Taking the zzz out of your next Zoom event
By Gemma Wildgoose
A free bar is a tough gig to beat. But with our nearest and dearest colleagues being furthest for the foreseeable, we had to get creative for our recent internal awards event. Each year, we have a right old SMRS knees-up where we celebrate everyone’s hard work and announce the winners at a local venue. This year, it would be somewhat closer to home. Everyone’s home, in fact. So, how did we drum up employee engagement over Zoom (otherwise known as a bit of pizzazz)?
First things first, platform
Zoom. Microsoft Teams. Even Messenger has a ‘Rooms’ option for people you’re not Facebook friends with. Just make sure it allows screensharing, and doesn’t have a time limit. Create a running order too, so hosts know what’s what – and when.
Promoting it and the build up
An unmissable emailer that’s presented as an invite, a physical party package through the post and reminders in the lead up via your social channels are all winners. We did all three, including this glorious hamper sent to each attendee.
Think about the time of the event too. More people will attend during work hours, on the company dollar. But give people time to clear their desks so there’s no stress. Let people know how long it’ll be too – you can’t slip out quietly into a taxi if needs be, after all. Could there be a (fancy) dress code? Or on-brand colour theme? Could you ask on your internal channels for people’s most memorable moments from past ‘in person’ events?
What could you pop in a party pack? Branded slippers, drinks (including decaf tea for those wanting something softer), printed photo marshmallows – and if it’s an awards do, actual awards or an eco-balloon to draw their ‘gracious loser’ face on? Consider a shared playlist too, to add atmosphere. Your songs could be party classics or even reflect your values.
"Shall we give it a few more minutes?"
Avoid the awkward, “shall we give it a few more minutes?” by keeping people in the waiting room, if your platform allows. When you’ve almost hit that magic number on the confirmed guest list, let everyone in. It helps start things with a bang, rather than a small-talk-infested whimper. Don’t forget to include a message and image to your waiting room to add warmth from the off.
Set the scene
We kicked things off with a welcome video. Music, lights and action all helped oil the party wheels. We even included some great photos of us all at past events. You might introduce your impeccably-dressed hosts (swap the sweatpants for style, just this once...) or consider creating backgrounds to add theatre and humour. Stock footage and music are readily available too if you don’t have a video production specialist at your fingertips. However you do it, bring the energy to set the tone. Here’s ours (crank the volume up!)
Goats and G-listers
Meet Daisy. She’s a goat. And she was one of the special guests who joined our event. Cronkshaw Fold Farm needed a way to replace lost ticket sales during lockdown. And the goat Zoom call attendee was born. For a measly sum, you can have a goat of your choice pop up live for a few minutes. We kid you not. We even had a prize for the first person to spot her. Memorable, supporting a small business, and definitely a talking point.
The special guests didn’t stop there either. To present each award, we invited a few ‘stars’ along too. Ken Barlow, Barry Chuckle, Olympian Rebecca Adlington, Joanna Page from Gavin & Stacey, Martin Roberts, and even Jay from The Inbetweeners all made an appearance through pre-recorded video. There are several video messaging sites with celebrities and ‘celebrities’, depending on your budget. Here’s a taster of how ours went…
Change the pace - and face
As charismatic as your Managing Director might be, people want momentum and a change of scenery. A toast is always a nice nod to shared achievements. We also included a brief drinks break, and a video to mix things up. No screened awards ceremony would be complete without an ‘In Memoriam’ section, reflecting on all those no longer with us. Of course, for our event, we went down the parody route to keep things light on the night. Here it is in all its glory.
Not everyone is comfortable verbally chatting on a huge call, faced with grids of faces. But, people are pretty happy to get chatting through the keyboard. Key up a few people beforehand to get the chat ball rolling. Consider showing them video or other content first to prepare a few thoughts, and be willing to chip in with the chat to encourage others.
It’s more important than ever to keep your team connected and contented. So, there we have it – a few ideas to help get your Zoom party started!