How many times have we said, “Things are going to look a little different this year?”
We’ve honestly lost count.
With so many teams working remotely, work celebrations are just one of the many, many things changing this year. But even if your team can’t gather in person for an end-of-the-year celebration or work happy hour, it doesn’t mean you need to scrap your get together entirely.
Instead, like many other things, you can take it virtual.
Virtual parties might never fully replace the feeling of getting to meet someone face-to-face, but when you’re working with a remote or distributed team, it’s a great option for getting that social time that can create a stronger, happier work environment. And with so many people struggling with isolation and loneliness, it’s also a great way to reconnect and let off some steam.
But what are some ways to get your team engaged through a virtual party? Here are some ideas.
Download this checklist of tips for how to manage a remote or distributed team!
Now that you have an idea for your virtual party, it’s time to start planning. Here’s what you need to get started.
1. Choose your tools
Different party ideas will work best on different platforms. For example, some of these ideas will only work if done on video calls. Others would be too much of a hassle to do with everyone on one call, but you’ll still want a way to connect.
After you’ve chosen your party idea, decide the best way to host it. If you’re a remote team, chances are you already use these tools.
RingCentral Video lets you bring your entire team together on a video call while also letting you share your screen, connect on mobile devices, and even chat while on video—all of which can make your virtual party run even more smoothly:
If you’re going the route of keeping your team updated on progress in an instant messaging platform, then you can just send a message right in the app. You can even create a unique channel for the virtual party where team members can upload pictures, post ideas, or share the status of their cookie baking, scavenger hunt, or desk decorating.
Depending on what video conferencing software you’re using, you might even be able to set up a fun virtual background!
And don’t be afraid of using a combination of these tools! Getting your team engaged in as many ways as possible can increase the chances of your event being a success.
2. Schedule your event
If you have a distributed team, finding a time that suits everyone’s schedules can be difficult. You want this party to be fun and something your team actually wants to attend, so you don’t want to infringe on their personal time too much.
Depending on the type of event you’re doing, consider having it during normal working hours. For example, you could show off your holiday desk decorations over lunch or end the day a few hours early for a work happy hour.
If your team is scattered across different time zones, consider hosting multiple events. You don’t want to force one group to log in late at night or early in the morning so a team on the other side of the country can attend. Find overlap when you can, but don’t try to force something that just isn’t going to work!
3. Create some excitement
Don’t just send a link to your meeting and hope everyone attends ready to party. If you want your virtual party to be a success, you need to hype it up.
Playing games leading up to your event is one way to get everyone ready, but just sending reminders and discussing plans is a great way to boost morale. For example, if you’re holding a cookie decorating party, you could encourage your team to share their decoration plans in the days leading up. Have everyone show off the ingredients they’ve purchased or share inspiration in the form of articles or pictures.
Get the conversation started early, and ramp it up as the event gets closer. If you can show your team you’re excited about it, they’ll start to get excited too.
4. Create an agenda
If your virtual party has multiple events, you’ll want an agenda. Just like a typical meeting, an agenda can make sure you stay on track and that you’re giving appropriate time to every activity you want to include.
Since this is a party, you don’t want to stick to the agenda too closely. If your team is having fun, feel free to throw the agenda completely to the side (after all, that is the point of the party). But just creating one in the first place can ensure your entire team knows what to expect when going into the party.
5. Encourage guests
With so many people working from home, they’re spending more and more time with their families, roommates, or even their pets. If someone will be home during your virtual party, encourage your team members to include them.
Some new faces can also create a fun environment. We’re all so used to seeing the same people every work day, so getting to know spouses, kids, or roommates can help you feel closer to coworkers.
6. Set an end time
We’ve all been on those work happy hours that last just a little too long. Everyone is ready to move on to other things, but no one wants to be the first to depart.
Solve that problem by setting an end time for your work party. Max the party out at just an hour or two. At this time, those who want to leave and move on to something else can, but give team members the opportunity to hang out if they want. This way you can give bored colleagues the out they need without shutting down the fun for everyone.
7. Gather feedback
Whether you plan to make virtual parties a regular part of your company culture or not, getting feedback on the experience can help you better understand what your team members want out of these virtual connections.
