Let’s face it: some people hate Christmas parties.
But until now, they’ve at least had the option to attend. In 2020, the Christmas party is no longer a guarantee.
“Working from home hasn’t proven to be the amazing dream we thought it would be,” says Andrew Cooke, Strategic Director at co-working and workspace provider Bruntwood Works. ”We’re seeing this within our customer community, more and more of whom are coming back to their workspaces craving human interaction after months of lockdown.
“In light of that, the prospect of missing out on the office party for many people stings just a little bit more.”
Thankfully, there might just be a Christmas miracle to be found in technology. Bruntwood Works spoke to Holly Moore, CEO of renowned events and brand communications agency Make Events — whose clients include Puma, Vimto, Kellogg’s, Twitter and Booking.com — for tips on how to host the hottest virtual party for employees.
Why host a virtual event?
“A normal December for Make Events would mean back-to-back events, primarily Christmas parties,” says Holly. “We often have 3 or 4 on our busiest night.
“Until Spring 2021, we are suggesting clients explore our virtual options due to the ever-changing landscape. Virtual events eradicate almost all of the COVID-19 concerns and can replicate your cancelled live event in a risk-free environment.”
The pros and cons of hosting a virtual event
A virtual office party is a fundamentally different kind of event from the boozy dance halls many of us are used to — one that comes with some advantages and a couple of drawbacks.
More people will be able to attend — The people who couldn’t normally make it because of travel or the struggle to get a babysitter can happily take part from the comfort of their own homes.
Less logistical planning needed — Business owners don’t need to organise fleets of taxis and minibuses, and they save a ton of money that would normally be spent on rooms.
People will be less engaged — Not being present in person means it’s easier for attendees attention to drift elsewhere.
Less person-to-person interaction — Whereas people keep themselves entertained by chatting with each other throughout the evening at a normal party, video chats don’t allow for the same level of conversation, especially on calls with lots of participants.
How to host a virtual Christmas office party
Keep things moving
“You have to really think about engagement with a virtual event,” says Holly. “You won’t be able to hold the attendees’ attention for as long as in a live experience.”
The best way to keep your event engaging? Keep it tight. “Interaction should be punchy, fast paced and well thought out,” says Holly. “Content is king.”
Plan your virtual event in as much detail as possible ahead of time. Make sure there’s never an empty space where you’re not sure what’s coming next. Keep up the pace and you’ll keep people engaged.
Make it as interactive as possible
Even with excellent planning and a fast pace, your event will be a drag if your attendees don’t feel that they can participate in any way.
The team at Make Events specialises in making their virtual events highly interactive. “We do everything from sourcing hosts, creating on-screen graphics, building games and sending pre-event packs to homes in advance.”
Here are some great interactive ideas to include in your virtual Christmas party:
- A TV-worthy quiz with a celebrity host
- A live band that can take requests
- Christmas workshops like wreath-making, cracker-making and present-wrapping
- A cocktail masterclass
- Chocolate workshops
- Whiskey and gin tasting
Do some (virtual) decorating
The desire to be anywhere other than stuck at home has prompted some pretty neat innovations across various video call platforms.
One of our favourites? Custom backgrounds.
Holly suggests sending employees some festive backgrounds that they can upload to their screens. You can also send your staff Christmas props and decorations in advance so they can deck the halls ready for the party, as well as some games they can play with other members of the team while they’re waiting for the main event.
Don’t forget the food
There’s no such things as a good Christmas party without food. With everyone tuning in virtually, it can be easy to think that putting on a fabulous spread is out of the question. Don’t be fooled.
Send out some party food hampers for people to enjoy. Get a list of dietary requirements ahead of time and schedule the arrival for the day or night before so it’s nice and fresh for the main event.
Not sure what kind of food to send? Stick to snacks — it’s a little more awkward eating a full meal over Zoom than it is in real life
Invest as much as you can
“Don’t think because it’s virtual it will cost you less,” says Holly. “There is a lot of content management involved and pre event work to pull your event together.”
Use as much of your party budget as you can. Having to attend an office party virtually is convenient, but staff can tell if you’ve not put much effort into it.
Spending a little extra to make the activities and gifts as special as possible will go a long way in making them feel valued going into 2021.
‘Tis the season to be jolly careful
Hosting a Christmas party in 2020 is going to be fundamentally different to anything any of us are used to. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a fun and valuable experience for your team.
By planning ahead, investing properly and sending hampers out to your staff ahead of time, you can make your virtual office party an interactive experience that they won’t soon forget.