Even during a pandemic, it’s still important to find ways to connect with each other. And a big part of doing that — even virtually — is through events. Here at Tripleseat, our goal is to help you streamline your event management, so trust us when we say we take events seriously, even our own.
While many on the Tripleseat team are remote, a big part of our culture is getting together in person, something everyone looks forward to especially at our end-of-the-year holiday celebration (it’s kind of a big deal). Unfortunately, meeting in person wasn’t an option in 2020, so the marketing team was tasked with hosting a virtual celebration that felt like we were all back together in the same room, by no means an easy task.
Here is what we learned by hosting Tripleseat’s first-ever (and hopefully last ever) virtual company holiday party:
Keep the agenda simple
Typically, Tripleseat’s holiday celebration happens over two days, but being virtual this year, it made sense to condense everything into one day. We made sure to give employees breaks throughout the day so that there wasn’t too much screen fatigue. We also had some fun parts to the day to keep everyone engaged, like a guest speaker, an end of year video featuring our employees, and a wine tasting at the end of the day!
Pick the right platform
As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post — How to Plan a Virtual Holiday Party — choosing your virtual platform is key to your event’s success. There are tons of platforms available, but finding one that works for you and the experience you want your attendees to have should take priority. We chose to go with BigMarker for our event because we liked that the platform was easy to use, we could customize the branding in the webinar room, and it had the engagement capabilities we needed.
We also used a virtual space called Gather to encourage face-to-face interaction and networking. This platform helped us to create an environment where employees customize an avatar and use it to walk around in a virtual town and video chat with each other. People were able to walk in and out of conversations as they would have in real life. Gather was where people could hang out during breaks, play games with each other, and where we hosted our wine tasting.
Set the tone for engagement early
As I mentioned, we wanted to avoid screen fatigue during our long day, and we also wanted the day to be fun and interactive. We did this by incorporating some different styles of engagement. We didn’t spend the whole day just listening to company updates. Instead, we kicked off the day with a surprise guest speaker. Tripleseat has recently started an Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Group, and our speaker tied into that theme, which was a huge success and win for our committee. Our team was quickly engaged and blowing up our chat functions with comments and questions for our speaker. This helped to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Employees were also pre-warned that the day would be interactive and that they would be on camera. We didn’t want to lose the face-to-face aspect that comes with an in-person experience. For these instances, we used other platforms such as Gather and Zoom. Most departments used Zoom for their smaller meetings and there were multiple times during the day to interact with each other in Gather. The Tripleseat employees loved getting to play around in the environment and see each other remotely; it brought them face to face interaction we were looking for.
Create some buzz and add excitement
Admittedly, it’s not hard to get the Tripleseat team excited — we’re an enthusiastic bunch. But as part of our holiday gathering, we had some surprises up our sleeves that helped get everyone excited for the big day and added some extra fun to the experience.
We were able to ship some surprises to everyone prior to the meeting, including bagels for a morning brunch, wine for our wine tasting, and a branded box full of cozy branded items. Everyone was told not to open anything until the day of the meeting. When the festivities began, our company Slack was quickly flooded with photos of people showing off their Tripleseat deliveries, which amped up everyone’s excitement and also created a sense of community leading up to our event.
Overall, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive throughout the day, and it was nice to get to relax and have fun with coworkers. From a planner’s perspective, it felt like a real event. It was surprisingly a long day, and I even took a full day to recover from it. Just because your event is virtual does not mean it will be easy: there was a lot of planning and coordinating to make sure all of the logistics ran smoothly.
Things to consider
- If using multiple platforms (like we did), make sure it’s clear to everyone what they are, and when they should be signed on to each one, and share the links!
- If shipping packages, make sure you plan to have them arrive a day or two before your actual event. Also, have tracking numbers handy to share in case packages are late or lost.
- If shipping wine or alcohol over state lines have some backup plans. There were some states we were unable to ship to, so we had to have wine delivered locally to some employees.
- Do your platform research! We spent hours researching to find our virtual networking platform, Gather.
Learn more about virtual events
The hospitality industry has gotten better and more creative at running virtual and hybrid events over the last year. Check out these blog posts for more tips:
- Virtual Restaurant Experiences Your Corporate Clients Will Love
- Two Chicks, Three Seats Episode 19: Everything You Need To Know About Virtual Events
- How Your Venue Can Take Advantage of the Hybrid Event Trend
- How the FAB Conference Created a Successful Online Event During the Pandemic
- How to Plan a Virtual Holiday Party