We’ve seen a lot of rituals and traditions topple this year, including the team holiday party. This year, when we could all use a moment of positive celebration, interaction and acknowledgment, in-person get-togethers have been nixed so that people can avoid the risk of Covid-19 and remain healthy. How do you rethink this treasured tradition so you can create a festive environment, enable human connection among team members and build an experience that will be memorable and meaningful—not just a lame replica of a real party or yet another Zoom happy hour?
The key is to create a consistent, cohesive environment. When everyone is in the same garland- filled bricks-and-mortar room, the smell of cider, the sound of laughter and the taste of the season create a truly shared experience. It’s a little more challenging, but not impossible, to achieve this when the event space is a Zoom room.
To create a consistent experience, send your people a holiday party in a box (or multiple boxes as the case may be) with everything they need to infuse the experience with a warm and uniform holiday mood. The best way to do that is to engage all their senses in a similar experience. Here’s what to include in your party in a box to engage the senses and create a spirit of togetherness among all team members despite their disparate locations.
Smell. We know that the sense of smell is among the most powerful senses for creating memorability and emotion, according to FifthSense.Org. So start there. Include the same scented candle for everyone. Spruce or clove would be good choices. To make it really special, order a quality candle with a one-of-a-kind scent that creates a unique, indulgent experience. Bond NYC has a complete line of candles with unique scents in vessels that are beautifully designed and fun. LA-based spirits producer Amass makes candles infused with many of the same botanicals they use to create their award-winning gin. When your people burn their candles after your holiday event, they’ll be reminded of the fun and camaraderie.
Taste. If your event is a cocktail party, send hors d’oeuvres. Consider these that can be shipped virtually anywhere from Williams Sonoma. If your team has more of a sweet tooth, you can send a homemade brownie flight from Citarella or a cookie assortment from New York’s famous Milk Bar. You can even make it a wine-tasting party where you can all sample wines at the same time. Vinebox offers wines by the glass. Alcohol-free options abound as well, including samplers of fine teas or high-quality sparkling beverages from TÖST.
Sight. You need not add anything to your party package for this one. Use your Zoom screen sharing feature to simulate a fireplace playing on everyone’s screen or add some fun videos that everyone can experience. This will enhance the festive spirit and amp up the fun factor. Maybe you could do the tacky sweater challenge.
Sound. Every in-person holiday party has a soundtrack, so too should your virtual fete. Before the event, you can poll your people asking them for their favorite holiday song or favorite song of 2020 and create a playlist. Then make the playlist available to everyone so they can let the music fill their ears. Do a trial run beforehand to make sure that your settings are optimizing the audio.
Then comes the most important aural element of your event … the voices of your people. This has been a challenging year, so focus discussion around things that are funny and heartfelt. You can award prizes for the funniest Zoom story, like when your colleague’s daughter spit up on the keyboard right before a client pitch. Or use the chat feature to create a group victory list, acknowledging the situations you plowed through together in the face of unimaginable uncertainty.
Touch. To tie it all together, focus on touch. Of course, it’s hard to replace a hug or a handshake. That kind of human touch is just not an option in a pandemic. But you can interpret touch in a different way. Make the experience touching by choosing activities that will give everyone a warm feeling inside. Heartfelt expressions of appreciation and acknowledgement will go a long way toward making this a memorable event. Get everyone on the team to share what they admire most in each of their colleagues. Give awards for the most creative Zoom background or the most compelling cameo appearance on Zoom by a pet. Make it human since the normal daily interaction among team members sometimes makes us feel robotic.
Sure, the in-person holiday party for 2020 is a no-go, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun, meaningful bonding experience. By celebrating each other as real people, not pixels, your team can forge deeper connections and feel more even more engaged than they did in the days of the crowded hotel ballroom.
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