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How to organise a virtual team building event

By March 30, 2021May 10th, 2021No Comments

The essential guide to organising a virtual team building event that’s right for your team.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering, how difficult is to organise a virtual team building event? COVID-19 has affected all our lives in numerous ways and, as an event organiser, you’ll know better than most that getting your team together is difficult in the best of times.

Our work lifestyle has undergone a huge shift to a more isolated social dynamic, the question on everybody’s mind is: “How am I going to bring my remote team together?”.

In this article, I will shine a light on some of the difficulties you may face whilst organising and what you need to pull together a world class virtual team event.

Researching virtual team building activities on the market.

The very first question that will come to your mind was: “*What’s on offer to do virtually?*” swiftly followed by a frantic Google search of something like *Virtual Team Building, Fun Remote Activities, Online Away Days…* the list goes on. This is the most obvious starting point, especially when locked away in your tower. We thought we could bring to light some other places you can go hunting beyond search engines.

A Few Resources:

What will your virtual event look like? Credit to David Ostow, with cartooncollections.com

Questions to ask yourself when planning a virtual team building event.

1. What are you looking to achieve with this virtual event?

Have a clear brief. Try to fill out this sentence

> At the end of the event, we want ABC to have happened and we want our team to feel XYZ.

This is an important statement to keep front of mind. Otherwise this may get lost under the 20 tabs of research. Are you looking to have a simple get-together to blow off some steam or would you like to have meaningful team bonding that builds trust and rapport? If you want to improve your team culture over the mid/long-term you might need a multi-event strategy. Maybe you want to improve your team’s wellness which could take you down a mindfulness path.

This requires you to know your team and to get feedback from them and your leader (if that’s not you). Do you think they’d like to do something relaxed or is your team more bombastic? The answer will inform your choice of activity.

2. How many guests will you have?

It’s good to have an idea of how many people are going to attend. Pre COVID-19 we knew that many people would go from the office to a lovely venue, with activities prepared to mingle with drinks. As you can imagine, seeing your colleagues’ disembodied heads in little boxes on a computer screen is a slightly different experience that attracts a different percentage of your team.

People also have to contend with families, cooking, working out and battling Zoom fatigue.

You will find that some virtual event companies will have varying capabilities in accommodating group size. Some can get up to 500 with others capping attendees at 20. In the larger events, it’s likely that your guests will be divided into smaller groups. Without splitting into smaller groups it’s nearly impossible for your guests to have quality interaction with each other.

3. How long should your virtual team building activity be?

60-80 mins is a great length of time for a virtual team building event. Any longer than this and you may find people get tired. You may want to add a short break to avoid monotony and [zoom fatigue](https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200421-why-zoom-video-chats-are-so-exhausting). If you’re arranging your activity around a virtual off-site, you may also want to consider options for play in short bursts throughout the day.

4. How much does a virtual team building activity cost?

We cover this in more detail below but prices can range from £5pp to £100pp, the upper tiers often involve gifts/items being sent to guests. If you have no clue. what your budget is, you may like to research a bunch of options and bring them back to your team to show them what can be achieved in terms of guest experience at each price point.

Distilling your options down to the last few.

1. How interactive does your activity need to be?

A virtual team building experience will be more engaging if it’s interactive. “Interactive” in this context means the guests have to actively work with with each-other, rather than doing things by themselves. We’ve all been on a team Zoom call where we’re not actually talking or doing anything *with* our team mates. For example, a Netflix Party or a virtual trivia quiz might not be enough to get your team feeling like they’re spending quality time with each-other.

In some scenarios, a very simple quiz or solo activity could be the simple ice breaker you’re looking for. However, if you need to boost connections and rapport within your team try to get them talking and laughing with each-other. They’ll thank you after!

2. Should you go for hosted or a do-it-yourself virtual event?

To make a show out of your event, you may want to consider a hosted virtual team building event for your team. While it might be more expensive, the upside is that it will feel like a professional show and get more engagement from your team compared to in-house activities you may be running.

Hosting your event in-house will often be the more affordable option and could help you keep a more relaxed work-family feeling with no outsiders.

A major bonus of an external company hosting is that no one in your team, including you, has to miss out on the fun and bonding. Conversely, the danger of an outside company hosting is the risk of a sub-par individual who may ruin the experience as they heavily dictate the atmosphere and energy. Look for videos and testimonials that confirm the team building companies you are considering have a great team of hosts running their events.

So you found your perfect virtual team event idea. Now what?

1. Presenting options to your colleagues.

Think about showing off what the team will experience during the event but also the feeling they’ll get. People are more concerned with the outcome/benefit of the experience. It’s not so much about the *what* of the event but more so how well it’ll deliver laughter, fun and connection.

  • You may have to compete with other people’s ideas. Be prepared with reviews, videos, and pictures of previous guests taking part to paint a vivid picture of how the event experience will play out for your guests.
  • If you make slides, keep it to just a few per event that you present. Use colourful pictures and snippets of testimonials.
  • Use techniques that have worked in the past that were successful in being chosen.
  • Get videos and pictures from the team building company. Video > Images > Text.
  • Smiling faces and laughter will convey your choices far better than screen shots of applications or software interfaces.
2. Getting leadership support and attendance.

We believe leadership support and attendance is important for creating a feeling of unity at your event. It is also good for the team to know their senior managers care about their well-being and the culture of the team.

