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10 Tips for Making Virtual Holiday Parties Memorable in 2020


Virtual holiday parties should strive to be meaningful and respectful of all that we have gone through together.

COVID-19 has changed a lot about how we interact at work to put it mildly, and like everything else this year, celebrating the holidays are going to be awkward to plan. The way things are looking, many of us won’t be back in the office in any significant capacity until at least 2021, meaning most of us are preparing for virtual holiday parties this year.

Finding Something to Celebrate

After a year that has brought unprecedented challenges it can feel a little daunting finding something to cheer about. But the annual company holiday party has always been a great opportunity to regroup and reflect at the end of the year, congratulate each other on accomplishments, and strengthen social bonds with coworkers. It is possibly one of the most relatable and universally recognized celebrations at work aside from anniversaries and birthdays. The pandemic hasn’t changed that.

Immeasurable Contributions

On the contrary, the sentiments from leadership should write themselves this year. There are so many things worth recognizing and celebrating. Whether it’s adjusting to new work-life balanceshomeschooling kids while schools are closed, remaining resilient and in some cases risking physical health to keep things together, or volunteering and remaining active in local communities, all employees – essential and otherwise – deserve recognition. In fact, one could argue that their contributions this year are immeasurable and could never be fully repaid. It would benefit everyone to build time to stop and recognize the strength it took to come this far.

10 Tips to Get Started

Suffice to say, this year’s virtual holiday parties should strive to be meaningful and respectful of all that we have gone through together, so it’s a good time to start considering them. You can never start planning too early, and besides, I have a funny feeling I’m not the only one eager to celebrate the end of 2020. Here are ten things you’ll want to consider:

  1. Advance Notice – Even for smaller companies, schedules can fill up fast running up to the end of the year. Be sure to give ample notice, maybe 1-2 months in advance, with gentle reminders to ensure everyone marks their calendars.
  2. Plan an Agenda – Virtual holiday parties have more limits when it comes to how long people will stick around. Usually a one-hour time slot works best for everyone. Budget time to include important things like a message from leadership and any special recognition.
  3. Include Everyone – It’s much easier to attend virtual holiday parties, so be sure you’re not forgetting anyone. The internet has no shortage of resources for managing large virtual parties to the maximum effect.
  4. Make it About Employees – Think about your employees and what’s going to engage them. Give them a lot of what they want and none of what they don’t. It’s not about dazzling them or winning them over; it’s about providing some relief and care after a year that most of us will want to forget.
  5. Public Recognition – Everybody deserves recognition for getting through this tumultuous year, so say it loud. Recognize the major accomplishments and milestones of individual employees in front of their peers and make it meaningful.
  6. Utilize Breakout Rooms – A virtual gathering with say 500+ participants can get a bit hairy to manage and run the risk of excluding some participants. Use breakout rooms to your advantage, getting people in smaller groups so everyone can share the experience.
  7. Repurpose Budgets – The cost of hosting end-of-year gatherings are going to be considerably less than they were before, but it’s still worth the investment. Repurpose budgets to give employees something extra or unexpected this year.
  8. Make it Interactive – Don’t put people in the virtual corner. Keep the energy up and encourage involvement with interactive tools. Straw polls can be fun and engaging, and there are tons of games and activities that people may enjoy.
  9. Gift Giving – Sending attendees gift or care packages is not only a fun thing to receive as the year wraps up but can really bring the celebration together. Send something meaningful that will show how you feel about them. It’s also a good chance to promote brand connection.
  10. Look to the Future – While it’s a great time to recognize all we’ve gone through, be sure to take the opportunity to do an emotional reset to keep everyone moving forward together. Paint a vision of the future, reassure your people, and encourage a fresh start for the new year.

Make it Memorable

Virtual holiday parties may not be able to compare to the real thing in some respects, but there are still plenty of ways to make them memorable and fun, so you net the same social and engagement benefits. Howsoever we choose to come together to reflect on the events of the past year, it should be in a personal, caring, and compassionate way.