Picture this scenario: Your boss needs help planning an engaging event for the company at the beginning of the next quarter. In the past, these events have always been in person at your office building, but now your team is almost fully remote. What do you do? Read this article to discover all the tips and tricks for planning a virtual workplace event.

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What Are Virtual Workplace Events?

Virtual workplace events are exactly what you think they are: company meetings, parties, and activities designed for a workplace that is “virtual,” or not in-person.

While virtual workplaces have always existed, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in increased remote work and hybrid work environments. These new styles of work introduced new challenges to accommodating common company traditions for a hybrid workforce.

If employees can’t meet in the company HQ because they are working from home, there needs to be a virtual option for company events.

Why It’s Important to Hold Events, Even Virtually

Just like any other company meeting, events can serve many purposes for employees and managers alike. Here are some reasons why it’s important to hold meetings:

  • To foster unity and morale. Regular events are great opportunities to unify everyone at a company and boost morale among employees. Business leaders often use company events to emphasize the mission, goals, and values of the organization, as well as the company’s successes and struggles. Depending on the context of these topics, discussing them can be a source of unity and motivation for employees.
  • To increase team member bonding. Events provide employees with much-needed face-time with each other, especially in an age of hybrid and remote workplaces. By interacting on a regular basis, employees can improve not only their camaraderie and work ethic but their mental health as well. For those working remotely, it can be refreshing to see and work with others.
  • To provide growth opportunities. Companies often host events to provide employees with professional development and growth opportunities. Offering professional development to employees is key to improving retention and overall work quality at your company.
  • To introduce significant company changes. It’s very common for companies to hold events to make big company announcements or changes, such as introducing a new product line or HR policy.

Virtual Event Ideas for Your Workplace

Here is a list of virtual event ideas you can implement at your company:

The Virtual Kick-Off Event

Hold a virtual kick-off event at the beginning of the year or quarter to celebrate company successes and goals. Invite and learn from guest speakers and industry experts and do fun activities like a virtual team lunch or meet.

Consider holding these events on more traditional video-calling platforms like Zoom or Google Meet. While these platforms may not be as inherently unique as others, they are a simple way to present engaging content to your company.

Virtual Team Lunch

Want something a little less formal? Host a lunch event for the whole team or company virtually. If you have the budget, provide employees with the means to purchase lunch or have lunch delivered to their home office and then eat together on a video call.

To encourage interaction, consider adding rotating breakout rooms to allow employees to meet in small groups. Giving groups of two to three people five to eight minutes of time together gives them the opportunity to talk without the stress of unmuting and talking in a larger group. You can provide prompts to promote conversation such as a theme or a question for people to answer.

For these informal meetings, keep it simple and consider using Zoom or an equivalent video calling software.

Growth and Learning Events

In an age of the democratization of information, learning is more important than ever. To help your employees learn continuously, host a learning or personal growth event! Consider inviting a guest speaker to teach your team something new or research a topic and facilitate a discussion with your own team.

Zoom or an equivalent video calling platform is perfect for hosting these events.

Virtual Team Games

Need another informal meeting idea? Do a virtual game night/lunch with your team! There are many computer-based games and softwares for remote games. Some examples are Jackbox TV, VXN Games (free), and other games like virtual Code Names (also free). Consider getting your team on Gather. It’s a virtual workplace for employees to navigate as a little avatar and play virtual board games and chat with co-workers. You can also play less techy games like Show and Tell or Two Truths and a Lie virtually.

Aside from Gather, all these games can be facilitated using Zoom or an equivalent video calling software.

How To Host a Virtual Workplace Event

Here is a guide to hosting your own virtual workplace event. These steps may change depending on the type of event:

Step 1: Identify the Purpose of the Event

The purpose of your event will dictate how to complete the rest of the steps and carry it out. Is the event a product announcement or a company party? Will it be client-facing or for employees only?

Determining the why of your virtual event is critical to laying the groundwork for the rest of your planning.

