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virtual events

How To Decide If A Hybrid Holiday Party Is the Best Idea For Your Team

If your company is planning a holiday party this year, one of the first questions you will face is whether to host it online or as a traditional in-person celebration. But why not offer both in one experience?

That’s right, we’re talking about a hybrid workplace holiday party. The ultimate way to provide your team total autonomy in how they celebrate the holiday season with their colleagues, either online or in-person. 

A hybrid holiday party could be a great choice for your team, but there are unique hurdles and considerations involved when planning any sort of hybrid gathering. 

To help expedite your holiday party planning, let’s explore if a hybrid holiday party is right for your team and our tips for hosting a hybrid party will delight everyone. 

How To Decide If You Should Host a Hybrid Holiday Party 

What is the true purpose of a company holiday party? To celebrate your team, of course.

Your team members and their preferences should be top-of-mind throughout every step of your holiday party planning. A hybrid party could give them the much-needed freedom of choice for how to engage in the festivities. This is even more important if your company has a number of geographically dispersed locations that usually didn’t get to celebrate the end of the year together.

To understand if a hybrid holiday party is a good option for your team, we recommend you directly ask them. Gauge whether they are interested in a remote company holiday party, if they’d rather celebrate the season from the comfort of your office, or if they are flexible for either option. Also, check on their preferred activities during a holiday party in their preferred format. 

Beyond your team preferences, the following considerations will also impact whether a hybrid holiday party is a good fit for your company. Of course, these questions are also valid when planning a virtual holiday party, but they are amplified in hybrid settings:

  • How geographically dispersed is your team? You need to find a time that works for your whole team to meet, which could be difficult if your team spans multiple time zones.
  • Will in-person attendees drop out on the day of? Unforeseen circumstances like extreme weather or individual team member needs could lead to last-minute cancellations for the in-person event. 
  • What is your holiday party budget? Virtual parties can be more affordable than an in-person equivalent, especially if your team is known to host extravagant parties at exclusive (and expensive to book) locations. 

3 Tips for Hosting a Hybrid Holiday Party for Work

If your team decides that a hybrid holiday party will best fulfill everyone’s needs and work within your budget, there are a few planning considerations to be aware of.

First, familiarize yourself with the steps for planning an engaging virtual holiday party, which we detailed recently on the blog. Then, follow these best practices to ensure you plan a hybrid party that creates a cohesive and fun experience for everyone

Create a Seamless In-Person and Virtual Experience

The worst way to plan a hybrid party is to prioritize the in-person experience and simply add an option for people to stream the experience—leaving them to sit and stare at their screen as the in-person guests mix and mingle.

Everyone at your holiday party should have the same activities and opportunities, regardless of how they choose to join. This starts with your lineup of activities, and we share 10 workplace holiday party games great for a virtual or hybrid holiday party

Further build this sense of cohesion by replicating your in-person experiences for an online setting. If you plan to serve food and drink at your party, mail your virtual guests gift cards to acquire their own snacks. Or, send them goodies beforehand. If you have a photo booth at your event, consider creating custom webcam backgrounds to replicate a photo booth experience for your virtual guests. 

Designate a Delegate for Virtual Guests

For your hybrid holiday party to work, you need at least one on-site team member dedicated to engaging with the virtual attendees and ensuring they feel part of the experience. This person can monitor for messages from the remote attendees, help them overcome any communication difficulties, and grab the attention of the in-person group when needed.

The delegate will also be vital in helping orchestrate any of the games or activities you choose to participate in. 

Create Breakout Spaces to Mingle

At a traditional in-person holiday party, your team members often flock to small group conversations that they casually hop in and out of at their leisure. At a hybrid party, you do not want your in-person attendees to completely ignore your virtual guests.

In your virtual event platform, create breakout rooms with conversation prompts and others with room themes for your virtual attendees to join. Then, set up a few laptops and webcams throughout your event space for the in-person guests to come up to, chat with the virtual guests, and move through the computers over the course of the event. Again, your virtual guest delegate will be helpful to encourage the in-person guests to engage with the virtual attendees.

