Think outside the webcam box – how to host a virtual holiday party

2020 is winding down and the holiday season is finally here. With what felt like the shortest and longest year ever, there is a lot to reflect and learn from. We’ve experienced unprecedented hardships this year but that doesn’t mean we can’t plan a meaningful and fulfilling virtual holiday party to bring our company even closer together and prepare for 2021. 

We understand that a virtual holiday party can never beat an in-office party. We too miss booking venues, hiring a DJ, and ordering catered food but we can still try our best to bring a little holiday cheer to our remote teams. It is what they deserve after such a fascinating year. 

Whether you’re ready to host a full on virtual experience or just something simple to show your team that you appreciate them, here are a few tips and tricks to hosting a virtual holiday party that is memorable and fun for everyone: 

Be inclusive 

The end of the year is the time to celebrate your organization and look back on the year. It is also the holiday season, which means it is important to host a virtual holiday party that reflects the diverse values and cultures within your organization. There are a few things to consider when planning a virtual holiday party:

  • Cultural sensitivities – Be inclusive of different beliefs and avoid the assumption that everyone celebrates holidays the same way
  • Time zones – Remote work gave everyone the opportunity to work wherever, but during the holidays, people may be in their hometowns which means you must consider different time zones 
  • Accessibility – Are the activities accessible to all? If you can, you should provide closed captioning and visual cues. 

Zoom fatigue is real 

We can all admit it – we’re all a little tired of virtual happy hours and that is okay. Zoom fatigue is real and should always be top of mind when planning a company event as big as the annual holiday party. How we tackle virtual employee engagement needs to be cognizant of the fact that we are spending 8 or more hours a day in front of a computer screen. You may find that your employees may be less willing to dedicate an hour to just talking on a video call. 

To offset the effects of Zoom fatigue, we recommend turning your virtual holiday party into a virtual holiday spirit week. Theme each day of the week with a fun dress-up idea or have a small hangout event each day. Bite-sized mini-events that can be a simple Slack thread about gingerbread or an hour long game night. Each mini-event should be small enough to allow every person to actively participate. Switch up the groups each day to allow people to mingle with team mates they don’t get to engage with often. Need inspiration? Try out these fun ideas and themes:

  • Ugly holiday sweater 
  • Ugly holiday virtual background 
  • Mini tree decorating 
  • Crazy Santa hat 
  • Hot chocolate chats 

Make it an interactive experience

Video calls are easy to zone out of because there it requires very little action – you sit in front of a screen and listen. Think outside of the webcam box and turn your virtual holiday party into an interactive experience. Companies like AirBnB and Zoom are now offering virtual online experiences with experts in different fields like cooking, art, physical activity, and more. This is a great way to gather your team for a fun and immersive experience in the comfort of their own home. 

If you wish to keep your holiday party internal, consider asking your team to step up and host activities. Members of your organization can do a holiday house tour with all of their holiday decor or host an indoor winter olympics with fun challenges. You can also host a holiday trivia Competition finishing the lyrics  of popular holiday songs

Do a gift exchange 

The holidays are a great time to celebrate the achievements of your team by sending gifts as a little token of appreciation. Many gift box companies such as KnackShop or SnackNation offer a wide variety of customizable corporate gift options. 

Get your team involved by doing a virtual gift card exchange or a secret santa. Gift exchanges are a nice way to ensure that everyone gets a little holiday cheer without breaking the bank. Gather your team and assign each person a secret santa. Tools like Elfster are great for creating wishlists and assigning secret santas. If your team wants to keep it simple, we’d also recommend a gift card exchange. We outline how our own team did a virtual gift card exchange using Poll Everywhere Clickable Images to choose our cards in these 7 holiday-inspired remote team engagement strategies

Celebrate the year with virtual superlatives 

Superlatives are always an end of the year must – it is the best way to summarize the successes of each individual team member and tell the whole company what they have contributed. Normally, superlatives are done with a member of the leadership team sharing a little anecdote while everyone sits in a room together. For this year’s virtual holiday party, why not get creative with how you share superlatives? Here are a few creative ways to celebrate your remote team: 

  • Virtual scavenger hunt: Create a list of accomplishments without any names attached. Give your team 5 minutes to find out who achieved these using direct messaging, metrics, presentations and more. 
  • Praise walls: Create individual praise walls for your team. Share the activity asynchronously with a response link and have everyone at the company share a few kind words about a colleague. 
  • Company trivia: Turn superlatives into a trivia competition! Take a few notable achievements and create a Poll Everywhere Competition to challenge your team and celebrate wins. 

Capture the moment

One thing we all miss about in-person events is a nice group photo to remember the night. When we all went remote back in March, screenshots of the gallery view in your Zoom call were sweet. However, it is time to have some fun with how we capture these moments. One thing that should definitely be used are virtual backgrounds. Virtual backgrounds don’t need to be complicated – simply coordinating matching backgrounds can make your group photo feel cohesive and nice. If your team is adventurous, consider adding a virtual background theme for each section of your virtual holiday party, such as a snowy night, snowflakes, a warm fireplace, etc. You can also get creative with video filters – Zoom recently launched their own filters or you can downloadSnap Camera.  

If you really want to think outside of the video call box, give your team photo challenges to complete. These challenges can range from a selfie with their favorite mug or a silly family photo. Have fun with it, but also remember to check-in with teammates who may not be comfortable turning on their cameras or taking photos. 

We all miss in-office parties  and hopefully we will all be reunited with our favorite colleagues soon. In the meantime, we hope these ideas help you plan your big virtual holiday party and create lasting memories with your remote team. An easy way to integrate an interactive element to your virtual holiday party is a Poll Everywhere activity! Sign-up and get started today. 

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