How to Plan a Virtual Holiday Office Party in 2020

Here are a few easy tips on how to fire up a fun virtual holiday office party in 2020.

You hang up the Zoom call. The last words from a colleague are, “I’m so tired of being on video calls.”The next call, you find out you’re in charge of the virtual holiday office party and you need to make it fun. Do not panic. We are here for you. Below find some easy and fun ways to deliver a great party and stay true to your company culture. (If you need a bigger dose of help, we’re here for that, too).

Remember the Goal

The first thought for many is: can we just skip it this year? The answer is no. In fact, it’s more important than ever to find a way to celebrate given how difficult this year has been. The truth is that with a little pivot (this should be the tagline for 2020: a little pivot) you can create something special and give your co-workers or colleagues a small bright spot in their year. The next thing to remember is to keep it simple. That takes the pressure off of you and off of everyone attending.

Questions to Get You Started

Some of you are organizing virtual parties for hundreds of people. Others are working with smaller groups of 50 or less. And still others own small businesses where they want to make it special for a handful of people. If you’re a larger company, you’ll definitely need Zoom or Google Hangout. Or, if you’re a small business and don’t have either of those, FaceTime or WhatsApp will do. Anything that allows you to connect easily and seamlessly. Next, no matter the size group, you can calibrate many of these ideas and figure out which ones fit with your culture. First take a moment to ponder a few basic questions. Would your group prefer a virtual event that is:

  1. Light-hearted and fun (drinks, games, laughing, comradery)?
  2. Purpose driven (short and sweet, filled with gratitude, maybe even a catalyst for giving back to the community or another organization in need)?
  3. Or both?

The Invite

If you’re a large or small organization you might have an email platform and in-house designer(s) that can help create something simple but special to send as an invite. If you don’t, or you want to do something different this year, you can ask a group in your organization to help send old-fashioned invitations in the mail. It’s a nice touch to blend “old with new” since the invite will lead to a virtual party. Pro Tip: and other sites are offering free and expedited shipping.

Let’s Get Their Attention

Aside from the who, what, when, where, and how in the invite, pick one or two things you think will be the best teaser to get someone’s attention. Examples:

  • Join us as we offer a (burnt) toast to 2020 🙂
  • Join us as we reveal a celebrity at this year’s virtual holiday party!
  • Join us and our favorite real-life llama for this year’s holiday office party.

Pick one idea that will drive your event. Then put a few personal touches around the main idea. You might want to ask guests in the invite to do something before the event or to come to the event with something specific (see details below).

Surprise and Delight

Here are a few ideas you can do with any size group.

  1. Encourage everyone to block their calendars for 15 minutes before the party. Make a “no meetings” rule so that people have time to get into the right mindset and prepare for the party. This is also the perfect time for everyone to prep their drink (if it’s that kind of party).
  2. Invite guests to use virtual backgrounds. We love this idea! Include a link in the invite that asks people to set up a real or virtual holiday or winter-themed background for an extra touch of festivity. If you have a smaller group, you could do a grand reveal by having people enter the meeting with their camera turned off. Think of this as the decorations at an in-person party. Learn more about how to create and use these video backgrounds on Zoom.
  3. Get festive with your clothing, too! It’s easy to ask people to wear their favorite holiday attire: let them pick anything from their favorite ugly holiday sweater to whatever makes them feel festive.
  4. Encourage people to bring a hot chocolate, favorite tea, hot toddy, or other festive holiday drink “to the party.” All of these are little touches people might not think about, but are easy for them to do.

Light-hearted and Fun Party Ideas

It’s been a heavy year so it’s okay to keep things light when it comes to the end-of-the-year party. Here are some fun ideas to power any holiday party.