Send a survey to your team when the event is over (maybe send it a day or two after). Participants can share what they liked, what they didn’t like, if this is something they would want to do regularly, and what they might like to see if you do plan to hold another virtual event.
But if you collect feedback, make sure to learn from it. Apply what your team members tell you they want to see to make sure your future events are as fun and successful as possible.
1. Host a virtual tasting
At this point, we’ve all attended a virtual happy hour or two. But hosting a virtual tasting can take that same concept and make it a little more unique.
Instead of everyone joining your event with their own beverage or snack, you can ship boxes of wine, cocktails, or even treats like cookies or popcorn so everyone on your team gets the same experience. Team members can sample different flavors or mixers and share their favorites:
If you want to take your virtual tasting one step further, hire an expert to guide your team through their samples. For example, a sommelier can educate your team on the kinds of wines they’re sampling, as well as recommend different food pairings or give recommendations based on personal preferences.
2. Hold a holiday costume competition
Hosting a virtual Halloween party—or any party for that matter? Why not take this opportunity to turn it into a costume competition. Asking team members to dress up is a great way to boost creativity and bring something new to your virtual meetups.
Participants can take their decorations up a notch by sprucing up their space. Video parties provide the perfect opportunity for team members to show off their decorating skills, or they can get creative with a virtual background.
Boost morale and introduce some healthy competition by offering a prize to the winner.
3. Send virtual cards
Cards are a staple for showing your team that you care. But when you can’t send a physical card around the office to get all of your team’s signatures, you need to get creative. Thankfully, it’s easy to exchange cards virtually.
There are tons of options available online for sending ecards, and you can even get creative with animated cards. Or, if you want to create something totally unique, you can use a free design tool like Canva to truly customize your card.
To turn this into a virtual party, set up a card exchange where team members are randomly selected to send a colleague a card. Then everyone can show off what they received on a video call.
4. Watch a movie together
This might not be a great option if you have a large team, but for smaller groups, watching the same movie at the same time can create a sense of connection. You can discuss the film, share your thoughts and opinions, and even get the team engaged by holding a poll where participants can vote on the movie they want to watch.
Consider using your team messaging tool to chat during the movie, or allow everyone to watch the film on their own time and get together on a video call to debrief.
Want to make this activity a little more exciting? Turn your debrief into a game. After the movie, hold a Jeopardy-style competition about the film and offer a reward for the winner or winning team.
5. Decorate together
Decorating your office space can be a really fun time, but with remote employees, that experience is lost. To bring some of that joy back to your team, host a virtual decorating party.
There are a few ways you can do this. One way is to let your entire team on a video call while they decorate their home office space. If this seems too overwhelming, host a show-and-tell party where team members have an opportunity to show off their space.
Another option is to spruce up your video calls! Task your team with finding a fun holiday-themed video call wallpaper they can set as their background during your next call.
6. Hold a virtual scavenger hunt
We’re all spending a lot of time in front of the computer, and we’re all starting to feel the effects. If you want to hold a virtual party that doesn’t involve more time in front of the screen, a scavenger hunt is a fun activity to get people up and moving.
Your scavenger hunt can take on any theme you want, such as the city you live in or an upcoming holiday. Create your own list of items or find a fun list online:
Whatever you choose, be mindful of where your team is located and their comfort level with exploring. Make sure some of the list items can be found within their homes, or even create an entirely online scavenger hunt.
You can use your instant messaging tool to share updates and images to keep track of where each team member is on their hunt.
7. Solve a murder mystery
Murder mystery parties are a great way to bring your team together to solve a common problem. Not only is it a good break from day-to-day work activities, but it also strengthens your team’s ability to work together. And now, you can host your own murder mystery party through a video conference.
Don’t worry about needing to plan your own murder mystery—there are a number of services available online that provide background stories, scenarios, and even themes so you can jump right into the fun.
The range of participants for a murder mystery is relatively large, but you can host one with small groups as well. If you have more than 20 or so players, you can even host multi-room games where participants join separate meetings and groups but the story connects, so everyone on your team can get involved.
