how to throw a remote office party

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If you’re in charge of planning the office party this year, or if you’ve received an invite to a digital-celebration, you probably have some questions and serious hesitations. We certainly did as we were planning our biggest celebration of the year, Augury’s 9th Birthday Party.

We didn’t know if our party would work out or if it would fall flat — and we weren’t even sure if people would even want to celebrate remotely… Besides, how can you throw a party with no venue, no in-person interactions, no dancing, and no food to share — all in a world full of Zoom fatigue?

We did it and it was a great success! So here are some of the lessons we learned and some creative ideas you can use to throw your own remote office party:

1. Create a Digital Meeting Space

When you announce your digital party it’s important to show that you’ve put some thought into planning — and that it won’t be just another all-hands call. Make sure to create and share an agenda that is enticing and easy to follow or build a digital meeting space to shake things up.

We had an entire day dedicated to celebrating to work with. So we built a collaborative Miro Board for the day and a grid with nine themed rooms to simulate the experiences people might miss from ‘normal’ celebration. Here are the rooms we set up for our party:

  • The Town Square – This was the main hall where we gathered and rallied for the founder’s words and the opening/closing ceremonies.
  • The Karaoke Hall – This room was Hosted by our VP, Alliances and it was a huge hit! It was amazing to see how much joy it gave to people to sing together. We had a dedicated host and even more dedicated singers!
  • Augury Cribs – This space allowed us to travel “to visit” our team members’ houses all over the world (of course we checked out everyone’s fridge!).
  • Dance Moves Room – This was hosted by our VP Strategy and it was fun to see him teach people the dance move he created.
  • Chill Out Room – This room was for people who wanted to take a break outside the activities and simply chat with each other from the comfort of their home.
  • Bday Wish Room – This “room” was a Miro board for people to make a wish for the company on our birthday. It’s a great souvenir to share with the team when it’s finished.
  • Cocktail Classroom – Hosted by our Office Manager in NYC and our Front-end Team Leader who both have bartending experience. They taught some signature cocktails recipes and helped people make mixed drinks with what they had in their home.
  • Jam Session – Our lead Web Developer is an amazing saxophone player. He hosted this space where people could jam with him using whatever instruments they can play. You’ll be surprised to see who your secret musicians are on the team!
  • Party Room – Leading up to the party we put together a collaborative playlist where people shared their favorite party songs. We kept this room open and allowed the team to hang like they might at a normal party.

2. Bring the Party to the People

It’s hard to think of a party without using your five senses. A digital party can simulate the sound and maybe the sights of a party but what about touch, smell, and feeling? We tackled this by bringing the party to the team and sending each employee a themed care package one day before the celebration. Here’s what we sent our team:

Alcohol (A nice whiskey or ingredients for an Aperol Spritz)
Augury’s 9th Birthday Shirt (with team member’s names on it)
Augury branded mask (just in case)
Augury blue paint (for an activity during the day)
Sweet Treats (cookies/candy)

3. Lean on Your Culture Leaders

In order for a digital party to be a success, you really need people to buy-in and participate. We leaned on our team culture leaders (the people who are most outgoing and well-liked) to moderate the event and run each breakout session. We also took the time to make sure company leaders were available to help host and participate so team members could get to know them better.

These culture leaders are key to making sure everyone has a great experience. Don’t be afraid to lean into their interests either. Our VP Alliances is a Karaoke -lover and her breakout room was an incredible success because of it!

4. Provide Team Activities – and Prizes!

We were hosting an all-day party, so we came up with some amazing activities to bring out peoples’ competitive spirits. Our people have always responded well to competition and teamwork, so we created some fun activities throughout the day and awarded prizes at the closing ceremony. Here are some of the activities we set up for groups to work together:

  • Team Movie Challenge – Teams selected a movie genre (horror, comedy, reality etc) and a random Augury theme (how the founders met, creating the Augury logo, the first AR installation) to create a two minute movie. Each team had two hours to storyboard, film, and edit their movies. We then hosted a viewing session and sent a survey so the team could vote like it was the Oscars.
  • Something Blue Painting Challenge – The challenge was to paint any item you have at home using the Augury blue paint we sent in the care package. After finishing, participants uploaded their “work of art” to the “Something Blue” slack channel and we voted for the Best Augury Masterpiece.
  • Funny Team Survey Results
    Send out a fun survey before the party and have some of your culture leaders reveal the results to add some flair. It can be a 2020 version of the superlatives or you can make people do polls for the best places to eat around the office. Let the team vote on best home set up or take a poll for their dream office relocation.
  • Zoom Background Challenge
    We took screenshots of people throughout the weeks leading up to the party and edited out people showing only their silhouette. It was incredible to see how people could identify their coworkers by only seeing their silhouette and their home background after being on so many zoom calls for months.

5. Celebrate Together (Don’t Focus on Work)

Put some effort into helping people relax and simply enjoy being together without working. The party should feel separate and different from the day-to-day business operations. If you’re a party organizer or culture leader think of a fun lighting strategy or an outfit that can help communicate that too. Provide some fun topics, polls and conversation starters for your culture leaders just in case things slow down, or if things start to feel like just another meeting. Just remember to be creative and use your insider knowledge of your team to find the best way to celebrate together.

This new digital world presents an opportunity for teams to become more global and connected than ever before. In the past, a holiday party would be a time for teams to become closer and celebrate the wins that they’ve had throughout the year. 2020 has been exceptional in many ways, and while none of us would have chosen it, we’ve embraced the many challenges that have come our way. Take some time to acknowledge that and appreciate the people who’ve been with you throughout one of the toughest years in recent history.

At Augury, we’ll be focusing on the new hope that 2021 brings, celebrating our wins and recognizing that each of us is what makes Augury great. Not only are we celebrating our company’s success and recent funding (We’re hiring!), but that we’ve all helped Augury get to where we are today. Cheers to 2021!