  3. She crosses the stage anyway under the wrong name, which is embarrassing for her and disappointing for her family.

Effect on Commencement Photographs

Problems caused by the use of reader lists at commencements extend beyond just the ceremony.  There is also a high likelihood of multiple graduates receiving the wrong photo proofs, since the commencement photography company would need to rely on your reader list and/or an audio recording of the ceremony, both of which would have critical inaccuracies when compared to the true sequence of graduates.

For these reasons, using a reader list to announce graduate names is not recommended.  Most commencement coordinators would be better served by using reader cards.

If you are a current GradImages client using a list and would like to discuss transitioning to a reader's card, please contact your Client Service Specialist today.

Topics: Best Practices Commencement Preparation GradImages