Keep the Company Cheer: Tips for Hosting a Virtual Holiday Celebration

Despite 2020 being a bizarre year of unprecedented twists and turns thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, some things reliably never change. One of those things is the tried and true wonderment of people exclaiming: “how is the holiday season already upon us again?!”  

During business-as-usual times, many companies host a holiday party for their employees this time of year, complete with food and drink, a year-end speech from the CEO, and plenty of merriment as a way to bring colleagues together from all levels of the business. But how will such a gathering look in 2020 with many people working remotely and following safety protocols?

Even with the challenges of this year, it’s still important to find ways to keep some of your company traditions by giving them a virtual twist. If your people can’t gather together in-person in the same place, hosting a virtual holiday party can help you set a positive tone for 2021, acknowledge everyone’s contributions during a hard year and help to encourage and motivate your team.

It also allows your CEO to still deliver the vaulted end-of-year speech, which employees might be looking to more than ever this year to feel some reassurance and guidance.

If you’re planning to organize a virtual holiday celebration for your company this season, here are some tips to make it – and your CEO’s speech during it – as successful and worthwhile as possible.

Craft an Agenda – Although a holiday party may be a more casual affair compared to other business gatherings – especially when people are participating from their homes – don’t do it on the fly! Even in 2020, the holiday season can be a hectic one for people. Set a time limit for the event and schedule each important highlight or activity within that timeframe. Let attendees know the agenda in advance so that they know what to expect. For virtual events, keeping it to around an hour is usually a good call.

Include Interactive Participation – Encourage attendees to dress up as they would for an in-person party, or suggest a theme, such as the infamous ugly holiday sweater theme. Consider including some interactive trivia questions, survey polls, or games that participants can take part in during the event. Consider creating a contest between different departments or teams in advance leading up to the event and crown the winner during. Have employees share what they are most grateful for this year and what they’re most excited about heading into the new year.

People, People, People – It’s been a rocky year for a lot of people, full of uncertainty and life changes on many fronts. A nice dose of positivity can offer your employees some relief as they experience a holiday season that might look a lot different than usual. If your CEO or president is delivering a speech during the event, be sure it acknowledges the fact that just getting through 2020 and keeping things rolling is something to be celebrated!

Timing is Everything – Speaking of that CEO speech, we suggestplanning your agenda so that any such speech comes earlier rather than later. As these celebratory events run their course, people’s attention becomes more fractured. You want to wait long enough for everyone to sign-in and settle-in but early enough so that they’re still going to be attentive. Remember that people have gathered to enjoy a party atmosphere, so plan on keeping your speech concise. Even more so than in person, people’s attention can start to wonder when watching a speech on their computer screens.

Note All Sizes of Achievement – During normal times, your holiday celebration might include recognition for the sales team who landed the most new business, or the department that broke a new record for its work. This year, the bar of what those company achievements look like may have changed quite a bit. Even if your company has experienced results that fell below expectations, the holiday party is not the time to bring it up. Any speech given during the event should highlight successes instead of setbacks, even if the successes have been small.

Look to Gratitude and What’s Next – Your 2020 virtual party is the perfect time to set the stage for a successful and positive 2021. Any messaging included during the event should be focused on a positive outlook on what’s to come in the new year and underscoring the message of thanks and gratitude for employees. You want your team to feel positive, hopeful and energized for the year ahead.

Revisit Virtual Presentation 101 – For those tasked with delivering a speech or presentations during the holiday party, we suggest revisiting some of the lessons we’ve all learned this year when it comes to presenting virtually. These tips on how to deliver during a digital press conference can also come in handy for your speech preparation:

For tips on how CEOs can give the best holiday speech, visit this perennial favorite blog post. For additional ideas from our PRGN partner in Boston, visit The Castle Group’s blog.

Author: Leslie Dagg

Leslie is an account supervisor at Bianchi PR with 19 years of B2B PR experience representing clients across multiple industries.

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