8. Exchange recipes
Everyone has their own holiday traditions, some of the biggest surrounding food. Encourage your team members to share their favorite dishes in a recipe exchange.
Pair team members up and encourage them to share a recipe, or create a document or instant messaging channel where everyone can upload a link to their favorite holiday dish. Then team members can pick a recipe that they think sounds appealing and try it out themselves.
If anyone does choose to follow a shared recipe, give them an opportunity to show off their finished product! Food can be a great conversation starter.
9. Decorate cookies together
Cookie decorating is an easy yet fun way to bring the team together. If you’re looking for a hands-on activity that team members can do together while keeping their distance, virtual cookie decorations should be at the top of your list.
There are a couple ways you can go about this. The easiest way would be to send your team the resources they need to get their own cookie mix and decorating ingredients. This way everyone gets exactly what they like. Another option is to create gift boxes that you send out to your team containing all the items they’ll need.
Then, on a video call, you and your team can bake and decorate cookies. Encourage everyone to show off their skills.
10. Set up holiday bingo cards
Holiday bingo can be a long-term event leading up to a big date or holiday. For example, if you pass out cards a few weeks before a holiday, team members can fill out their cards in the days leading up to that event. This might include tasks like hearing certain holiday songs or seeing a team member wear an ugly sweater.
Or you can run through bingo cards on a video call, calling out boxes like you would in a typical game. Rather than making the boxes typical numbers and letters, make them unique to your brand, business, or team.
Have prizes ready for the winners. This can help team members stay engaged and competitive.
11. Host a virtual Secret Santa
Secret Santa or white elephant events are a fun way to get in the holiday spirit, but with your team being so spread apart, it can be hard to replicate. Luckily you can set up virtual gift exchanges that work just as well.
Randomly assign team members with a colleague to purchase them a gift. They might send something physical in the mail, or they can send digital gift cards or an online subscription. You could also get creative and gift work-related items, like giving someone the opportunity to pass along an annoying task to another teammate, letting them skip a particular call for a week, or giving them a personal day off.
Have everyone open or share their gifts during a virtual meeting.
12. Compete in holiday trivia
Trivia competitions get team members engaged and bring out their competitive spirit—all while encouraging them to work together as a team. Online trivia can make a virtual party a little more exciting.
Create different categories Jeopardy-style to give team members multiple opportunities to show off their knowledge, or get super specific with your questions and focus just on one topic. You can also have team members compete as teams or individually.
Like the other competitions on this list, bring it up a notch by offering prizes to the winners.
13. Create a virtual photo booth
Photo booths are a fun way to memorialize your in-person event, but when you can’t get the team all together, it’s harder to create those memories. You can create a virtual photo booth to mimic that in-person experience.
There are apps you can use to create your own backgrounds and clip images together, but they’re not necessary. Instead, design a virtual background you can share with your team to add to a video call. Encourage them to bring their own props or costumes.
Then take a screenshot of your virtual party to share on social or distribute to your team.
14. Play charades
You don’t have to all be together to play charades. In fact, it’s pretty easy to play while on a video call.
To make charades holiday themed, include prompts for holiday songs, movies or characters. Just message them individually to the player whose turn it is, and they can act out the prompt on video. Other participants can call out what they believe the turn-taker is acting out.
Not only is this a fun game, but it also encourages communication skills and how to read body language—so it’s great for both a break from work and team building.
15. Escape a virtual room
Escape rooms have been a go-to holiday party for a few years now, and virtual options can be a great replacement. In an escape room game, your team needs to collect and decipher a series of clues before their timer runs out. If you can escape the room in time, you win.
The virtual version brings everyone together in a video call. Your team can use their problem solving skills to work together and escape their “room.”
This is another fun activity that doubles as a great team-building exercise. Get a break from day-to-day business and focus on making your team stronger.
What virtual party idea are you most excited to try?
We’re all looking for better ways to connect. In a time where most of us are more isolated than we’ve ever been, it’s hard. While a virtual party might not have quite the same level of excitement as something in-person, it’s a new, creative way to get to know work colleagues and team members.
There are a lot of virtual party ideas out there—what are you most excited to try?
Originally published Dec 18, 2020