Hybrid Event Technology Enables Fulfilling Holiday Parties

We expect many teams will explore hybrid workplace and personal celebrations this year, be it a hybrid Christmas party, Kwanzaa celebration, or general holiday shindig. These event planners will need to overcome an unfamiliar set of challenges, but the fact is that the future of work is hybrid. And the future of celebrations will likely be hybrid, too.

By hosting a hybrid holiday party, your team can learn how to best overcome the hurdles of these gatherings and build a foundation to plan all of your workplace gatherings in 2022.

One of the essential ways to enable a successful hybrid event is to invest in technology that was created with your team’s experience in mind. Social hour was built to enable genuine engagement, with the features and capabilities your team needs to host a successful workplace party.

Learn more about what makes Social hour the ideal platform for virtual workplace holiday parties and try it out for free today.

Categories
virtual events

How to Throw a Virtual Holiday Party Your Employees Will Love

What will company holiday parties look like in 2021? 

Despite an initial revival of in-person events this year, few tech companies will host in-person holiday celebrations in an effort to protect the health of their teams. Instead, more brands will host virtual holiday parties this year, in which the usual festivities like a gift exchange, holiday games, and company messages are coordinated through an online event platform—and we expect to see some incredibly inventive celebrations.

To help you adapt your company holiday party for an online environment, let’s explore how to host a virtual holiday party that your team will actually want to join. 

How to Plan a Virtual Workplace Holiday Party in Seven Steps

We recommend you start planning your virtual holiday party at least three weeks out from your potential party date. If you have less time than that, though, don’t worry—these seven steps will fast-track your ability to plan an engaging online holiday party for your team.

Step 1: Designate a Lead

Just like any other event planning process for your team, you should designate one person to oversee the holiday party planning process. In most cases, this will be a member of your human resources or executive support teams.

This event planning lead will help manage deadlines, pull in team support as needed, and partner with various departments to gain the necessary approvals and resources (like a budget). 

If you are designated the lead for your holiday party planning—don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think, and you don’t have to do everything yourself. Which leads us to our next step…

Step 2: Form a Holiday Party Planning Committee

Depending on the size of your company, the holiday planning lead should create a committee with at least one or two other team members. Again, these team members will most likely be from human resources or administrative support teams, because they typically have experience with workplace event planning.

However, encourage any member of your team to join the committee if they would like to. The holiday season may be the favorite time of year for some of your colleagues, and they can infuse a natural excitement and sense of delight into your planning.

Step 3: Survey Your Team’s Holiday Party Wishes

Do you want to know the not-so-secret way to ensure you host a great workplace holiday party? Use feedback from your team members to guide your planning.

The worst way to throw a holiday party is to force everyone to attend at an assigned day and time that they had no influence in choosing, especially if it is after normal business hours. 

Create a quick survey for your team through Google Forms or your preferred surveying tool. At a minimum, cover these essential areas:

  • Would you like to attend a company holiday party? Or would you prefer time off, a holiday bonus, or a charitable gift in your name instead?
  • What are your ideal days of the week and times for a holiday party?
  • What days or times can you not attend a holiday party?
  • Are you interested in a voluntary company-wide gift exchange or similar activity?
  • What would you like to do at the virtual holiday party? Select your top 3 preferences:
    • Open conversation with colleagues in a large group setting
    • Open conversation with colleagues in small-groups
    • Structured, longer group activities 
    • Short, high-energy activities that take just a few minutes each
    • Gift exchange
    • Hands-on cooking or crafting class
    • Other (please explain):
  • Is there anything else we should know to make this event great for you? 

In addition to your survey results, have 1:1 conversations with team members to further explore their hopes for the holiday party. All of this information will help you understand how many team members will attend, gather ideas for the best virtual holiday party activities to host, and the technical requirements to accomplish them.

Step 4: Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform

The technology you choose to host your virtual holiday party can easily make or break the experience. Keep your attendee wishes top-of-mind as you explore options, and find a solution that enables your attendees to meaningfully connect and mingle. 

You will ask many questions similar to what you’d ask when picking an ideal virtual conference platform, including:

  • What type of customization is available?
  • How many attendees can this platform support?
  • Does the price scale with attendance?
  • Are there custom breakout rooms for attendees to network? Is there a limit to the number of these rooms?
  • Are there built-in networking components?

