As an internal comms manager or executive assistant organising the company Christmas party is probably top of your ‘to do’ list right now. Planning a virtual Christmas party may seem pretty straightforward but just like a live event it needs a lot of careful thinking – and you have to fit it all in alongside your usual workload. Don’t despair! Grab a coffee, take time out and read on to find out how to throw a virtual Christmas party that every employee will enjoy. In this article we will cover:
Start planning as early as possible. Work backwards from the party date to plan your schedule. For instance:
- One week before – check all elements of the event have been finalised and arrange rehearsal.
- Two weeks before – all suppliers to be fully briefed, slides/animations etc finalised.
- One month before – suppliers booked, purchase orders sent.
- Two months before – source suppliers.
You’ll also need to allow time for enlisting the help of colleagues or finding an event management company that can support and relieve you of much of the stress of organising. The amount of planning time available will also largely dictate what is achievable on the day. For instance, if you only have a few weeks in which to organise everything but hoped to send every attendee a branded gift or items for a specific activity, you may have to think again – these things take time to arrange and deliveries during the Christmas period can be delayed.
Getting the timing right
Inevitably you won’t be able to get it right for everybody, diaries do get booked up in the run up to Christmas but try to set a time and date that suits the majority.
Time of day will influence numbers. Holding a Christmas party during the morning won’t feel particularly special or exciting, so the choice really comes down to an afternoon or evening event. With this in mind you may need to consider your company demographic. Is your company full of young 20-somethings who will be happy to give up an evening? Or are there more employees who have family commitments and may struggle to attend a virtual Christmas party that coincides with putting the kids to bed?
The duration of the party is another consideration. We generally advise that 1.5-2.5 hours is a good length of time. Any longer and you risk people losing interest and becoming disengaged, which would then mean that budget is being wasted. Keeping things short and punchy will help keep attention and levels of engagement high.
If you have offices in various countries and are worried that people will miss out because of the time difference, don’t be! We’ve worked with international companies that have proved it’s possible to ensure the entire workforce can enjoy the company virtual Christmas party.
Don’t forget to confirm the date to everyone. Part of your planning process should include communicating with attendees, from sending out invites and providing details of how to join the party to email reminders as the date gets closer.
Choosing the right platform
Choosing the best platform for your virtual Christmas party will depend on the kind of event you’re planning. Do you want everyone to be visible on screen? A video conference platform such as Zoom or Teams will take care of that. Are you thinking of a sophisticated broadcast-style event, more like a TV programme, which will require a bespoke online event platform? Do you need virtual breakout rooms for different activities? Will there be a mix of live and recorded content?
Perhaps the most important question of all is what technical support will you require? Don’t be tempted to think that you can manage everything yourself. You’ll need to assemble a team of people who can help take responsibility for the various aspects of the event. Do you have internal resources with experience of this kind of technology? Bear in mind that this may mean that you and your team won’t be able to participate in the Christmas party you’ve worked so hard to create. Having an event management company as a technical partner to deliver your virtual Christmas party means you can enjoy yourself as much as any other attendee. They will be able to advise on the best and most appropriate platform, they have the technical wizardry to make everything run smoothly and you don’t have to worry about technical hitches.
Structuring your virtual Christmas party
We’ve already mentioned that a virtual Christmas party shouldn’t run on for hours. It’s all about keeping audience attention and ensuring they are engaged throughout. Think magazine-format TV shows – they tend to comprise a series of short segments with links between to keep viewers watching and keen for the next item. The advantage you have is that you can incorporate participation rather than attendees being passive observers throughout the event.
A good balance can be achieved by mixing and matching different sessions. You might offer a choice of activities for attendees to take part in e.g. making a festive cocktail that can then be enjoyed whilst watching a comedian perform. This is where breakout rooms come into their own; attendees can tailor their experience to the activities they want to try, then come back together for the next session. Choice means greater enjoyment and will undoubtedly generate plenty of conversation as everyone compares what they’ve been doing.
A good host is essential for your virtual Christmas party. They are there to welcome everyone, make sure that attendees know how to get involved, go over any housekeeping details and provide a link between sessions. Hosts to have charisma, be confident in speaking live and be able to build excitement and anticipation throughout the event. Not everyone will feel equipped to host, but there may be someone in your company, a member of the leadership team perhaps, who will be happy to take on the role. The alternative is to hire a professional who absolutely knows how to host events and does it with real panache.
Entertain your guests
Your guests will expect to be entertained! There is a wide range of options that work well virtually and can be tailored to specific need. You might want to plan for a mix of individual and group activities to help keep things moving along. Activities such as painting or a cocktail mixology masterclass will need forward planning to ensure everyone has everything they need to fully participate. Team-based activities such as murder mystery games are always popular and the pub quiz remains a perennial favourite. Balance active participation with something to sit back and enjoy. What could be better than an awe-inspiring turn by a magician as great as Dynamo? And comedy is always a sure-fire winner; we’ve booked headline talent such as Milton Jones and Russell Kane to perform at previous virtual events. The promise of a star attraction is a great way to keep your audience fully engaged.
Personalising your virtual Christmas party
Making your virtual Christmas party personal to your company will add a real sense of festive magic and sparkle. From branding title and holding slides with your company logo to incorporating corporate colours, these small but important details will ensure the whole event is instantly recognisable as your own, making it all the more special.
The same is true of the actual content. If you can find ways of making it really personal to your company, the whole experience will be elevated. This could be as simple as creating a festive quiz with fun business-specific questions. Or you might be able to tap into the talents of colleagues who would like to perform something special. We’ve also worked with celebrities who have been happy to provide personalised messages and greats such as impressionist Rory Bremner who conducted a fantastically funny business interview.
AOB – do you need to include business-specific elements?
Christmas parties are an opportunity for everyone to enjoy themselves, business is (usually) secondary to that. But bringing everyone together can also be an opportunity for communicating messages of thanks for all the hard work over the year. There may be people who deserve some recognition, perhaps for long service, or maybe it’s time to say goodbye to others who are leaving or retiring. It’s perfectly possible to mix business and pleasure at a virtual Christmas party; but try and keep the business element relatively short so that the focus is more on festive fun.
Quality underpins everything when it comes to delivering a successful virtual Christmas party. Incorporating high production values throughout your virtual Christmas party will help ensure the very best experience for attendees. Give your event a really Christmassy look and feel to get everyone in the mood; it starts from the moment you send out the invitations. Whether you want to conjure up a traditional and nostalgic winter wonderland or want a more modern and funky look, the theme will help set the tone for your virtual Christmas party. Carry that through the graphics, animation and backdrops for a consistent look throughout the event. If you are using an event management company making your event look professional and polished will be part of their service
Why not take a look at some of the virtual Christmas parties we’ve organised for our clients – they might provide a great starting point or inspiration for yours!
Plan your corporate Christmas party with MGN
Why not talk to us about planning your perfect virtual corporate Christmas party? You can call us on 01932 22 33 33 or email email@example.com to find out more.