Virtual Team Event in a Pandemic
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
Throwing a team event at a time when social distancing is important, and showing appreciation for hard working teams is needed more than ever, has proven to be a challenging, yet rewarding experience. So here’s what I learned from facilitating a remote team event.
After a lot of brainstorming and checking in with other companies on what they were doing, there were some options to thank team members:
Gift boxes with food, or drinks
Virtual simultaneous activity such as making a meal, or decorating gingerbread
Company gift card, or cash payout
Virtual team event to simulate what would have been done in person
For Texada in 2020, we chose to go with the virtual team event. As a company of under 50 people, we felt it was important in a time of isolation to spend the time together. We chose to run a lunchtime event with each person choosing their own take-out, virtual games, door prizes, and ample time for socializing.
If you are a larger company I would suggest using Zoom/Teams for a larger main event, and then use breakout rooms to create closeness and connection. An event for 100+ people would be difficult to feel as though guests were participants and not attendees.
For the Texada event, we chose:
Team members only - previously, team members were encouraged to invite a plus one, with a virtual event, we felt it wouldn’t be comfortable for them to join
Ordering food through Uber Eats to prevent the additional work of buying, expensing, approving individual meals for each team member
Running the event within working hours to bolster attendance, and not take away from personal/family time
Before the event, we encouraged everyone to use the Uber Eats credits to order food in advance and schedule it to arrive during the event so we could all eat together. During the event, we ate, played virtual bingo, broke into breakout rooms for conversations, raffled off prizes, and had some remarks from managers.
Takeaways from organizing a virtual team event:
We found the time was too short for all the activities. With the feedback form we received, the team would have also liked more time for the breakout rooms. Using Uber Eats corporate meal plan had a lot of hiccups for those that did not already have an Uber account. To make it simpler, we could have sent it as a $40 voucher that didn’t require the same registration/association to the company Uber account. Our last learning was that since we started at noon, but many restaurants didn’t start delivery services until 12:30 if they opened at 11:30am or 12:00pm. Delaying the event until 1pm would have opened up more food choices.
What we would like to change for next time:
Add a theme - To make it more of an event we could have sent out a theme (think Ugly Christmas Sweaters and award prizes)
Delay the event by 30-60 minutes so more restaurant options are available
Or run it at end of day as the more upscale restaurants opened at 4pm
Have a longer time slot, we packed a lot into 90 minutes
Communicate the door prizes in advance to build anticipation
Allow the team to suggest door prizes
Final thoughts, based on formal and informal feedback it seems like this event was a success in creating a virtual shared experiencer. Could we have done things differently? Yes. The feedback was valuable in helping to run future events. Since there was no template for how to run these kinds of events, I wanted to share our experience. Hopefully this can be useful to you in planning future events for remote teams.
Did your company run any virtual events in the last year? If so, how did they go? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
Our preparations before the event:
Chose a date/time and communicated it to the team in advance
Sent Zoom link details to the team
Planned conversation prompts for breakout room social time
Set up company account for food delivery service
Sent vouchers to the team in advance
Entered all names into Wheel Decide for the raffles
Generated links and virtual cards for Virtual Bingo
Selected door prizes and corporate swag gift
Full itinerary for our 90 minute event:
Greeting/small talk and welcoming as people trickle in for 15 minutes
We didn’t intend it to be this long, but since it was the middle of the workday, some team members weren’t able to come right for the 12pm start
Virtual bingo, three games with small prizes - 10 minutes
Break into breakout rooms, with 3-4 people per room - 12 minutes
We allowed people to self select rooms, and assigned anyone who didn’t choose a room within a couple minutes
Prompted conversation with a set conversation starter verbally, as well as broadcasted the conversation starter while the breakout rooms were being used
Several short speeches from managers - 8 minutes
Raffle where half the door prizes were drawn - 7 minutes
Jackboxgames - Bracketeering Game - 15 minutes
We chose this as it allowed up to 16 players plus an audience. Admittedly the best Jackbox games are 8 players or less but not ideal for this size of group.
Several more short speeches from managers - 7 minutes
Final raffle prizes - 11 minutes
Closing remarks and signoff - 5 minutes
Tools we used:
Ability to broadcast computer audio from the games for clearer audio
Ability to use breakout rooms for small group socialization
Wheeldecide.com For the virtual draws that everyone could watch together
Bingobaker.com for virtual bingo together
Jackboxgames.com for a virtual game together
Uber Eats for simultaneous food delivery
Local Retailers/Amazon/Bestbuy for door prizes
Google Sheet for budget calculations
Google Doc for collaborative planning
Google Form for event feedback