How to host a virtual holiday party for remote teams

This year’s company holiday parties just won’t be the same, thanks to COVID-19. Traditions like the in-person office holiday party are neither realistic nor safe during the pandemic. But you don’t have to start the new year without a few fond memories of holiday festivities if you take these company events virtual for 2020. 

Not quite sure how to host the perfect virtual holiday party on videoconferencing software platforms like Zoom? You’re not alone. Here are some holiday party ideas to help you host your own virtual event for your remote team. 

Ask your team

Get input and ideas on themes, activities, scheduling, food, and drink from your team members. What they want and need should drive the planning process (within reason and budget, of course). 

For example, consider that remote team members might have roommates or family members who will be home during the virtual holiday party. Make sure not to schedule the festivities in the middle of homeschooling hours or other at-home activities. 

Also, consider how to include spouses or partners, the way you would for an in-person event. Finally, be sure to consider everyone’s time zones in case your team is geographically spread out. 

Reinforce company values 

While it’s important to put work chatter aside while you celebrate, the virtual holiday party can also serve as an opportunity to reinforce company values. Present the celebration in a way that aligns with the company culture. 

Consider mottos such as “work hard, play hard,” “a fun place to work,” or “our talent is the reason for our success.” Incorporate these types of messages into the holiday party invitation, as well as the messaging during the event. 

Formalize the virtual party scheduling process

Creating invitations and asking people to register for the event makes the virtual party feel more formal. Requiring an RSVP helps remote team members feel as though the party will be something more than a casual afterthought. 

It also tells you how many people will attend so that you can accurately plan food, activities, and goody bags. An accurate count also helps ensure that you have an adequate budget.

JotForm can help you automate the signup/registration process. You can make a guest list and signup sheet. Results will automatically populate the associated table in JotForm Tables, which will help with organizing the virtual holiday party. Additionally, you can use form templates to collect payments for any activity that might involve contributions.

Have a virtual holiday party host

To keep the party on track and cover all the planned activities, select someone from the company to serve as a host. Think of them as a virtual moderator or emcee who guides everyone through the online event to ensure they all enjoy it. 

Plan a few interactive activities

To keep the online party engaging instead of just another Zoom call where everyone awkwardly talks in one group, schedule one or two activities to involve your remote team members, including some type of icebreaker. 

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the pandemic has led to the emergence of many innovative companies that have either adapted existing activities or developed new ones for virtual social events. 

Here are some virtual holiday party activity ideas.

Crafts

Invite everyone to make something that has a festive theme, like decorating gingerbread houses or Christmas cookies. Or offer a craft like painting a canvas or making Christmas ornaments. 

You can send the materials for these activities to each remote team member’s house prior to the event. Then, everyone can create their works of art together on the Zoom call and share them with the group. 

Tastings

Another fun way to spice up a virtual holiday party is to schedule a tasting. Depending on team-member preferences, you could host a beer, whiskey, or wine tasting with a local brewery, distillery, or winery service. 

Other companies offer a variety of tastings like cheese, tea, hot chocolate, and other gourmet items. These events also require that you send the ingredients in advance to each partygoer. Tastings are not only fun, but they can also double as a way to cover holiday catering for the event. 

Online games and virtual team-building exercises

There are so many fun games and team-building exercises that can be played online, including trivia, charades, escape rooms, scavenger hunts, murder mystery games, and board games like Pictionary. 

Check out the many online multiplayer platform companies that provide these types of team-building activities. Many of these can be adapted to create your own DIY games using your materials and team members, perhaps through Zoom breakout rooms.

Make sure you award prizes, such as cash or gift cards, to add to the competitive aspect of this virtual party activity. 

Holiday season gift exchange

Whether you create a Secret Santa event or use another way to give everyone something special, make sure you set up a gift exchange like any other project: with a timeline, budget, and specific tasks to make sure it delivers maximum joy to your remote team. Provide gifting guidelines, like price limits, to keep it equitable for everyone. Gift cards are an excellent choice.  

Other fun activities

Your remote team doesn’t have to forego all of the holiday office party activities that they previously enjoyed. You can create a virtual photo booth, thanks to companies that allow you to create team photos online and add fun graphics to the final product.  

If your team’s idea of holiday spirit involves karaoke, offer sing-alongs through a hosted karaoke provider or an app. 

Make sure to include holiday music. Remote employees can submit their favorite Spotify holiday playlist to share with their colleagues. 

Don’t forget to encourage everyone to wear their best ugly Christmas sweater or even dress up in formal wear!

This article is originally published on Dec 21, 2020, and updated on Dec 25, 2020.
AUTHOR
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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