Step 5 (Optional): Designate a Theme

If desired, you can now pick a theme for your holiday party to influence the activities you host (we’ll dive into that next), what your team will wear, and how you design your invitations.

A theme is a “nice-to-have” element that is completely optional. If this is your first year hosting a virtual holiday party, it may be best to skip the theme and focus solely on meeting the needs of your attendees (unless a theme is a must-have for them). 

If you’re looking for inspiration on what theme to pick for a holiday workplace party, this article has a handful of themes and activities you can explore.

Step 6: Build an Agenda of Activities

This is where the real fun happens! Now that you have everyone’s feedback in-hand, and know what functionality is available to you, your holiday party planning committee can determine your holiday party’s activities.

Save the first 10 minutes of your holiday party for everyone to log-in and get familiarized with the platform. Then, kick off your celebration with a brief welcome from a member of your company leadership or your holiday party planning committee.

Depending on how long your party is and what your team has expressed in your pre-event conversations, you should offer a combination of open networking rooms and structured activities to appeal to the range of your team’s needs.

To help you, we’ve created a list of 10 workplace virtual holiday party games that work great online, with details on how to approach each of them. 

Step 7: Invite team members

You’re almost there! The last step to planning a holiday party is to get the word out to your team.

Ideally, you should send emails to each employee to personally invite them to the holiday party. Include the date, time, and log-in instructions, as well as any details about the series of events and how they should prepare. Send a calendar invitation to all team members once the email invitations are sent. 

Ask everyone to RSVP as soon as they know whether or not they can attend. Follow up with anyone you have not heard back two days after sending your initial email and invitations. 

Throw Your Best Holiday Party Ever on Social hour

By using feedback from your teammates to build your virtual holiday party experience, you are more likely to host an event that your team will genuinely love.

If this is your first time hosting a virtual holiday party, do not stress about making the experience perfect. Instead, focus on opportunities to celebrate your team and enable them to connect with one another in the capacity of their choosing.

We’ve built Social hour to support holiday parties for teams of any size, with fully customizable spaces that give your employees the flexibility and freedom they deserve at your party. Learn more about what makes Social hour the ideal platform for virtual workplace holiday parties and try it out for free today.

Categories
virtual events

10 Activities for a More Festive Virtual Holiday Party

The holidays are just around the corner! Is your team planning a workplace holiday celebration?

Although many work holiday parties were curtailed in 2020, teams now have a much better understanding of how to host a fulfilling online team event—and that includes the classic workplace holiday party.

To help your company plan an online holiday party that your team will actually want to attend, let’s explore how you can adapt 10 common holiday party activities for a virtual setting. 

Online Workplace Holiday Party Activity Ideas

Before you get too far in your holiday party planning, be sure to talk to your team and understand what they are looking for in a virtual holiday celebration. Gauge the ideal day, time, and length of the party, as well as what activities everyone is interested in and how they’d like to celebrate the season with each other. 

While there certainly should be some element of mystery or holiday surprise, you should gently gather the key information to guide your virtual holiday party planning. 

Consider adding any of these activities to the lineup to make your virtual holiday party one that your team will love:

Cookie Swap

What says “I appreciate you” more than a homemade or gourmet bakery cookie? Cookie swaps are a holiday-time favorite, and you can easily host a virtual cookie swap during your workplace holiday party. 

Depending on how dispersed your team is, you can approach this a few different ways:

  • The most straightforward option is to encourage your team members to bake or buy their seasonal favorites and drop them off with a local team member. This person will collect everyone’s baked goods and then mail them out or drop them off. However, this idea works best if your team primarily works out of the same city.
  • Alternatively, your team can share holiday cookie recipes for everyone to bake before the party. Then, you can spend a portion of the get-together discussing everyone’s recipes, sharing a story associated with each recipe, and enjoying the baked goods. This option is a perfect one if you have team members with special dietary needs or food allergies.

Cooking or Other DIY Classes

A hands-on cooking lesson or similar crafting or do-it-yourself class—like painting, soap making, or creating air plant terrariums—is a naturally engaging activity for your workplace holiday party. If a member of your team is an outstanding chef with a holiday recipe they’d love to share or a hands-on crafter, ask if they would like to host or co-host the class. Alternatively, you can hire a professional chef or crafter to lead the online activity. If you choose to host this yourself, first determine what DIY activity your team is most interested in and then mail the supplies to them ahead of your party. 

