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How to make your company’s virtual Christmas party a success: 10 ideas

Blog / November 12, 2020 / with Christoph Drebes
Virtual Christmas party: A woman dressed in a Christmas sweater on a video call with a man dressed as Santa

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Back in 2020, office Christmas parties went virtual, many for the first time.

Due to COVID-19 lockdowns and other restrictions, companies couldn’t meet in person for their annual holiday parties or Christmas celebrations. For some employees, it was disappointing: many were looking forward to socializing at a seasonal company event.

However, for others, the virtual Christmas party was an ideal solution to some of the common complaints about in-person Christmas events – the requirement to give up a whole evening, the need to find childcare, or even pressure to drink alcohol. Virtual holiday parties can also be a fun and inclusive way to strengthen team spirit, especially in remote or hybrid teams.

There are plenty of great reasons to keep your holiday celebrations online this year, or to add a virtual holiday party to your existing plans for the season. This article will give you plenty of virtual holiday party ideas, plus tips for getting your team into the holiday spirit.  

MEETING FATIGUE: TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR EMPLOYEES EXCITED FOR A VIRTUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY

Zoom fatigue” has been well-documented over the last years, and you might have some colleagues who find it hard to get excited about another online meeting. It’s important to be clear that Christmas parties are not typical meetings but special events all about fun and interaction. Here are some tips for getting people to take part:

  1. Pick an activity. Make it clear that there’s an interactive agenda and you won’t just be sitting awkwardly while managers try to start conversations.
  2. Schedule your event during working hours. Even the most motivated teams love a break. Rather than requiring your teams to hang out in the evening, show that management values their free time by letting them finish work a few hours early and party on the clock.
  3. Invest in the invitation. Don’t just send a Teams meeting request – show your colleagues that it’s an event they won’t want to miss. If you have the budget, consider sending a physical invite to their home alongside a tasty treat or two to whet their appetite.
  4. Build excitement. Don’t let the invite be the last communication with the team. Build buzz on the intranet, send out teaser emails, and don’t forget to send reminders on the day of the party.
  5. Prepare activities for smaller groups. One factor that causes Zoom fatigue is feeling watched all the time. Large conference calls make it hard for introverted or shy colleagues to participate. Use break-out rooms to enable networking on a more manageable scale.
  6. Keep it short. Another common cause of Zoom fatigue is calls that drag on without a structure. Have a virtual Christmas party agenda; see it through, but make sure that you have a plan for ending the event. Up to two hours is plenty of time.

4 IDEAS FOR VIRTUAL HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS

1. VIRTUAL HOLIDAY COFFEE

A woman dressed in a business casual outfit participating in an informal coffee break from her kitchen at home, surrounded by Christmas decorations.

It can be tough to get to know colleagues, especially when people work from home. However, many people miss personal, informal interactions. Here is one event idea that you can use throughout December: encourage every employee to have a virtual “blind date” each week over coffee and cookies with another colleague. You could even send out hot chocolate or Christmas cookie recipes for people to try out ahead of their virtual coffee break.

TIP: Socializing isn’t just for Christmas. Connect your colleagues all year round with Mystery Coffee. Find out more today!

2. CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR YOUR COLLEAGUES

A glass mug holds mulled wine, cinnamon sticks and orange slices.

Send your employees a holiday gift hamper. This won’t just give them something to celebrate, it’s also a treat for the rest of their household. But what should you put in a corporate holiday hamper?

  • Mulled wine (or a non-alcoholic mulled cider or eggnog)
  • Gingerbread or Christmas cookies
  • Warm hat + scarf or socks with the corporate logo
  • Food: delicacies for the Christmas holiday
  • A gift token for Amazon or another common retailer to help employees with their own Christmas expenses
  • Any props, costumes, or food items that you want them to use during the virtual holiday party!

