As we are busy tackling end-of-the-year planning, many teams are brainstorming how we approach year-end get-togethers and celebrate the holidays, even if we can't be physically in the same place or even the same time zone.
Being a fully distributed company means reinventing year-end get-togethers for the virtual realm. While we certainly miss mingling in the masses and cheering with colleagues from other departments who have been ever so generous in helping us out whenever needed, virtual celebrations can be tailored to bring in surprising and even new social activities.
At Interprefy, we got together for the Year End Celebrations in 2020 and 2021 virtually, and while a first to many, they resulted in joyful and memorable experiences, that continued to be the talk of the town for months.
Here are our key takeaways from planning a virtual End-of-the-Year Celebration.
1. Start planning early
There are literally thousands of companies and freelancers out there that have found themselves a nice niche in providing entertainment for virtual gatherings, from comedy to music all the way to virtual escape hunts. Planning early will help secure the top entertainers and production partners for your virtual celebration.
Remember also that some of your colleagues may start their holidays early, so make sure to communicate the celebration date early and send out a save the date.
2. Leave enough time in the schedule for social activities
When putting together the program for your celebration, remember that for many this is a unique opportunity to meet colleagues from various departments and have some non-work-related chatter. Virtual fatigue can be a threat to any online event if you ram-pack a 4-hour-long schedule. Try keeping the official program to a digestible duration, adding breaks, networking sessions, or even speed-dating activities to meet up with random colleagues.
3. Get a production team onboard to piece all pieces of the puzzle together
Break-out sessions, presentations, games, photo booths - puzzling all pieces together and creating a seamless experience can be challenging. Getting a virtual event production team on board early will secure glitch-free experiences for all and makes sure you don't have to troubleshoot and can actually enjoy the event yourself.
4. Get an emcee to guide your teams through the program
If you're planning to direct people into multiple areas throughout the event, they need to be clear about what they need to do at any given point. Having an emcee kicking off the celebration, presenting the program, introducing housekeeping rules and getting a bit of laughter in really helps. Last year, we had a fantastic British comedian who kicked off the celebration with an Interprefy-themed song, interviewed our company founder, and kept the engagement high throughout the event.
5. Less is more
Surely, you have tons of incredible ideas for event activities. But remember, while some people may be gathering at their local office, many people may be sitting in front of their computers and get a case of virtual fatigue if it goes on too long.
Make it short, engaging, and memorable, but open-ended for those who would usually be the last ones standing at the bar.
5. Games are a must
Games like virtual escape hunts or pub quizzes can be a great way to entertain your colleagues and bring people from across the globe together into small teams for some team building. At the bottom of this article, you'll find a list of ideas for fun activities.
6. Make your CEO's speech a memorable one
The CEO recapping the year is always a must. Try to support your CEO with ideas for the speech to make it short and memorable. For our celebration last year, we got a graphic designer to turn the speech into a live drawing, while the speech continued. Everyone could watch our CEO speaking and a drawing evolving simultaneously on the screen. This resulted in a beautiful year-re-cap drawing that now decorates a wall in our headquarters.
7. Create an after-party framework
While your official program may last 2-3 hours, many of your colleagues will want to stay on and toast with their colleagues. Last year, we used the virtual video networking app wonder.me which presents a landscape with multiple areas for people to roam around freely, join group video calls, or connect one-to-one.
8. Make it an inclusive and accessible experience
Making sure all your colleagues feel equally included in the event experience is key. You may have colleagues who are not 100% comfortable with their business English. Or some colleagues may have a visual or hearing impairment that could impact their experience. There are many tools that can help you make the celebration an inclusive experience, from platforms offering different colour contrasts and accessibility features, to live captions and live language interpretation.
Fun ideas for your virtual end-of-year staff celebration
- Mixology sessions - Create your own company-themed drinks, send everyone the drink recipes and a shopping list and get a mixologist to teach everyone these cocktails or mocktails live during the event.
- Virtual photo booth - A great way to get a worldwide team picture, but also to do a photo challenge that fits in with your event theme.
- Fun award ceremony - Create fun categories and get teams to vote beforehand so you can award people with tongue-in-cheek awards, such as the "You're still on mute award".
- Talent Show - Showcase hidden talents in your company by giving the stage to a colleague who's got the voice of an angel or challenges Slash's throne.
- Pub quiz - put people in random groups to take part in a pub quiz and award the winning team. A great way to bring people together and foster cross-departmental team spirit.
- Who am I? - Ask your colleagues beforehand to provide a surprising fact about themselves and host a quiz to see how well you know your colleagues.
To sum up: Sky is the limit. Get creative, try to keep it bite-sized, social, fun, entertaining, and ultimately: memorable.
And if you need any help in connecting your colleagues in their own language, please feel free to contact us anytime.