As the leaves are falling from the trees, it comes as no surprise to realise that Christmas is just around the corner. Supermarkets are setting up displays, gifts are being considered, and people are gearing up for what should be a significantly more sociable Christmas than last year…fingers crossed.
Now, we don’t want to put a dampener on anyone’s enthusiasm for the festive season, and we know that many are happy to mix in large numbers and have parties again, but there will be people in your teams who still feel uncomfortable mixing just yet.
With many companies having staff in the office for a few days a week, office life has changed forever. In which case, maybe so has the Christmas party.
Making a virtual Christmas party fun, involving, and entertaining for everyone is not always easy. But there are ways to make it work.
We’ve run loads of virtual events over the last year from conferences to social gatherings, so we thought we’d share a number of the ideas we’ve had.
- Treat it a bit like a team-building event and have lots of activities running simultaneously so people can mix online, try out things they might not have thought of, and generally get involved.
- Break it up into a series of events rather than putting them all in a large virtual environment and expecting it to work. Virtual events need much more structure to work properly. People can’t mix and they can’t chat so easily, so some guidance is needed.
- Mix up the teams in small breakout rooms. More than 6 people trying to chat online is never going to be easy.
- Treat it like any other event, be creative (something we are excellent at), and have those flagpole moments – the things around which you hang the party. Here are some ideas:
- Try a team-based pub quiz. Provided you don’t take it completely seriously this can be a great way to get people to want to spend the time at the party (drop-off and drop-out of virtual events can be an issue). Sending out questions before the event can also help – a range of questions can encourage the staff to include family which extends involvement.
- While not encouraging irresponsible drinking, if your team loves a craft cocktail and you want to differentiate your holiday party, hire a professional mixologist to teach them how to make holiday-themed cocktails – not everyone knows how to make a mojito! Obviously, you need to have the ingredients delivered to your team before the party which gives you an amazing opportunity to make them feel involved and engaged.
- On a similar theme, don’t expect them to sit around eating Pringles that they’ve bought themselves. Provide the food. Yes, delivering perfect packages of food to 250 staff for an evening event might be challenging, but it’s all doable.
- Do something for charity. Not only does this show your staff that you care for something other than the profit line, it also gives them a focus, a reason to get involved.
- Secret Santa – an oldie but a goodie. Logistically, this has never been easier to do online It’s easy to do, fun, engaging, and allows for the sharing of in-jokes.
- Go the whole hog and have a live band. Pick someone who will really get the audience going – the bigger the name the better – and give a live performance for your staff.
- One idea that gets people out of their homes is a scavenger hunt. It works well if people live around a central office hub and is especially good for teams. There are a lot of things that you can do to get people to get out and about in their local town and mix the virtual with the real.
The key to making it a huge success is to plan and treat it just as you would a real event.
One thing we would absolutely not recommend is that you do a live event and have people who can’t attend dial in virtually. Unless you can get some virtual presence device (a mobile ‘robot’ with a screen allowing virtual attendees to mingle), this is a guaranteed way for some of your team to feel left out.
Sitting at home, watching your teammates have fun at a party that you’re not at, is not an experience to be recommended.