Business development · 13 July 2020

How to plan a virtual summer party: Avoid these 6 mistakes

virtual summer party DON'Ts
6 virtual summer party DON’Ts to avoid

Your annual office summer party is probably going to look a little different this year. Think opening your desktop to log on to Zoom instead of heading straight to an open bar…

Although many employees remain at home in different parts of the UK, and in some cases, in different countries, the office summer party is still a great opportunity to engage and reward teams for their hard work – particularly when the past few months have been so tough for so many.

“What’s more, a virtual event can prove much more cost-effective, which will be important for many businesses at the moment,” says Tom Squire from corporate catering and food delivery service City Pantry.

Since lockdown, City Pantry has been using its newly launched ‘Pantry Packages’ delivery service to help businesses plan and activate their summer parties. Based on the trends it has seen, here are the biggest mistakes businesses are making when it comes to organising their virtual get-together.

 Mistake 1: Not setting a theme

You need your virtual summer party to feel different from a company meeting or all-hands, and landing on a creative theme will help structure the flow of the event. Don’t feel like you need to relate the theme back to what your business does either.

Some of the best ideas we’ve seen are when people think outside the box; from a Rodeo Hoedown to a three-course virtual dinner party. You can then pair decorations, food, music and activities to that theme, and even ask employees to dress up for the occasion.

Mistake 2: Quiz mania

Let’s face it, we’re all a bit sick of them by now. Recycled questions and people using their phones to look up answers.

There are so many ways to build on the quiz format and make it a little different. Why not try turning your quiz into a virtual game show, or challenging people to a talent contest, digital karaoke or even a virtual cook-off.

Mistake 3: Being too generic

We’ve seen a real trend for bespoke packages, and it’s a sure-fire way to show employees that you’ve gone above and beyond at a time when working together can be challenging.

From personalised invitations to bespoke three-course menus and even branded decorations, there are loads of ways to bring your business’ personality into your event, and they don’t need to cost the earth.

Mistake 4: Keeping people chained to their screens

Whilst it might seem counter-productive, giving people something to do at home that doesn’t involve being on a video call will make them feel more involved.

We’ve seen a huge rise in orders for DIY cooking kits, from pizzas to cupcakes, giving people the chance to step away from their laptop, cook something in their kitchen and rejoin the party to share the results with their colleagues.

Mistake 5: Sticking together

One of the great things about the summer party is building relationships with colleagues you don’t normally work with. On a video call in a virtual summer party, you can end up either just giving a series of speeches, or letting those with the loudest voices own the conversation.

Try splitting people into random small groups of about five, give them an activity to work on together and encourage them to come back and share with the whole group. Not only will people connect with colleagues they don’t usually work with, but it will give everyone a role in the event.

Mistake 6: Making it too long

Your virtual summer party doesn’t have to be as long as a normal work party – in fact, it really shouldn’t be. Video call burnout is a real issue but it can be minimised by setting out clear start and end times.

Keep your office party short and sweet; one fun activity, some mouth-watering food and drink and a little bit of chit-chat to finish make sure to end on a positive and light-hearted note.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.