3. SHARED HOLIDAY PLAYLISTS

Cheesy Christmas songs might not be everyone’s favorite genre of music – so find out what your employees use to get into the holiday spirit instead! Set up a shared playlist on Spotify, YouTube Music, or Deezer and encourage everyone to add their favorite seasonal songs, no matter the style.

Share the results during the virtual Christmas party to see how many hits, old and new, you’ve collected. You could even have a vote to find out the company’s favorite holiday song, what they’d use to wake up in the morning, during a workout, or to go to sleep at night!

4. CORPORATE ADVENT CALENDAR

For the truly inventive People and Culture team, you might want to develop an internal advent calendar to keep people festive all the way through December. Create an area on your intranet or send out a daily email with little treats and insights. Here are some ideas for filling your corporate advent calendar:

  • Festive videos and song recommendations
  • Games and mini-quizzes
  • Fun facts or links to interesting holiday articles – if you have international offices, you could also share traditions from each location!
  • Virtual vouchers for popular coffee chains or similar small gifts

6 VIRTUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY IDEAS

You've set the scene, you've built the anticipation, and now it's time to party! Here are 6 ideas for virtual Christmas party games and activities.

1. VIRTUAL HOLIDAY PARTY GAMES

Brain teasers have always been a popular part of Christmas parties. But they’re especially suited to virtual Christmas parties, where everyone should feel included. Play in smaller teams using breakout rooms and online forms. Here are some games you can try:

  • Festive Pictionary
  • Christmas movie trivia
  • Guess that holiday song – use emojis to spell the titles
  • A quiz round on the company’s news from earlier in the year
  • Online escape rooms – there are several companies that offer immersive virtual experiences designed for online holiday parties

2. VIRTUAL CLASS OR CRAFT SESSION

A homemade Christmas stocking ornament with a snowman on it, alongside different materials for making it, including felt, string, baubles and scissors.

Whether you bake together or craft some holiday ornaments, a shared activity can help the most introverted team members feel like they can participate. A physical activity also helps to make a holiday party feel less virtual.

Just make sure you send out the materials ahead of time and don’t select something that needs specialist equipment or tools to make. Whatever you decide to do, keep it simple and accessible to all your employees.

3. VIRTUAL UGLY CHRISTMAS SWEATER PARTY

A young woman wearing a Christmas sweater and a headband with elf ears and a green and red elf hat, waves presents in the air.

Ugly Christmas sweater parties have been a hot trend in previous years – and they work virtually as well as they do in person! Encourage your team to dress up for the virtual Christmas party. This can help them feel more festive and give everyone something to share and talk about. You can even vote on the best (or ugliest) sweater, with a prize for the winner.

Ugly Christmas sweater events have often been used to fundraise for important causes, such as homelessness, with participants giving a small sum to a company pool for a joint cause. You can always consider incorporating fundraising into your holiday events since it’s the season of giving generously.

4. VIRTUAL WINE TASTING

Virtual wine tastings boomed during the pandemic, and they’re still a great option for remote or hybrid companies. Just send the wine in advance – preferably with extensive information about each one selected. You can even involve the participants if you ask for volunteers to select and present their favorite wine.

What should you send to the participants?

  • A wine selection in small sample bottles
  • A card explaining the backgrounds of all the wines
  • A savory snack or two to enjoy along with each glass

5. WEB-BASED SPEED DATING

The Christmas party is an ideal networking event. It’s one of the few events on the calendar where employees from different departments can meet in an unstructured way. In addition to meeting people that you usually only speak to via email, you can also use a virtual holiday party to meet new colleagues.

You can easily integrate virtual “speed dating” into your online Christmas party. Randomly match your attendees, giving every pair five minutes to get to know each other and toast the season with a beverage of their choice. Then switch partners, making sure people have as many “dates” as possible.

You can add icebreaker question suggestions or just leave people to chat freely. But make sure to remind people to note each other’s names and contact details so they can catch up again in the New Year.