Gingerbread Decorating Kits

Do you want a casual activity for everyone to work on as they celebrate the holidays? Host a gingerbread decorating party or competition! Mail gingerbread decorating kits to your team, and have everyone work on their houses throughout the online holiday party. You can create breakout rooms for people to rotate through as they catch up with their colleagues, show off their gingerbread creations, and get some well-deserved catching-up time.

Holiday Virtual Happy Hour 

Who’s ready for drinks?! Traditional in-person holiday parties often feature fun and festive drinks for everyone to enjoy. Mail your team non-alcoholic supplies (branded Yeti wine tumblers make a nice gift) plus a BevMo, Costco, or similar gift card for them to purchase alcohol or other beverages. Create recipe cards that explain how to make a few seasonal drinks. Bonus points if your team submits their seasonal favorites for everyone to try! If you need ideas, check out this list of 50 holiday cocktails or these 15 holiday mocktail recipes.

Tabletop Game or Card Game

Sometimes the best holiday party games are the most simple. Consider hosting a tabletop game or a card game for everyone to play in breakout groups. There are 12 potential board games to play in this article, while PlayingCards.io is one option for hosting a virtual card game. 

Trivia Game

Trivia is perfect for an online holiday party. Create breakout rooms in your virtual holiday party platform so that each team can collaborate. Designate one spokesperson from each team to share answers, or create Google Forms that teams will submit their answers through. You can host any theme for this trivia. You can keep it holiday-focused with a theme like classic holiday movies, name that holiday tune, or holidays around the world. Or you can explore any theme that will delight your team (and you can ask them during your pre-event planning conversations). 

Scavenger Hunt 

A virtual scavenger hunt can be a high-energy activity for teams, especially if there is a prize to win. Create a list of items that most of your team members should have at home, including some obscure or lesser-found items. Read off the item and ask everyone to go grab that item if they have it. Whoever returns the fastest wins.

Another way you can approach this game is to deliver a series of clues that will take your team across the internet or throughout locations in their homes. Then, give them 10 minutes to work through the list and take a photo or screenshot of what they think each clue is referencing. 

“Ugly Sweater” Contest

It’s not the holidays without a holiday sweater contest. Make your online workplace holiday party a little extra special by encouraging everyone to dress to a theme. Designate a portion of your party for everyone to show off their costumes. You can designate a “winner” based on team votes (just don’t let people vote for themselves).

Virtual Escape Room

Escape rooms skyrocketed in popularity over the past couple of years, especially as a go-to team-building activity. Now, you can host a virtual escape room, too! Check out this article for 24 possible rooms to explore, with details on pricing for each. 

Virtual Holiday Party Gift Exchange

A staple of most workplace holiday celebrations is the gift exchange. No matter how your team usually describes its gift-giving—Secret Santa, White Elephant, homemade gifts only—you can easily host a gift exchange during an online holiday party.

Provide pre-paid shipping labels to your team and set a deadline of no longer than 2 weeks before your party for team members to ship their gifts. During the event, take time for everyone to open their gifts, potentially in small-group breakouts if you have many people attending the party. 

Pick a Virtual Holiday Party Platform That Puts Your Team At The Heart of the Experience

The 10 ideas we explored are just a few thought starters for hosting an engaging virtual holiday party. Consider these activities when discussing your holiday party plans with your team and gauging what they would like to do. 

Throughout your planning, remember the true purpose of an online workplace holiday party: to celebrate your team and provide an optional space to come together.

If you force everyone to attend your holiday party only to maroon them in a sub-par online meeting platform, their holiday spirits will instantly dampen. You need to pick an online event platform that gives your team the flexibility they need to hop in and out of rooms, network in small-group settings, and occasionally join as a full team for any announcements from your leadership (are bonuses on the horizon?).

We’ve built Social hour to host engaging online holiday parties for teams of all sizes. Our platform allows you to create fully customizable holiday events with networking spaces, full-group discussion spaces, and intuitive features that your team will love. Book a demo to see how easy it is to host your holiday party with Social hour.