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Planning a virtual work summer party?

Posted by Zoe McFarland on 25th August 2020

With most of us working from home, the Wildfire social team had to dramatically re-think our annual summer party this year.

During our planning stage there really wasn’t much out there in terms of how to throw a virtual work ‘party’.

On one side of the coin there are firms offering full entertainment packages for a hefty price but without really explaining what you’d actually get (and mostly geared towards the US). On the other side, short games that we’ve already been playing during our weekly beer o’clock sessions.

For those 30 minute to one hour sessions over the last four months we’ve come up with something new each week (somehow).

#ZoomJam has been really useful — a competition that challenged people to come up with games to play over videoconferencing software. The murder mystery went down really well but classic games like Pictionary and Catchphrase have had their revival too. We’ve either found 1980s-style free versions online or made our own makeshift version to keep the team entertained.

As for other games, some required nothing interactive at all. Room 101 was a particular highlight – it turns out all we need is a good rant sometimes to feel connected!

But for the summer party we needed more for at least a half day of shenanigans, yet we were conscious of exhausting people with too much screen time and too many activities.

As holiday season has been a bit of a wash out, we took the team on a ‘virtual vacation’, seeding our plan a couple of weeks before with a tropical email invite designed on Canva.

Firstly, this theme meant everyone could dress up. From a simple Hawaiian shirt to a full-on Hula outfit (which Debby pulled off, with a purple wig to boot).

Secondly, this gave us a lot of scope for themed decorations and goodies. With most people working from home we wanted to make make everyone feel as though they were at the same party and pulled together summer party packages to be delivered to everyone.

The boxes contained a NOI cocktail (which I can highly recommend – they are posted through your letterbox!) and gin, beer or soft drinks and a bunch of snacks. These were bundled with theme-related items including a coconut, inflatable flamingo drink holder, flamingo drink stirrer, lei, tropical bunting and a suitably tropical inflatable e.g. palm tree, dolphin, parrot. And we popped in a scratch card for everyone for luck, although we only had one £50 win!

Our pack also contained some miscellaneous items that would only become clear on the day in our live Minute to Win It segment. For a bit of non screen time we all took part in challenges to see who could do random tasks the fastest — sorting smarties into colours and moving Tic Tacs from one plate to another with chopsticks. If you’ve never seen the show, check it out on Netflix.

Either side of these activities we broke into teams. First up was the Lost at Sea challenge — a survival game where six of us were in a dingy and had to rank 15 salvaged items in order of importance. We were scored against the coastguard’s ranking and all (just about) managed to get rescued.

Then we formed new teams for a multi-player, point-and-click adventure game crossed with an escape room: Sector X The B.R.U.C.E Project. This really put our skills to the test, especially a couple of drinks in, as it was pretty difficult! Previously we played Clue Cracker’s Extinction Island, which was much more achievable (apart from the first task on flowers, watch out for that one).

Throughout our virtual vacation we also played Wildfire Bingo with cards containing common phrases the team say and prizes up for grabs – who doesn’t want a metallic pineapple pen in their lives!?

It was a new experience for us all, but a great one. If you’re in my shoes and planning a virtual summer party though, I recommend you learn how to use Zoom Breakout Rooms or similar, as that would have helped a lot of the logistics.

But the team loved it and hopefully this has inspired you with some ideas of what you could do!

Zoe McFarland

Zoe has over six years’ B2B technology PR experience across a variety of sectors, including artificial intelligence, cyber security, IT software, marketing technology, 3D printing and Unified Communications. With a flair for media relationships, Zoe has also honed her skills in other complementary areas, including international agency network management, events co-ordination and product launches. Zoe prides herself on delivering stand-out results for clients and immerses herself in their businesses to make sure the right message gets to the right media. Always on top of the latest trends, Zoe has a love for news-jacking and a passion for injecting new ideas for maximum campaign impact. Zoe is also the office panda enthusiast – not that it would take you long to notice once you see her desk!