Updated: Nov 30, 2021
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas will be different this year — and so will the annual office holiday party.
Many companies are moving their 2020 festivities online. It’s a choice that keeps your employees safe while still offering creative ways to recognize, engage, and motivate your team.
And, as COVID-19 accelerates the move to working remotely, virtual parties are probably also the way of the future.
Here are five essential questions to ask before planning your virtual holiday party:
1. What’s our party platform?
If your team already uses a video conferencing platform like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, they might be the best bet for your virtual holiday party — everyone will already have the software downloaded and will be familiar with using it.
But other options are available. Google Meet, Skype, Facebook’s Messenger Rooms, and FaceTime can work for smaller teams. For invite lists of 500 or more, Zoom and WebExvideo offer large meeting add-on plans. Both platforms also offer breakout rooms to keep everyone engaged and help manage large groups.
To make your virtual party as stress-free as possible, include some technical instructions in your invitations. As Sandra Gutierrez G. writes in Popular Science : “… you still can’t assume everyone on your guest list knows how to work that obscure video conferencing app you like so much, or even the most popular ones.” She also recommends being available to answer technical questions before the party.
2. Who’s the host?
Even online, you want your team to feel welcome, comfortable and appreciated. Traditionally that’s the role of the host — someone who knows the guests and sets the mood. This role is also key online. The host doesn’t need to be from your leadership team — the most important qualification is someone who knows your team, who feels comfortable speaking and socializing, and who can read a crowd and keep your event on schedule.
A great idea is to also assign a co-host who can trouble-shoot any technical glitches or answer questions from guests. This person should be familiar with the conferencing platform you choose, and should do a test-run before the party. And because your team will be attending from a wide range of home offices, the co-host should be able to tackle technical issues using plain language, and able to help people with different levels of technical skills.
3. What’s on the agenda?
Welcome, recognition, engagement, motivation — you have plenty of goals for your party. But according to Cord Himelstein with Halo Recognition, “virtual holiday parties have more limits when it comes to how long people will stick around. Usually a one-hour time slot works best for everyone. Budget time to include important things like a message from leadership and any special recognition.”
4. How can we make it fun?
Holiday parties let teams celebrate their achievements and enjoy spending time together. For many people, this year will be their first-ever experience at an online holiday party. Make it even more memorable by moving beyond the usual ugly sweater contest and truly embracing the creative possibilities of interactive games and activities. Check out these sites for a feast of great ideas:
5. How can we make it meaningful?
In addition to offering your team festive fun, this year’s office party can also help provide a sense of normalcy by continuing long-standing workplace traditions like team building through philanthropy.
As you begin to plan your party, reach out to ask your team for ideas on new ways to hold annual fundraisers such as holiday toy drives or food bank donations. Gather suggestions for organi