Having a strong reputation, shared debaucherous memories, and a legion of legendary stories associated with the “office holiday party” has become par for the course in the corporate world. It’s so commonplace and has such lore built up around it that there was even a recent Hollywood movie called—wait for it—Office Christmas Party. I wonder what else was thrown up on the whiteboard during that brainstorm session. Sheesh.
Well, this year’s party will likely be very different. It probably won’t have the Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston of your office getting together in person, sharing drinks (read: too many drinks), and doing a series of regrettable things that nobody will ever let them live down.
This year, your office party—if you have one at all—will likely be virtual.
Celebrating the holidays virtually (or for that matter, doing anything virtually) can prove challenging. That’s why we’ve put together our top 10 ideas for celebrating the holidays via our computer screens. Or, in other words, ten ideas to make sure your virtual holiday party isn’t an awkward zoom call where folks are drinking on mute in holiday sweaters while an extroverted member of HR or “the celebration committee” tries their best to “make this party rock!” Right guys, we’re rocking! Whoo!
Our criteria for developing this list of activities was 3 fold:
Holiday related (or twisted to be holiday related).
Engaging for a large group in video call format (mostly quick activities that involve a number of people or everyone simultaneously).
Non-awkward-appropriate-adult fun (lots of “team-building” in the corporate world rightfully makes folks want to pull their Christmas turtle neck up over their face in the middle of an activity).
Don't make your team feel like this baby.
Sprawl's Top 10 Virtual Holiday Party Ideas:
1. Company awards, promotions and bonus announcements!
This one is hopefully the most obvious of the bunch, but if you’re going to be announcing bonuses or any individual awards and promotions, there really isn’t a better opportunity than the company holiday party. The holidays are made for celebration, cheer, and collecting checks from people, so take this as an opportunity to do it in a winter wonderland style and include these fun, feel-good updates in your holiday party.
Note: Tread lightly with any promotions or announcements that might be received with a mixed, dramatic, or lukewarm reception.
2. Holiday Card Slideshow
Holiday Card Slideshow is a simple idea, but if executed well, can be a standout part of the party. It can be both incredibly engaging for all in attendance and also involve everyone at the company. The basic idea is that everyone submits a single slide relating to their holiday celebrations and traditions. It can be your family’s actual holiday card, or a collage of past holiday highlights. Whatever it is—creativity and humor are encouraged. During the event each person’s “card” will be put in a slide deck in a random order, and whenever your card pops up, you’ll have 30 seconds to come off mute and explain to everyone what they’re looking at.
Note: This works really well with a group of employees between 20-60. Based on some expert math, 20 employees for 30 seconds each will take around 10 minutes, and 60 will take around 30 minutes. It’s fast paced enough to stay engaging for about that long. If you have a team of more than 60 folks, it might be better presented as “optional,” and then if only half the company submits a card, it’s a more appropriate length activity.
3. Toast game
The Toast Game is a wonderful bonding and gratitude activity for any occasion, but it’s a particularly wonderful way to get folks sharing at a virtual holiday party. The “toast game” is essentially an open prompt to get a group of folks sharing a real-life, important moment, person, place, or story to the group.
You set it up by picking a theme, and then asking everyone to share a quick one minute “toast” (clink) based on that theme. For a virtual holiday party, I would encourage picking a theme like “make a toast to someone you want to send love to this holiday season,” or “toast to your favorite holiday memory.” If you have a smaller team, encourage everyone to come off mute and share something. If you have a big team, maybe “the first 10 folks who want to share” is a better way to approach this activity, and then you can ask folks to write out their unshared toasts in an all company channel after the party.
Note: It’s also great to encourage “no repeats and your toast has to be real—no joke answers.” at the start of the activity.
4. New Year, New Goals
Give everyone on your team one or two soft and quiet holiday songs to reflect on what they hope for themselves, both personally and professionally, for the coming year. Have them write down a concrete personal goal and a concrete professional goal. To keep everyone accountable, end the activity by matching everyone at the company with one other person (ideally, someone they don’t work with week to week) who they can then quickly jump on Slack or Microsoft Teams with to coordinate a time for a 30 minute “new year, new goals” call in the following weeks. The purpose of that call will be to share their goals and begin a relationship of helping one another to stay accountable.