Step 2: Decide on the Platform

Once you decide on the general-purpose and audience of your virtual event, it’s time to choose how to host it. This is important because every video call software comes with its own strengths, weaknesses, and costs. Here are some things to consider as you decide on your platform:

  • Number of attendees. Because the base plan for most video-call software limits you to 100 participants, you’ll need to consider if you need to pay for add ons such as Zoom’s large meetings, which starts at $50/month.
  • Meeting duration. If you want to use a free version of a video call platform, you may need to make some adjustments. Most platforms offer 40 minutes to 1 hour free for calls with 2+ participants, so plan accordingly so your meeting time doesn’t run out, especially if it’s client-facing!
  • Desired features. Each platform is different as it relates to overall features and user experience. For example, Zoom has many presenter-friendly features such as screen sharing and participant polls, while Google Meet has a built-in transcription and closed-captioning service. While closed captioning is available in Zoom, it must be done manually or through a third party for a fee.

Step 3: Plan the Event Details and Plan B

Next, start planning the details of your event which includes creating an agenda, booking any guest speakers, sending invites, and building out the experience you want your participants to have.

  • Planning the agenda. Create your agenda, revise it and stick to it! This agenda can be sent out with the invites to help participants know what to expect. Your agenda is the blueprint and guide for your event, so make sure you polish it!
  • Sending invites. Consider how you will send out the invites. For virtual events, the easiest way is to send invites along with the meeting or event link via email. You may also choose a third-party service such as Eventbrite to keep track of your attendees.
  • Working out virtual logistics. While you may not be planning catering or mics at a physical venue, be sure to keep in mind the experience of your participants. For example, consider coming up with video etiquette for your presenters, such as being in a well-lit, quiet room and encouraging participants to mute their mics unless they’re being asked to contribute (or mute them yourself).
  • Creating Plan B. Think about and plan for potential scenarios when things don’t work out as planned. What will you do if Zoom crashes or you can’t share your screen? Coming up with an action plan for these possibilities is a great way to prepare for your meeting. For example, one way to prepare for potential technical challenges is to have a co-host in case something happens to the host’s computer.

Step 4: Do a Dry Run of the Event

Doing a dry run of your event can ensure your technology and meeting links work properly. You don’t have to go through the whole agenda, but a dry run can help you identify areas for improvement and allow you to make necessary last-minute changes.

Step 5: Carry Out the Event

Finally, carry out your event according to your agenda. If you experience any issues, refer to your plan B options to keep the event going!

Tips to Make Your Virtual Event a Success

Here are some tips to make your virtual event successful:

Know Your Platform

Know the ins and outs of the software you’re using. If you have trouble navigating the user interface of your platform, spend time learning it so you can host the event with ease. Figure out if your subscription plan has participant limits, passcodes, or anything that might inhibit hosting or participation. Understand the features of your platform, such as how to share your screen and computer audio, how to mute a noisy participant, and more. Knowing your platform beforehand can help guarantee your event goes well.

Be Prepared

As mentioned throughout this article, having a backup plan and knowing your platform well are incredibly important for success. These small things, including showing up at least 15 minutes early, can help you mitigate some of the challenges associated with hosting a virtual event.

Encourage Using Webcams

Depending on the event, you may want to encourage participants to turn on their webcams so people can see each other’s faces. This also helps attendees feel more engaged like they’re actually at an event with other people.

Keep People Involved

Look at the chat, take breaks as needed, and come up with creative activities for your event. Don’t be afraid to try something new at your company, given that you have wiggle room in case things don’t go perfectly.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Virtual Workplace Events

Think outside the box! Play some music in the background, show a fun YouTube video or try a different platform for your virtual event.
Sometimes it’s difficult to keep people engaged in virtual events. If everyone has their webcams off and can’t see each other, there won’t be a lot of interactions or participation. If the content is not inherently interesting or engaging, you may not achieve your goals for the event.

Chris is an HR entrepreneur. Having worked with small businesses and start-ups throughout his career, Chris is passionate about pioneering HR departments in companies where they don’t currently exist. He currently works at Skill Struck, a local Utah tech company and is striving to be an expert in all things related to small business HR departments.

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