How to host a Virtual Christmas Party

The temperature outside is soaring as we cling on to the final days of British summertime. So that can mean only one thing… It’s time to start organising the Christmas Do (or Holiday Party, Festive Fling or similar)!

By: James Blair on

But this year, a spanner the size of Spain has been thrown into the works: Covid means that many of us are working away from the office with a full return unlikely until well into next year. And even if we are back in the building, the uncertainties around venues being open, capacity limitations, looming lock-downs, social distancing etc. make planning a traditional office knees-up nigh-on impossible, or possibly pointless.

However, after a year that has relentlessly and remorselessly thrown challenge after doom after gloom at us all, the need to celebrate the good stuff, find cheer and look forward is greater than ever.

So, is the solution a remote or virtual Christmas Do? Can that really be done?

Of course it can. Just like the good old fashioned in-person parties we’re all familiar with, a virtual party just requires some inspiration and careful planning. Here are a few tips from us…

Start planning now & give plenty of notice. Depending on your organisation and people’s roles, 6-8 weeks’ notice of the date & time is normally a good shout to maximise availability and attendance.

A virtual party cannot and should not try to recreate a face-to-face party but over the internet. No-one wants to watch Madge from Admin getting drunk on sherry for 4 hours over Skype. You’ll want a tight and meaningful agenda that runs for about an hour to 90 minutes.

And choose the platform that will work best for the size of your team(s), ensuring there is scope for interaction and fun. If your workforce is large enough, you may want to split them into appropriate groups and/or use breakout rooms.

This “party-meeting” needs to be about your employees. It should recognise the challenges they’ve faced and the sacrifices and adjustments they’ve made. Some may have balanced working from home with home-schooling (as a childless chap, this sounds like the stuff of nightmares to me!), some may have taken on new or additional duties to cover furloughed colleagues. Many or most will have gone through feelings of insecurity and possibly anxiety. More than ever, their commitment and resilience needs celebrating. If you already have an employee recognition scheme running, pull some of the highlights from the past 10 months or so to create awards and celebrate the best of the best. It shouldn’t all be about performance. Throw in some silly, fun but uplifting awards and celebrate as many people as you can whilst keeping it meaningful.

If a small fortune is being saved by not paying for dinner and an “authentic Las Vegas Casino & Show experience” (i.e. a karaoke machine draped with tinsel, and squeaky roulette wheel by the cloakroom) at a local hotel, can some of that money be repurposed on meaningful gifts and rewards for those that you are celebrating?

There are many websites for lovely and/or unusual gifts that can easily be ordered online and sent by post (but none of them sponsor or bribe me so don’t get a listing here) or you can send gift vouchers for just about every retailer in the land via e-mail – perfect for a remote get-together and awards ceremony!

A message from senior leaders should definitely be on the agenda – something that recognises & celebrates all of the above from the top, whilst outlining the plans for the near future. If there are messages of reassurance available in these tumultuous and uncertain times, this would be a great time to share them.

Keep it light and interactive. This is not your December Ops Meeting. You will know your team(s) and what fun ingredients will work best with them, but there are plenty to choose from – light-hearted quizzes (i.e. not about the sales figures from Q2 or how much you’ve had to spend on printer ink!), silly photo competitions, holiday bingo, best Christmas jumper or hat awards, hidden talent reveals, top ten countdowns of highlights from a difficult year, the list is endless…

If, like me, you joined enough Zoom quizzes with friends & family during lockdown to last you a lifetime, can you repurpose some of their better moments, funnier quizzes and more creative ingredients to work here? (Just clean them up if you have friends and family like mine! Please be sensitive to the wider demographics you may have in your teams!) You can even ensure everyone’s participation with a few voucher prizes available for the winners.

So, whilst a traditional party may not be possible this year, don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate your teams, recognise challenges and achievements, appreciate commitment and resilience, and boost morale ready for what we all hope will be an easier 2021.