Note: Most holiday parties are festive and goofy, but including one more serious activity like this or the toast game can really help bond the staff and ensure folks get something more than just a fun hour from the party.
5. Holiday Movie Trivia
This takes a bit more pre-party prep than some of the other activities, but it’s worth it for a team who loves trivia or a team who loves holiday movies (reminder: almost everyone loves both of those things). Basically, create teams of 4 (I’d encourage you to purposefully mix the company, breaking the natural silos that form in team based work) and create a slide deck with holiday-movie related questions using video, audio, and images from classic films. Have each team of 4 elect a clerk to submit answers between rounds, and give everyone a moment to set up a Slack or Teams chat to remotely confer on answers while the host leads a few quick rounds of trivia.
Note: With trivia be sure to explain how it’s going to work, how the scoring works, and every other aspect clearly at the outset. Adults can become surprisingly competitive, and then surprisingly disgruntled, if they think a simple competition isn’t “fair.”
6. Holiday Two Minute Teacher
Two minute teacher is another activity that’s great for any event, town-hall, or occasion where the entire company comes together. The basic idea is to ask folks to volunteer teaching the whole team a certain skill or fun fact in 2 minutes or less. For the holiday party—simply ask for that something to be holiday related. It can be how to make the perfect mimosa, how to wrap the perfect gift, how to remember the reindeer’s names, the meaning behind the Hanukkah menorah, the holiday traditions of a different culture that someone in the company might celebrate, or how to do ANYTHING that is meant to be helpful, entertaining, or both, for the entire team.
Note: You don’t have to watch the clock for these, but calling it a two-minute teacher sets the expectation that the mini-lesson should be fast, so even if someone volunteers to teach something that doesn’t turn out to be fun or helpful, it will only take all of about two minutes.
7. Naughty List
This game goes to 5 points. The call host or game leader will ask “naughty questions” and whoever gets to 5 first wins “the grinch award.” You can start with the five examples below, or create your own naughty list from scratch. Feel free to have everyone on the call put up their fist and keep track of their “naughty list” answers by sticking out a finger for each question that applies to them (à la, the game Never Have I Ever).
You regifted something this year.
You typically order food on the holidays/eve of the holidays.
You haven’t finished your holiday shopping.
You’ve forgotten a gift for a partner or close loved one in the previous year.
You haven’t watched a holiday movie yet this year.
Note: Asking team or company specific questions is always a winner.
8. Holiday Music Performances
Offer a chance for anyone on the team to perform a holiday song from their home set up. Even if ONE member of your team takes you up on this, it’s sure to provide a memory, and hopefully, the kind of memory that makes said-volunteer office famous, not infamous.
9. Snowflake Cutting & Crafting
Turning a piece of paper into a snowflake is a lot like flying a kite in one specific way. It’s SO much more fun than we think it’s going to be as adults. Turning a piece of paper into a beautiful snowflake requires only a pair of scissors and a piece of regular paper—then one person to walk the group through a few folds and basic instructions. Once the activity is explained, you can simply play holiday classics in the background while watching your team happily craft together over zoom. As cheesy as this sounds, I promise your team will be engaged in this activity the moment the paper is folded and the scissors are in their hands.
10. Virtual Holiday Scavenger Hunt
Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned scavenger hunt? While scavenger hunts are generally done in person, in a shared setting, the virtual version is very fun as well. Decide on a list of clues that a large number of folks would have somewhere in their house, and for each clue, give the whole team one minute to track down that item, and set it in front of their camera. Feel free to make your own list of clues, or start with the examples below.
A holiday cookie
A holiday decoration that involves an animal
A holiday stocking or just a really wonderful sock
A train of some sort
A holiday decoration from a tradition other than the one you grew up with
A glass of eggnog
Note: You can play this game as "first to 5" but if you have time, we think it's more fun to play your entire list of questions, and then ask everyone at the end how many clues they were able to gather. It's always fun to have the winner share each little artifact, or let anyone come off mute and chime in after the prompt "did anyone find anything especially funny or interesting that you'd like to share with the team?"
If you’re struggling with your annual holiday party this December (or your yearly offsite retreat that can no longer happen) reach out to us at Sprawl Consulting to see how we can help. We help organize, host, and facilitate online events that are ridiculously fun and engaging (i.e. non-awkward-appropriate-adult fun).