How to Host a Virtual Party for Your Employees/Staff

Source: Kay Scanlon / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images

With the holiday season upon us, many employers are looking for innovative ways to celebrate their employees in the new digital space while continuing to foster their company culture and existing organizational traditions.

Here at 9Dot, our Events and Communications team has been hard at work pivoting our annual schedule of events to a virtual format, so we asked them to put together a list of their tips and most valuable lessons to help others taking on virtual events during these times.

  1. Think Outside the Box

The first thing to consider is if your company’s traditional event will translate to a digital format. Employees may look forward to your holiday photo booth, bingo tournament, or cookie exchange all year long, but some of these in-person favorites don’t work quite as well over Zoom. This is why thinking outside of the box is key.

Rather than trying to recreate your in-person experiences online, try finding ways to reinvent or try something new. This year, our Events Team took a company favorite, our Gratitude and Giving event which has traditionally been a potluck, and turned it into a virtual cooking class.

9Dot’s Gratitude and Giving Virtual Event- Cooking Class (Source: 9Dot)

Employees were provided with a list of supplies and ingredients prior to the event, and had the opportunity to cook alongside a trained chef while learning valuable kitchen skills and techniques as they prepared a new favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

The attendees provided wonderful feedback about the event and are looking forward to another chance to learn some new dishes in the future.

By finding inventive ways to bring your employees together in a virtual setting, you will create the space for connection and culture building among your workforce while providing a memorable experience that helps employees feel valued and appreciated.

2. Take the Extra Step

Moving an event out of the “real world” and into the digital space, particularly those meant to celebrate as a group, naturally becomes a bit more impersonal and less special for everyone. One way to capture online the magic of a memorable in-person event is to supplement the digital with the analog.

For example, mailing out creative save-the-dates, thoughtful gifts ahead of the event, or objects to be used in a group activity, like shelf-stable recipe ingredients or art supplies.

Thank you cards sent to every employee at 9Dot Education Solutions. (Source: 9Dot)

Because acts of service are very important to our employees at 9Dot, we were certain that as an organization we wanted to make the effort to find alternative ways to collectively give back to our community this holiday season even though most of our workforce is now remote.

With a little creativity, our Events Supervisor put together a fantastic Drive Thru Food Drive, allowing employees to donate pantry staples to one of our county’s largest food banks, while taking a moment for a masked selfie and an individually wrapped slice of pumpkin pie as a thank you.

Thanksgiving Drive-Thru Canned Food Drive (Source: 9Dot)

The turnout for the food drive was far better than we had anticipated, and several employees shared that they were sincerely grateful that we had found a way to put this on.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

There are so many aspects that make a virtual event different from an in-person one. First, there are the obvious pieces, but there are also other considerations to take in. For example, hosts have to account for the lack of casual conversations with colleagues while waiting for activities to begin. There can also be the void of natural responses (good or bad) from your audience which would allow a speaker to “read the room” during a presentation.

But there are also the less obvious differences that can really catch you off guard if you aren’t prepared ahead of time. Some of these examples include: technical difficulties or internet & connection issues during your event or presentation, the functionality of platforms like Zoom, Meet, or Teams and how easy it may or may not be to perform basic functions on the fly, and the lack of ambient noise, resulting in total silence when someone is not presenting or interacting with attendees. All of these factors make for a very different experience for both those presenting and those attending as a guest.

We have found that online events should be treated like a production, no matter how large or small, which requires extra attention to the technical details.

Because these events aren’t in person, we have little wiggle room for error or unexpected things that we would easily be able to fix in person. Rehearsals & technical run throughs have absolutely been the key to our success. We have started running through the possible scenarios to avoid surprises, as well as having guided questions or activities to have attendees participate in the chat function should we need a moment to troubleshoot an issue.

In addition, we have been very intentional about inserting music at key points between activities to lessen the less than ideal silent moments. The event itself may seem as though it was extremely simple to execute, which is exactly what we want the participant to feel, but we have learned that practicing the event from start to finish really has produced better results for our employees and clients’ overall experience.

In Conclusion

For many businesses across the globe, the virtual workspace, in many ways, is here to stay.

Although online events will never replace the magic of an in person experience, we do encourage you to explore ways to make the digital space work for you and your organization.

There are hundreds of new and exciting options available, from guided chocolate tastings to virtual escape rooms, that can assist you in creating an impactful and memorable experience, leaving your employees feeling appreciated and valued.

So start thinking outside the box, go the extra mile for your employees, and put on the best virtual event they have ever attended.

We specialize in providing back-office services for businesses, charter schools and nonprofit organizations.