  • Hire a llama to join your party. Yes, a llama, because 2020. If you haven’t heard of this, you’re in for a treat. There’s a few farms that will allow you to invite a goat or llama to your virtual meeting. This CNN article explains how the nonprofit “Goat 2 meeting” launched in March 2020 as a way to educate and put smiles on people’s faces.
  • Looking for someone to host the event and deliver content? Check out turnkey resources dedicated to online parties.The Go Game is a great resource. They offer up to 50 featured holiday games with curated content, live hosts, DJs, keynote stream capabilities, networking video chats, and the list goes on. They’ve worked with thousands of companies, including Google, Salesforce, Nike, and more. As they say, gather 10 to 1,500 of your favorite work humans (and some you just want to beat in a game or two!) for an online celebration.
  • Scavenger hunt. “Find me a book by a female author. Ready, go!” This is the virtual go-to game of 2020, but that doesn’t mean it’s played out. Feel free to come up with some weirdscavenger huntitems and see where the night goes. This game is sure to produce some laughs—just remember to tell your co-workers to be safe and watch out for toe-stubbing corners!
  • Hold a Christmas cookie recipe exchange. Have people bring their baked cookies and their recipe to the party for show and tell and share! Or, smaller groups can decorate as a team using cookie kits from local bakeries. Or, if you don’t have access to local check out Sweet Ambs, Billy’s Bakery, or others from Etsy.
  • Escape the room. This popular team-building activity has been adapted for virtual parties. It’s now streaming with live game hosts (see Puzzle Break and Mystery Escape Room), but you can also explore cities, solve mysteries, and more.
  • Finish that lyric. This is a classic, but only for the bold. This game is where one person plays a song and pauses the music before the lyrics finish. Can the person ‘on the mic’ get the lyrics right? Are they actually a good singer? Will their wrong answer be hilarious?
  • Remix: Have a New Year’s celebration instead. One could say there’s never been a better year to celebrate a new year. This remixed edition of a holiday party could be just what your team needs to light the spark ahead of January. Plus it technically doesn’t have to be on New Year’s Eve. Have fun with it!
  • Hands-on fun. Do you work with some artsy folks? Buy and send everyone a craft project and do it together over snacks and drinks from home. Many local shops offer art kits or you can buy them online. Virtual crafts are a blast!
  • Fun or funny department awards. Create a faux awards banquet where unique or silly awards are presented to every team member. This could be an opportunity to have a bit of a roast (if you feel comfortable) or give it a serious and grateful tone to let your employees know how much you appreciate them. Be creative! And, if you want to take it to the next level have awards made and ship them to guests after the event.

Purpose-Driven Party Ideas

For some organizations, hosting a party that is short and sweet, but big on gratitude and giving back is a better fit. There are fun and easy ways to make this an event that drives donations to local or national charities. A few options:

  • At Meld, we asked each team member to designate a charity of their choice and then we donated to that organization in the team member’s name. If you take this route you can ask team members to share who they picked and why.
  • Larger organizations may want to create a “curbside drop off” gift zone at the office. Designate where the donations will go: to a local food bank, Toys for Tots, United Way, etc. Before the party, ask team members to drop off designated items. At the party, announce the total amount of items or dollars given and hold a toast.
  • If you want to simplify the donation idea and just have employees enjoy the party, consider making a donation to an entity that means something to the group. Then surprise your teams at the holiday party by announcing what the donation will benefit and why. The more personal you can make this, the better.

Express gratitude and thanks

No matter what size of party you’re hosting, remember it doesn’t cost anything for the leadership to say thank you and express gratitude. Starting off with this is the best way to ensure it happens. If you want to give others an opportunity to share their gratitude, there are plenty of ways to do it.

  • If you have a large organization, departments can work together before the party to create a list and then designate someone to read what their team is grateful for.
  • If you are a small group, allow each person to reflect on their year—both personally and professionally. This will help to build a stronger team as you move into 2021 and help us all focus more on the positives in our lives. We need to do this now more than ever!

Final Words of Advice as You Plan Your Parties

Remember, the grass is always greener where you water it.Want your virtual holiday party to be great? Put time and effort into it. Do you work at a bigger company? Get a team together to plan this shindig. With some thought and planning, you can make this year extra memorable. Need help thinking through the creative side of your virtual holiday party? Contact usand let us know how we can help. Happy holidays from your friends at Meld!

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