Creating THE go-to graduation event

Being responsible for organising one of the memorable nights of the year for your fellow students is one of the most stressful yet rewarding things you can do in your final year at university – apart from your exams! The Graduation Ball is a night which many look forward to for months, a celebration of years of hard work and hopefully a night to remember!

We’ve put together a few top tips to help you create a night to remember, based on our years of organising balls for different colleges and universities. If you’ve opted for a tent to add drama, a sense of occasion and to provide a unique venue, here’s our advice:

The team: Having the right people around you can make all the difference. Choose supporters who will actually do, not just talk the talk. Allocate roles and responsibilities early on and be realistic about your timescales and demands. Use specialists where you can – drawing on our years of experience will help you put on an amazing event. And finally, always try to have a different team who will not attend the ball so are fresh and alert to be on hand to oversee the dismantle the following day.

Timescales: Check in advance when you’ll be able to let the crew in to start rigging the tent. You’ll need to have a realistic idea of the build and de-rig schedule. We often find that colleges want to reduce the impact of the ball on the day-to-day running of the college and therefore the scheduling for the build (SaddleSpan or marquee/stage/lighting & sound/fairground rides and so) is tight.

Decoration: Tent decoration can be expensive – choose a semi-tensile structure that can take projections, gobos, light shows for maximum effect at minimal cost.

Access: Vehicle movement in and out of the site is a different matter to a schedule which may look perfect on paper. If you’re bringing in stages, structures, loos and furniture, you need to be aware they are delivered in vans and lorries or on large trailers. Is there room for them to manoeuvre on site (does the car park need to be cleared of cars for example). Check whether the entrance gates wide enough and whether there is a weight limit or bridge which may cause problems.

Lawns: Tents are sometimes required to be built on ancient, beautiful and delicate lawns – sacred turf – so provision needs to be made during the build and dismantle to protect this with boards or trackway. Can the grass be driven on? Is there a plan of the underground services such as gas or water pipes? Can the area be staked or will the structure need to be anchored down with ballast of some sort (which always adds to the cost)? Liaise with the groundsmen – they’ve seen it all before. If it rains will grass entrances get muddy? Will guests be wearing stiletto heels – how soft is the ground? Maybe give out heel protectors?

It’s all about the bass: Fabric structures are not sound proof. No tent fabric is capable of significantly attenuating sound levels produced from within. These days, however, sound can be controlled very accurately with modern audio technology by computerised mapping and positioning of the sound projection (i.e. the positioning and direction of speakers). Check with the college about sound limits and whether a licence is required.

The morning after the night before: Many balls end at 6am in the morning and then the crews come in to start dismantling the lights, sound, stage and so on. However, after a wonderful night’s entertainment, some revellers can be reluctant to leave the venue and gentle persuasion is required. Don’t forget the litter crews to clear the ground.

And finally… don’t forget to try and relax on the night. Enjoy it yourself!

If you are thinking of organising a university ball or party and would like to speak to us about providing a fantastic venue, give us a call on 01453 861 131 or email

Are you on the organising committee for the 2017 graduation ball? Bookmark our blog page for more updates, hints and tips over the next year. Planning ahead will result in the greatest choice of our tents, so get in touch early!

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