Have you mastered the art of party planning during COVID-19, yet? I mean, who would've thought virtual parties and events would be just as complicated (if not more so) than hosting in-person soirees. And, if you've managed to pull off a socially-distanced event successfully, then bravo to you (and please give us your tips in the comments below!).
A holiday party is a great way to reward employees, show appreciation, and enjoy time with each other— but as with everything else, that might look a little different this year. For the most part, you've got two options— virtual or socially distanced. Of course, both options have pros and cons, but your decision should primarily rely on applicable state and local mandates in place and CDC guidelines. So, unless you are working with a very lean team, virtual will be your best route. You might also consider surveying your company to gauge the level of interest, comfort, and concerns around holding a holiday party. The last thing anyone needs is another financial burden or one more thing to stress about in 2020.
You'd think after eight months of being in a pandemic we'd have this down by now but, if you're in the market for some fresh ideas, read our tips and tricks below to host the best virtual holiday party ever.
Virtual Holiday Party Ideas
Virtual Field Trip
Numerous AirBnB Experience Hosts have done an incredible job adapting to the new normal by finding creative ways to share what they love online. You can explore a new city in a faraway country, watch a magic show from your couch, or cook Chouquettes with a French chef right from your kitchen.
Most Online Experience Hosts are offered at a very reasonable price and can accommodate private groups of up to 100 people.
Cookie Decorating Workshop
You can never go wrong with a classic holiday activity like cookie decorating. This is an easy one to DIY with pre-made or store-bought sugar cookies, cans of frosting, food coloring, and sprinkles. You could put together the supplies in a holiday-themed gift box to mail to employees before the event.
Gingerbread House Contest
Not all of your holiday party activities have to take place during the actual party. A gingerbread house contest is a fun way to get employees in the holiday spirit and build anticipation for the upcoming event. You can vote beforehand and announce the winner at the party or do a show and tell with live voting!
Just be sure to share the contest details and rules a week or two before the party, so everyone has time to plan and prepare their gingerbread houses.
Craft Cocktail Class
Forget about an open bar— allow everyone to be their own at-home bartender this year! Not to mention, it's much more cost-effective and safe for everyone too. There are so many different ways to host a virtual cocktail class that it can be adjusted to fit a range of company sizes and budgets.
You can go the DIY (or partial DIY) route - hire a mixologist to teach over Zoom, purchase the ingredients and supplies for the cocktails on the menu, and send them off to employees in time for the party.
Or, you can pay a professional service to host the cocktail class and potentially your entire party for you.
Would it really be a company holiday party without Secret Santa? Luckily, gift exchanges are easy to move online. All you have to do is draw names using a random name generator, communicate deadlines and spend caps, send presents, and open them at your party.
Encourage participants to send physical gifts when possible to add a personal touch to the exchange. You may even want to consider shipping costs when choosing a budget.
Virtual Holiday Party Tips
Make it interactive
One of the biggest struggles with virtual parties is engagement and interaction. Not only do you have to come up with ways to encourage interaction— you have to be strategic in how you moderate and maintain it as well. Sure, kicking off the party with "What are your plans for the holidays?", seems like a great way to spark conversation until you get 13 people on a 45-person Zoom call talking at once, and everyone else fades out in the background.
Incorporating games, contests, and workshops like we listed above are sure ways to encourage interaction. Another simple way to draw people in is to address individuals by name. Ask thoughtful questions to specific people to give everyone a chance to share and interact with the group.
Keep It Structured
As mentioned above, moderating a virtual party or event is half the battle. We highly recommend designating a host who can roll with the punches and reel everyone back in when needed. You don't want this to feel like a webinar, but every great party has an MC, right?
Zoom is an excellent tool for internal communication and events, and we've all gotten very familiar with it. Here are a few features we recommend using for your virtual holiday party:
- Breakout rooms. If you have a bigger team, you can use breakout rooms to host different activities. This can be a great way to let people choose how they engage, similar to an in-person party. At a minimum, we suggest having one room for people to chat and connect and a separate room with a designated activity.
- Assign an alternative host and a co-host. It's always a good idea to have a backup, but it will be especially helpful if you use breakout rooms or have a large team. This way, you can divide and conquer some administrative work, like managing participants, responding to chats, and recording.
- Recording. You can use clips from your recording for recruitment efforts, social media posts, company-wide communications, or next year's party!
Send Something Physical
Your holiday party doesn't have to involve a festive box or kit for everyone to receive something they can open. We've been on our devices and communicating digitally more than ever, so something to hold and open can really stand out. Think about sending handwritten cards from leadership or a small gift like a candle, a coffee mug, or a bag of holiday treats.
Pick a Dress Code or Theme
Designate a theme to add another level of interaction to your party. The best thing about Christmas themes is they can be anything from PJs to cocktail dresses. You could even have an ugly sweater contest for an added activity!
Remember, you can never go wrong with games, contests, or classes to host an incredible virtual party. Keep it light this year, and don't forget to top it off with a toast to this year's hard work and next year's future!