How to Host a Fantastic Online End of Year Party for Your Team

Tips & Resources to Help You Celebrate in Style

In 2020, everyone deserves a year-end party. But with a pandemic, restrictions on gathering, and a remote lifestyle, you might be left wondering how to organize an online party your team will enjoy. If there’s one thing 2020 has revealed to employees and managers alike, it’s that online events run better if you respect the differences that come with the digital medium. In this article, we’ll cover a few key principles for hosting excellent online parties, and end with specific suggestions on activities to incorporate into your event.

Make Sure Your Party Structure Dovetails with Your Party’s Purpose

Why are you throwing this year-end party? Your online event should be structured with your purpose in mind. Do you want to give people a chance to talk in a relaxed setting? Will you hand out formal awards and recognition? Or do you simply want an opportunity to do something nice for a team that stepped up during a challenging year?

Each of these purposes lends itself to different structures. If you want to hold space for your team to talk, then you’ll want an online room where everyone has the power to turn on their microphones and cameras at-will. If you are hosting a more formal award ceremony for a larger group, a webinar-style video room may be more appropriate.

Work With, Not Against, Your Team’s Preferences

Some people really like sharing fun facts, or showing up in the same color, or giving tours of their homes. Other people find these activities intrusive or cringe-worthy. If your team is full of introverts, a game of charades might not be the best choice, even if you love that game. This party is a gift to your direct reports or colleagues, not to you.

Ask for suggestions. But don’t take it personally if no one has constructive ideas. The pandemic has drained many people of their creativity. Take this as a sign that you should choose low-key, simple activities for your event.

Support Your Online Party-Goers

Think back to the last in-person work party you attended. There might have been food or drinks. Perhaps leadership made a few speeches or handed out awards. Otherwise, you were probably left to make conversation with your fellow party-goers.

Try that in an online party, and you run the risk of hosting an event full of awkward silences. Or you might have bedlam as people talk over each other. That’s not to imply that mixing and mingling are impossible on Zoom. They are! But you’ll have to deploy breakout rooms or plan to lead the team in one big conversation. Think of yourself as a tour guide and take a hands-on approach to structuring your party.

A group of ten or fewer can stay together in one video call. Larger groups should be broken up into different breakout rooms. Each room should have a designated host to keep the conversational ball rolling. Grab a list of topics ahead of time tailored to the interests of your team. Make sure the video software you use has the option to break people into different groups (if you plan on using that functionality) and get comfortable with it before the official event.

Be the Techie or the MC, Not Both

If you’re going to MC your event, ask someone else to be in charge of the technology. Assume something will happen during your party. Whether it’s audio issues, or camera issues, or helping people get into the room, you’ll need someone who can focus on troubleshooting while the Master of Ceremonies works the virtual room.

Hire a Musician

Remember how relaxing it was to watch your favorite band play over social media for Global Citizen’s One World Together at Home? Bring your team together for a live performance over your video software of choice. This option is more affordable than you think. If you use sites like Gig Salad or the Bash, you can hire a solo musician to play for your team for as little as $200, and a band starting around $1200.

Hire a Comedian

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughing has a host of short and long-term benefits. Hiring a comedian can help your employees release endorphins, lower stress, and ease pain. That’s a lot of benefits packed into one live performance.

Hiring a comedian for a private gig starts around $500 on sites like the Bash, Comedian Company, and Hire a Comedian. You can also filter your results to comedians whose acts are safe for work. If paying $500-$1000 is outside your budget, consider buying tickets to one of the many live stand up shows on Eventbrite. Tickets start at $0-$30 per person, but you’ll have to do the legwork to find a show that’s work appropriate.

Play an Online Board Game

Online board games are another great way to take advantage of the virtual medium. Your team can talk together as they complete a structured activity. There are several options like that are free and paid games like Jackbox Party Packs that will run you roughly $30.00.

With Scribbl, everyone logs into the website to play the game. With Jackbox, one host purchases the game, and everyone else logs in and plays on their phone. Once you purchase the pack, the games are yours and you can use them whenever you want. In either case, your guests will need to have a second device (or laptop) available if you want everyone to be in a video call together.

If you’re looking for a less tech-heavy solution, try the game ‘Would You Rather.’ You can find many lists like this one available for free on the internet. The rules are simple. Pick one person to ask a second person a question from the list. Once that person answers, they pick a third person to answer another question. And so forth. This game is especially good if folks are tired because there aren’t any complicated rules to learn, and you can send the list of questions via email.

A Couple of Things to Consider Before Deciding Whether to Send Food or Beverages

Humans bond over shared food and drinks. If you have room in your budget, sending a meal or a snack item to pair with your party is a nice touch. Just remember to allow extra time for shipping. Does your team live across country lines? Order items from the employee’s home country to save on shipping costs. Ask about restrictions and allergies before you spend any money.

Keep in mind that some of your team may wish to keep their home addresses private. If you are their boss, then you probably have this information, making you the best person to send the items. Don’t share this information with others without getting explicit permission to do so.

Hosting a virtual party has a lot of benefits. You don’t have to fight through traffic to get to the event, and you only have to be fancy from the waist up. Make sure your party matches the preferences of your guests, take on a tour guide mentality to keep the festivities rolling and leave plenty of time for shipping non-perishable food items. Your guests will have fun and you will be the hero that snatched the year-end party out of the jaws of COVID.

Mexican Yankee in Canada. Remote work speaker, manager. Book: Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams

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