Veterans Day on Your Campus: Virtual Event Ideas
On November 11, 1918, fighting ceased between the Allied nations and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. This day became known as Armistice Day. In 1954, Congress amended this day to honor American veterans of all wars, and the day became known as Veterans Day.
For our Chapters across the nation, Veterans Day is often a time for recognition events, speeches, and celebrations to honor all of America’s veterans. Team members at your National Headquarters also participate in ceremonies around the country, such as the annual wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
This year will be a bit different. While there are challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many ways to host a meaningful Veterans Day event, whether virtually or safely outside with social distancing.
Why Veterans Day?
There are certain times of year that Chapters as well as your National Headquarters are most likely to generate more attention and engagement with their communications efforts. Stronger messaging and communications efforts during these times are often picked up and shared more. Veterans Day is one of those moments.
As the sole representation of student veterans on your campus in many cases, the responsibility falls on your Chapter for how to share the importance of this moment and effectively involve the campus community. Here’s an example from last year’s ceremony at American University:
Today and every day, we are immensely grateful to veterans for their service. AU held a ceremony on the Quad to honor them 🇺🇸
— American University (@AmericanU) November 8, 2019
How to plan a pandemic-friendly Veterans Day
We understand that many of our chapters are struggling to find a way to maintain their traditional level of excitement surrounding Veterans Day, and we’re here to help! Whether your campus celebrates a Veterans Day, Week, or Month, the ideas and tips on this page should at least get your creative juices flowing and give your chapter members and communities a fun and engaging way to show support for veterans on your campus!
SVA always recommends following your campus guidelines regarding the health and safety of your chapter and other students.
Don’t forget to share your events with your National Headquarters by tagging social media posts with #WeAreSVA or by sending us the information at [email protected].
Virtual Roll Call
A tradition on many campuses has been the Veterans Day Roll Call, where colleges and universities can celebrate and honors those students, faculty, and staff who have served and are serving. A Virtual Roll Call will allow these names to permeate the web and reach beyond your campus. We suggest a live stream to social media (Facebook Live, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.). This can be a Zoom call broadcast to your community so that multiple people are engaged on the call being shown or can be on-location if there is a meaningful place on campus or in your community. Either way, remember why we do Roll Call and work to make that purpose realized.
Virtual Event Ideas
- Participate in SVA’s Vet to Vet program, pairing our chapter members with older generations of veterans from VA Homes, who’ve not had much engagement due to the pandemic. Contact [email protected] for more details.
- Virtual tour of veteran-specific landmarks or museums or structures (battleships, aircraft carriers, monuments, etc.).
- Live streamed panel or town hall speaker using Zoom, Periscope, or another platform.
- At-home care package drive, with a hashtag so chapter and community members can post to social media.
- Netflix Watch Party showing service-themed films.
- Partner with local schools for an education presentation over Zoom or another platform.
Socially Distanced Event Ideas
- Scavenger hunt around campus/town for veteran-specific landmarks/buildings/items where photos are shared to social media under a hashtag.
- Reverse Veterans Day Parade that highlights “floats” or displays on the sidewalks, and cars drive past. This item may require some traffic coordination, so make sure to check with your city/town representatives.
- A hike/ruck/run with family groups spaced at least 6’ apart.
- Set up a work-out routing (i.e., squats, pushups, burpees, etc.) according to the number of veterans on campus and create a hashtag so photos can be shared to social media.
- Work with a drive-in theater to show a screening of service-specific films.
We encourage you to reach out to local and neighboring chapters or VSOs for partnered events!
How do you plan a virtual event?
Keep it short, focus on how to keep the audience engaged because they can log off at any time, and practice as much as you can beforehand. Virtual events should be kept simple, because flashy initiatives won’t be as impressive on a computer screen.
Understand your audience.
It is key to have a solid grasp of your audience’s general attitude and interests. A few questions to ask include:
- What subject areas are they most interested in?
- How familiar or active are they with basic social media?
- Have they been out of the house recently?
Send out surveys or start a discussion forum to acquire answers from your audience. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get the information one way or another.
Define your format.
Just like live events, virtual event planning comes in many formats. It could be a seminar with one person taking the stage, or it could be more like a tradeshow or workshop. The key is to create a unique experience, something that is different than what your campus or community is already experiencing.
Choose a platform.
There are so many livestreaming services out there. Some of the popular options include Periscope, Facebook Livestream, and YouTube Live. These services more or less offer the same basic features; it really is more a matter of personal preference. For virtual interaction, there’s good ol’ Zoom.
Choose a host.
Who will be hosting the event? Whoever the designated person is, they should be able to speak clearly, respond to questions fielded though social media, introduce speakers if you have them, and so on.
The host also needs to respond at the spur of the moment to unexpected events. If the scheduled speaker is late, for example, could the host continue to come up with things to say to keep viewers from signing out? Or, your event can be hosted by multiple people, engaging with one another to provide a more dynamic experience between speakers, panels, etc.
Market your event.
Virtual events have to be marketed just like a typical live event. This is where social media comes into play. Yes, there’s the usual methods of Facebook posting and tweeting. You have to go beyond that, though, and also incorporate other methods. Perhaps you can use Instagram or Snapchat to show viewers the venue where the event will take place. Social media posts can also include links to other content, such as speaker bios, vlogs, or a tutorial video on how to log into the livestream. Finally, don’t forget the event hashtag and use it frequently, while urging followers to do the same. If you have email subscribers, use your newsletters as another promotional tool with links to the event signup page and other promo material. Always include #SVALeads to be a part of the national conversation!
Choose the venue.
Just because it’s a virtual event doesn’t mean it should be held in your bedroom or at your kitchen table. Yes, technically you can do that, and you will save a lot of money by doing so. However, changing the scenery for many people will bring them back to a sense of normal, even if it’s through Zoom. Consider hosting your virtual event outside, or on a stage at a podium!
Chapter Leaders, faculty, or honored guests are often deliver speeches as a focal point of the campus Veterans Day events. A speech is an important opportunity to share the experiences and successes of student veterans and military-affiliated students on your campus while also highlighting the history that gives this day greater meaning.
Are you hosting a Veterans Day event this year?
We’d love to spotlight what you’re doing! Contact us with the details and use the hashtag #WeAreSVA so we can share your event with the rest of the country!
|School Name||Event Description||Date||Information|
|Arizona State University||Salute to Sevice Event Series||11/5-11/19||Link|
|Boston College||Mass Rememberance Ceremony, 2020||11/11||Link|
|Cal State University - Northridge||An evening of networking with CSUN Alumni||11/6||Link|
|Clayton State University||Ceremony in Lawsun Ampitheater saluting service members||11/11||Link|
|Eastern Oregon University||Gathering at the flagpole for a commemoration||11/11||Link|
|Kent State University||Virtual commemoration paying tribute to the commuunity of veterans & service members||11/11||Link|
|San Diego State University||Honoring the memory of fallen Aztecs (24th Annual)||11/3||Link|
|Syracuse University||2020 Virtual Veterans Day||11/11||Link|
|Texas State University||Annual Veterans Day commencement||11/11||Link|
|University of Findlay||Observance at honor wall||11/11||Link|
|University of Kansas||Veterans Day 5K||11/15||Link|
|University of Nebraska - Kearney||Commencement to give thanks to veterans||11/11||Link|
|UNC - Charlotte||Veterans Day drive to support deployed members||11/2-11/15||Link|
|University of Toledo||Drive through breakfast in a bag||11/11||Link|
|Wentworth Institute of Technology||Recognize and celebrate those who served||11/11||Link|
|Western Illinois University||Fallen soldiers 5K||11/11||Link|