9 tips for an epic virtual holiday party

With virtual and hybrid events dominating our immediate future, the stakes are higher than ever to pull out all the stops for a memorable remote holiday party. The Pineapple Agency plans and executes in person, virtual, and hybrid corporate events, networking events, and launch parties all year long — but we’re the first to admit, holiday parties for virtual teams can be challenging.

Here are our 9 tips to hosting an epic virtual holiday party:

Photo credit: blog.zoom.us

1. Choose your digital platform

This step is, by far, the most important choice you’ll make when it comes to planning a memorable remote holiday party. The big decision is whether conferencing software, a live streaming platform, or a full-blown broadcast production makes the most sense.  

We recommend the standard conferencing platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams for mid-sized gatherings, parties with a more informal structure, or events with budgets less than $40,000. These platforms offer perks like speed to market, user-friendliness, and are relatively inexpensive. 

If you’re working with an agency to put on your remote holiday party, they will likely (and should) recommend a remote operator or cloud-based production. Remote operators for live stream meetings are a key component to higher production value and a well-orchestrated event. Cloud-based productions are the granddaddy of them all. With this production package, you’re getting broadcast-level production that incorporates multiple forms of content delivery and includes a full, dedicated team that will handle A-Z technical production and logistics. If you’re a Fortune 500 company or aspiring to be, this should be your go-to. 

Photo credit: refinepackaging.com

2. The experience starts with the invitation 

Go ahead and splurge a little on some fun physical invitations for your virtual holiday party. Why not go the extra mile and make it a full unboxing experience? If you’re unfamiliar with the unboxing phenom, check this out for some tips on mastering the art. Maybe your invitations tease the theme of the party, give your guest something to wear, or hint at something special happening to get people excited to tune in. Whatever the final approach, don’t overlook this initial touchpoint. 

3. Automate registration, RSVPs, and reminders

This one is mostly about streamlining the scheduling logistics. With so many digital options like Eventbrite, Google Forms, or custom microsites you can set up with an agency partner, you can save yourself the headache and head counting by letting your guests do the work for you. Even something as simple as branding the registration process is a great way to set the tone and build the excitement leading up to the event. 

Photo credit: independent.co.uk

4. Now, let’s talk F+B

The most important ingredient for a good party. Aside from taking the potluck dinner right to people’s doors, you’ve got plenty of great options to give your guests a great holiday spread. Real-time delivery services are going to be your best friend here. Create a company prepaid card or give out gift cards or stipends to use DoorDash or UberEats during the party. As for the beverage, be sure to send out some party care packages beforehand with all the fixings for great cocktail mixers and snacks. This is a great way to send a little token of your appreciation to your employees who’ve taken all the changes of 2020 in stride. 

5. Give a run of show…and stick to it 

A great host always lets guests in on what to expect during the party, i.e. agenda and timeline. It’s an even better experience when you send out the agenda along with registration and then stick with the outlined agenda and timeline. 

As with any party, let your guests know the dress code. Is there a theme? If so, don’t keep that to yourself. Let your guests know with plenty of time in advance to ensure everyone is on the same page and able to participate. That being said, make sure your guests know if they’re expected to be on camera or not. Making sure everyone is on-board with the plan will ensure the night runs as smoothly as possible, given the changing virtual circumstances.

6. Here’s to hosting

As the host, it’s your role to manage the flow of the party and keep it professional. It may be tempting to think you can just let your guests mingle as if it were an in-person party but that simply doesn’t translate well in the virtual space. It can get awkward pretty quickly if no one is leading the charge or multiple people are vying to take lead. 

Additionally, take the time beforehand to give your camera and audio a double check. Roughly 50% of people say what they dislike the most about virtual events is low video quality or low production quality — so don’t underestimate investing in the production value even if it’s “just a virtual holiday party”. Agencies often have all-in-one components or production kits that boost your street credibility as a virtual host — be sure to ask about your options. 

7. Bring on the party games

As much as we believe that you can give the world’s most thrilling monologue, it’s so important to make the event as interactive as possible. 91% of recent survey respondents chose “Keeping members connected” as a primary goal of virtual events. How you have everyone participate is going to be the distinction between a party and a business presentation. 

Throw in some games, trivia for prizes, maybe some voting or polls with high stakes. Some of these ideas can get more complicated than others but event planners and experiential marketing agencies typically have a network of digital partners that can streamline this for you.

8. Find something to celebrate

It’s been a bleak year to say the least but it’s up to you as the host, to dig deep and find some positives. Maybe your company had an increased number of promotions or your customer satisfaction score increased. Maybe Todd, the senior software engineer, finally cut his mullet after 10 years. Whatever it is, find something to celebrate including all those immeasurable things — the loyalty of the company’s employees, the hard work that everyone’s put in, the strength for parents to do full-time parenting, and full-time work, etc. Of course, virtual can’t replace the rambunctious annual holiday party everyone knows and loves, but you can plan it in a way that is at least a good time.

9. Repurpose your budget

On the surface, virtual parties may seem like they’d be less expensive to put on. But in order to host a great virtual company holiday party, you need it to be executed smoothly with no bandwidth issues, crashes, or freezing up. So even though you save on venue costs, a good virtual experience is going to cost you. Put the money that would be going towards the venue and spend it on your guests instead — deliver a thoughtful gift, send a care package of holiday goodies, and maybe a little something extra or unexpected for the year that was plenty extra and unexpected. 

That’s a wrap

Virtual holiday parties may not compare to the real thing, but there are still plenty of ways to make them worth the investment and time so you make your guests feel truly celebrated. However you choose to come together to reflect on the events of the past year, it should be personalized, engaging, and epic in its own way.