If you’ve been tasked with organizing your office holiday party this year, you have our condolences. Usually a highlight of the corporate calendar: free food and a chance to see your colleagues loose on the dance floor? Yes please! This year’s party can be hard to get excited about if it’s virtual, especially when the WFH cycle seems endless. If last year the hastily organized so-called Mid-Lock Zoom didn’t fill workers with joy, don’t worry: there are ways to make a virtual party legitimately fun.
That is precisely why Taryn Herritt and Angela Osborne from The collective Atelier, an educational platform for women entrepreneurs, launched “Vacation Experiences” this year. In collaboration with the Toronto virtual events company King events, the experiences are immersive, customizable virtual parties that transport guests to luxurious surroundings, such as Lake Louise or a Fairmont hotel, for live entertainment, real food (delivered to your door), and fun activities.
“We saw what happened with last year’s vacation, where it all worked out, and it just wasn’t the kind of beautiful experience that people expect at the end of the year,” Herritt says. “Our goal was to turn this around and create something that excites you.”
CB asked Herritt and Osborne for their expert advice on hosting your own virtual office party that employees will really want to attend. This is what they said.
Add layers to your event
The most important thing to keep in mind with a virtual party is to make sure it’s not a “one-dimensional screen-time event,” Herritt says. That’s why it’s important to make sure your event has what she calls “layers.”
Atelier Collective’s experiences are all destination-based, meaning you enter the virtual lobby of, say, Toronto’s iconic Fairmont Royal York hotel, and then take you to a musical performance by Duel pianos“Always a hit with customers,” and then welcome to a cocktail class with a mixologist. In other words, the events are attractive.
For your event, that engagement could involve, say, a wine and cheese pairing hosted by a sommelier where ingredients are delivered to employees’ homes in advance. If you are in the greater Toronto area, Chef and Somm They offer an unpretentious experience (I don’t “try unicorn and teak notes”) and have the permits to legally deliver bottles of wine to the doors of the participants.
If you want to keep the tradition of fine dining alive, work with a provider that specializes in virtual events, such as Daniel and Daniel in Toronto, for example, or The lazy gourmet in Vancouver, to create a set menu. The food will be shared with your guests beforehand, allowing them to choose their dishes and receive them just in time for when you will seat people at their virtual tables, which can be rooms for groups of six to eight people.
“The purpose is to make you feel like you are somewhere other than your home office,” says Herritt. Osborne adds that the festive feeling can start before the party by setting an exciting dress code or creating a playlist that guests can listen to in advance.
Give people things to do together
You want to keep people engaged and activate their senses, says Osborne. The activities are perfect for this, and the group options are endless – casino night, cookie decorating, or wine tastings – all enhanced by building what Atelier Collective calls an “experience box.” It’s essentially a home delivery packed with items that will turn a 1-D video call into a 3-D sensory experience.
Based in Halifax Black bow gift cofor example, lets you build a custom box or linen bag filled with Canadian-made goodies like artisan popcorn (perfect for a movie-themed trivia night) or a cute spatula if you’re hosting a decorating session of cookies. In Toronto, Paint booth host virtual paint parties and send a box full of all the paints and brushes (plus optional surprise treats) to the door.
For the Atelier Collective Fairmont Lake Louise experience, the box contains an evergreen candle that smells of mountains, a cozy blanket to snuggle in, and a s’mores kit. “There has to be a purpose for these articles,” Herritt emphasizes. “It’s not just something with a logo that goes into a box.”
Experiences can also be done with very little money. If you are on a smaller budget, you can give your guests an ingredient list to keep items on hand for the event. Employers can also build their own boxes or provide workers with a gift card.
Consider your workplace culture
Like any successful event, you need to get to know your guests and organize an event that they will really enjoy. “Your goal is to celebrate and bring people together and make them feel valued. How what really matters, ”says Herritt.
This could mean making sure your virtual party is at a time that works for your team and includes an activity that everyone can enjoy. If someone doesn’t drink alcohol, for example, make sure there are zero-proof options if you have a craft cocktail class. Because work often infiltrates our personal lives these days, be sure to respect workers’ time. Throwing a party during the day is a good option, says Osborne, which does not interfere with childcare or personal conflicts.
However, if you’re opting for a gala setting, complete with champagne and a gourmet food delivery, the evening might make more sense. “That way, people can loosen up a bit more. It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. ” Osborne says.
If you have a business where people can have children at home, don’t forget the little ones. “We had an event where the children could also participate in the cooking class,” Herritt says.
Create opportunities for interaction
Try designing your event so that people have different ways of connecting, which is often what people miss the most about the social aspect of a party. Workers enjoy meeting colleagues from other areas of the company or seeing their co-workers outside of the boardroom.
“It can’t be the same way all night,” Herritt says, noting that it’s often worth assigning people a party moderator / initiator role. “At dinner, each of the meeting rooms should have a host who can welcome people and include everyone in the conversation.”
By the way, eight to 10 people is the optimal number for smaller group talks, and be sure to include breaks, especially if the food portion is longer than an hour.
But like all good parties, the fun must come to an end. “Three hours is your sweet spot if you have those layered activities,” says Osborne.
“It’s long enough that you feel like you’re entering an experience, but it’s not long enough that you feel fatigued from being in front of your screen.”