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Company dinners have now become a thing of the past. Going to a venue to meet your team for some bonding is just not an option anymore. With safety in mind, we’ve all made changes to our lifestyle and as businesses it becomes a challenge to build company moral and unite your team when you haven’t been to the office in over a year. Especially in many cases where new employees have joined over the past year and have yet to meet their colleagues in person. A company gathering is more important than ever now, but can a virtual work meet up be effective or is it just another uneventful online meeting? Many challenges arise when we think of this. How do you engage the entire group? Will people want to interact? How do you keep things from becoming awkward and make it entertaining?
After several months of social distancing, everyone is looking for some sort of human interaction outlet! A virtual annual event is a great way to offer employees the opportunity to take a break from all their hard work and enjoy themselves. As the buzz begins your team has the ability to create their own engagement during the event, which allows the organizers to simply enjoy the event. Last Friday, Smart IS International (our parent company) for the first time brought together their international teams to join in a virtual Annual Gathering. SMG was given the exciting challenge to put the event together. With many of our IT professionals working in their homes and in various locations, our first matter at hand was strategizing how we encourage each team member to join our event! The key things that made the event interesting before it even happened are:
- A Theme – A theme sets the mood and it can honestly make or break an event. Knowing your audience’s interest and the purpose of your audience should guide you to selecting a theme. We titled our event Transcend | Together Digitally, a title that encompassed our employees hard work and efforts to take our company to the next level. The theme was not about how great the company did, but about their efforts that made our company great. We wanted to honor them and appreciate them and the theme embodied just that.
- Engagement – The interaction begins before the event. If the audience is engaging weeks leading up to the event, then their interest in the event will be heightened. In my opinion, one of the key factors that made our event successful was the creation of an online team portal. The Transcend portal, a webpage on our website, was not only for employees to get information regarding the event, but also to share their experiences in the last year. Employees were asked to submit videos and pictures of their work from home experience, talents they worked on and recipes. The team member submissions were then posted on the portal. We continued to keep in communication with the whole team days leading up to the event with reminders.
- Recognition – With a couple days left to the event, everyone was asked to vote for their favorite videos/ pictures. We also made an effort to add multiple hosts so that more people could be included. Instead of having a single host for the entire event, we decided to appoint multiple hosts in order to bring the team together. Our annual gathering encompassed annual awards, special recognitions and interactive games to encourage team member participation.
The event agenda included interactive activities such as a Scavenger Hunt, a company game utilizing Kahoot!, flashback videos from the previous year, and a few highlights from our leaders. The agenda was light and was only focused on appreciating the team and giving them time to relax. We sent out gifts to each employee and each employee’s picture was shared in an intro video at the start of the event.
As a majority of the company attended our annual event, we successfully engaged each employee through live video, conversations throughout the event and submissions prior to the event. Whether through submissions prior to the event, having conversations during the event, or sending comments through the chat, most everyone was involved in the event. The event didn’t feel forced because it flowed through conversation. In fact, the employees ran the event themselves and if they wanted to change the rules of an activity they did and it made them enjoy it more. The scavenger hunt was intended as an individual activity, instead the team decided to work together to solve it and people that had never worked together were given an opportunity to talk to one another.
What makes a company meet up different from a webinar or a more structured virtual meeting is that it is intended to bring your team together. You have to allow them to guide it to some degree, the hosts responsibility is to be there to manage the technicalities and to maintain order, but it is the employees that should run the show. Anyone and everyone should be given an opportunity to talk as this will take away the virtual feeling from the event and make it more intimate.