6. VIRTUAL CHATTING CORNERS & CHRISTMAS PARTY BINGO

During your virtual holiday party, include several “Breakout Sessions.” Three to five colleagues can chat more intimately in these sessions than in a big group. Initially, you can suggest some icebreakers. You could even play “Christmas Cliché Bingo,” where you create a board of ideas that you think people will chat about, with the first person to check everything on their board winning a prize.

Here are some virtual Christmas party icebreaker ideas:

  • Where will people vacation this year?
  • Who’s already put up their tree?
  • Who has a favorite Christmas market?
  • Who’s going to be the first one leaving for their break?
  • Who’s already picked a New Year’s Resolution?

WHICH TECHNOLOGY IS BEST FOR A VIRTUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY?

Classic video conferencing tools such as GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WebEx, or Zoom work reliably and should provide all the necessary features for most virtual Christmas parties. For larger events, several highly innovative new platforms were launched in 2020, inspired by the pandemic. These provide virtual meeting rooms with extra configuration tools. You can even create 3D avatars using some of these options. Additional tools such as Doodle, Mentimeter, Kahoot, or Slido can be integrated for voting or game elements.

HYBRID COMPANY PARTIES - TIPS AND TRICKS

Many hybrid companies are currently faced with the question of how they should organize their company holiday party – on-site, virtually, or in a hybrid format. When planning, it's important to consider those colleagues who primarily work remotely. One of the main advantages of hybrid working is that it saves you from having to travel to and from work. As a result, some colleagues may no longer live close to the office.  

When planning your celebration, it is essential that all colleagues are treated as equally as possible so that they all feel part of the team.   

Here are some aspects you should consider to make your hybrid celebration a success:   

  • Don't skip the virtual celebration. Even if there's a physical party, make sure the virtual party has a fun agenda and that office-based employees participate as well.   
  • Don't save the big news for the physical party. If there is special news or awards to announce, announce them at the virtual party so that everyone is present.  
  • Distribute your budget evenly. Make sure those who work remotely receive the same value of gifts as those who are present at the party. 
  • Transition from the virtual celebration to the in-person celebration. Let employees in the office know that the virtual party is the best way to start the festivities. An on-site celebration should only be a supplement to the official, virtual party. 

MAKING THE MOST OF THE HOLIDAYS

Companies can choose to host a virtual or remote holiday party for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it allows for inclusivity and accessibility, as employees from different locations or those who may have difficulty attending in-person events can participate. This can create a sense of belonging and appreciation among team members.

Additionally, virtual parties can be more cost-effective, as they reduce expenses associated with venue rentals, catering, and transportation. They also offer flexibility, accommodating diverse schedules and time zones. Overall, virtual or remote holiday parties can strike a balance between celebration, convenience, and consideration for the diverse needs of a company's workforce.

However, it's important to acknowledge that hosting hybrid or virtual holiday parties comes with its own set of challenges. Maintaining engagement and creating a festive atmosphere in a digital environment can be tricky, as it lacks the in-person energy and spontaneity. Technical glitches or connectivity issues can also arise, potentially disrupting the festivities.

But with careful planning and attention to detail, party planners can overcome these hurdles. Companies can use various online tools and platforms to facilitate interactive games, activities, and virtual team-building exercises. Clear communication and guidelines beforehand can help participants navigate the virtual setting seamlessly. Moreover, providing resources or packages to enhance the party experience for remote employees can go a long way in ensuring everyone feels valued and included.

By proactively addressing these challenges, a company can master the art of hosting a memorable hybrid or virtual holiday party.

Build networks via virtual coffee breaks. Mystery Coffee helps you to connect colleagues, foster collaboration, and improve cooperation. Learn more now.

About the author:

Christoph Drebes

Christoph is an entrepreneur from Munich and co-founded Mystery Minds in 2016. Mystery Minds' mission is to make the world of work more human by creating meaningful, personal connections between colleagues. The remote-only team already works with over 250 international companies, helping them to strengthen internal networks and overcome silo mentalities.


Originally published on November 12, 2020 at 11:00 AM, amended on January 19, 2024 at 3:42 PM

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