By now, we are well-prepared to hold a meeting on Zoom or Teams, or even have a virtual coffee with colleagues – but how should we structure a free social gathering such as a pre-Christmas celebration, thank-you event, project kick-off or final event, or a similar shared moment online? We collected 20 basic ideas that help us avoid stiffly and formally sitting in front of the screen.
1. Have everyone prepare a toast.
Have everyone prepare a toast, just like in the physical settings. Use visual reactions such as hearts, hand-clapping, and party poppers.
2. Create a quiz.
3. Create a bar trivia.
Create a bar trivia related to the person, organization, or project celebrated in which people can figure out answers in groups. The same technical setup applies to other common social games such as bingo.
4. Make a show-and-tell.
Make a show-and-tell by inviting selected people to show pictures, audiovisual material, or other relevant stuff related to the guest of honor.
5. Share visual memories.
Share old photos and make people tell about their memories. You may find some archival material from the organization’s image bank or people’s home albums.
6. Sing together.
Virtual platforms are perfect for sing-alongs! This is an excellent choice for a birthday party, but you can also choose songs according to themes, seasonal songs, or songs from childhood. You might even try a common karaoke as there are many accompanied songs online. Lyrics, with possible modifications, can be shared on screen.
7. Watch short videos together.
Collect pre-recorded video wishes or make a video collage (e.g., with VidHug). Videos can easily be recorded on mobile by people from all over the world and shared on screen.
8. Take a virtual tour together.
Take a virtual tour together. Choose a museum, zoo, aquarium, or a theme park, or use Google Maps to visit an area that is important for the person who is being celebrated or the project that is having its kick-off or final party.
9. Invite surprise guests.
In virtual settings, nothing is easier than inviting guests from outside the community! You can invite, for example, ex-colleagues, collaborators, or stakeholders who are relevant to you but who you do not see regularly. Or maybe friends or relatives who can expose another side of your colleague? Or a local celebrity?
10. Have a common workout.
In monotonous sitting times, it is both healthy and fun to have a common workout during breaks, given that it hasn’t become a habit at your workplace yet.
11. Organize a masquerade.
How about a costume party, perhaps with a common theme? Or maybe a Corona mask party? The craziest and most original outfit wins.
12. Try out a common recipe.
In a situation where everyone is sitting home, you may try out cooking together. Maybe you could even have a moderator telling everyone what to do and sharing some tips? After the shared process, you can sit down, present the results, and share the joy of eating.
13. Eat together.
Eat something simple together – ice cream does not need preparations, neither do the cinnamon buns from the freezer. Alternatively, everyone takes care of one’s own catering. But the most important thing is that everyone has something to eat and you can imagine having a brunch, lunch or dinner together.
14. Adapt a board game to the virtual environment.
Choose a well-known board game such as the word games Alias or Scrabble, be creative, and adapt it to Zoom or Teams. For example, in Alias’s visual version, everyone may draw something on-screen, and the others need to guess what it is.
15. Play an online game.
Choose a simple free multi-user online game and invite all participants to play against each other. However, many such games require a log-in, so this may require some preparations.
16. Share stories.
Ask everyone to leave a short personal memory or a story relevant to the celebration in advance, written in the most anonymous way possible. The stories may also deal with failures, funny incidents, or similar limited topics. Re-distribute the stories so that all participants get someone else’s story to read aloud. Now you can all try to guess whose story it was!
17. Give virtual gifts.
Hold a virtual gift-opening party. Groups of people in the community choose a virtual gift from a (pre-selected) webshop, shares it on screen, and present the gift, explaining why this particular thing was selected. Even pieces of art or architecture or similar can be selected instead of products. Anyway, the gifts should be funny and fabulous – things that you couldn’t buy in real life but that address something nice about the person or community being celebrated.
18. Share your favorite things.
Pick up a theme – for example, the favorite tea, beer, coffee sort, or favorite or recently read books or music or video playlists, or quotes or role models – and ask everyone to share their favorites with others. By sharing your favorite things, you can initiate discussions in a warm atmosphere; in matters of taste, there can be no disputes…
19. Send someone on a physical tour.
Send a key person on a tour in a physical environment and ask him or her to solve pre-designed tasks where the others can give support and comment on. The plot of the social event becomes to encourage the person to make it. Alternatively, you can have two persons and two teams competing against each other.
20. Visualize research output.
Make use of a person’s or project’s research output and make groups invent plays, poems, drawings, or other quick visualizations about them by using breakout rooms on Zoom. When everyone is back in the common room, the others try to identify what specific article, book, concept, theory, or similar presentation. Alternatively, you can make a quiz about statements with the poll tool’s help, and participants are asked to anonymously answer whether the statement concerning a specific article, book, concept, theory, research incident, research project, or similar is true or false.
What’s Your Idea?