3. Get sign off on the finances. £

No money. No event. If anything this part may need to come before your research phase. That said, once you’ve been shopping this may change how much your company wants to spend on this event.

The ROI on fun and a unifying expeirence is almost impossible to directly measure. However the cost of a bad event can be much more than the cash you spend on it and tarnish your culture. On the flip side, a fantastic event can kick-start a buzz that could be felt in working life for weeks after.

A few things to think about that will make paying for your event easier:

  • Who signs this off? Are they aware this money is being spent and why you want to spend it?
  • How long will it take for funds to clear? Many virtual team building companies require payment in advance to secure the booking. This is likely something they can be flexible on in exchange for solid commitments like showing that an invoice is being processed by your finance department.
  • If you are paying by card, check if there’s a card charge to be aware of.
4. Finding a time that works for your team and virtual event supplier.

A crucial piece of the puzzle. It’s a chicken and egg question. Do you get times first or the activity. Knowing when everyone is free may determine which virtual team building company you can use. Especially at busy times of the year like the holiday season. If you have a very large team that is less flexible, securing a time for all your team first may be the best approach. If you have a smaller group to plan for you may be able to be more flexible opening up more options from differnet suppliers.

Getting attendance commitments form guests can be harder with virtual events. People don’t treat them like they do in-person events and often have more fickle attitudes. During pandemic times especially, your team will have their own personal challenges and are looking after their physical and mental health, families, isolation concerns and much more.

  • 🤔 To find a time for your virtual team building event you may find tools such as Doodle poll useful. Your guests can select from multiple times that work for them. You could also send multiple calendar invites to the team, each with a title like “Virtual Team Event OPTION ONE” “Virtual Team Event OPTION TWO”. Despite, these, the reality is that you are unlikely to achieve 100% turn out. That’s ok. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

  • Other hudles you may face includex, but not limited to:
    • Planning your event too late into the evening could be trouble for parents.
    • Doing the event the middle of busy weeks could be a burden on work load.
    • Should you give people time off work to play the games?

What technology and materials will you need for the virtual event?

Technology

Just like a black tie event needs a dashing suit or elegant dress, your remote event will require video conferencing software and other technical demands. It’s crucial to they will need to participate. Some companies may be able to accomdate to your preferred tool whether its Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Webex or Google Hangouts etc. However some virutal event suppliers may require a specific video conferencing tool for the best experience. If using work computers, it’s healthy to check with IT to make sure that your team can use the software required and that your team will not run into issues with firewalls.

Materials & Data

Are you are going to be sent either physical or digital materials by your chosen events company? If yes, check the privacy policy of your supplier and get confirmation about whether or not they will be marketing to your guests after. Using a Virtual Cocktail making class example, will have to send a list of addresses to the company to ensure that everybody can take part and your guests will have to agree to that in advance. In most cases guests will be sent camendar invites and emails which has GDPR implcations you will need to be aware of and discuss with your supplier.

Remeber that according to the key principals of GDPR you and your guests have the right to be forgotton. The virtual team building company does not have the right to use guest data beyond the purposes of the event i.e. to start marketing to you all without express permission.

Final Considerations

Getting your team ready and excited

This could be one of the toughest part of the job. Partly becuase people are burnt by low quality, repetative virutal trivia quizes. How do you get your team to be excited about this great thing you found online?! Your team could also be experiencing Zoom fatigue and getting them in front of the computer more than they have too for work, could be a struggle and even unhealthy for them.

To get people excited visiblitiy and remarkability are key. Your tools to get attention are videos, images and senior leadership communication so that guest know this event is supported at the highest level and is imporatnt tho the leaders attending.

Give people permission to get out of work mode. Let your team know this is fun time. Not work time! They should make space for the event in their day and mind. Turn off email, grab a drink and sit somewhere that’s not where they work. Get the most senior leaders involved to echo this message – it will help people relax.

You should also give guests a heads up that your choosen supplier will be in touch and the email address they should expect to hear from incase it lands in the spam.

Over communicate

Changes of plans and dropouts are an inevitability. As the organiser you’ll have to manage both your internal team and the supplier. A strong and clear communication habit is going to be cirital for you to keep everyone in Sync. Alert all invovled parties of any changes as soon as you can to keep the whole process smooth. You’ll need to update your virutal event guests on what they need in order to turn up to the call calm and prepared.

Are your team burnt-out?

This consideration is especially relevant during a pandemic. If your team are feeling the burn, Is that caused by Zoom? Perhaps too much work or it could be many other factors including not enough social time. Be careful not to remedy Zoom burnout with a video team building event. More than likely this specific act of being on video is not the problem, more like that monotony of working without fun and laughter will be a problem most teams are facing in a post Covid-19 world.

What Can You do to make it special your team?

It’s the little things that turn a good event into a great one. Talk with your event provider and find out if they can do anything to make your event more personalised. It could be as small as having your company logo put on slides or the content of the gams to reflect key themes you are thinking about in the business at the moment. You many also want to make a fuss of new hires, leaver or people with birthdays etc. Do you guys have an internal team, nicknames you could bring into the expeirence? These details help make what initially starts as another Zoom meeting turn into a memorable and fulfilling experience for all involved.

In Summary

Planning a virtual team building event is very different to an in-person experence where the social connection does a lot of the leg work. There are many conversations and messages needed in order for you to pull this off. A well organised, pleasant supplier is going to make or break the planning experience for you. That said the main thing you can do as the virutal event organiser is overcommunicate with all parties. By starting with a clear brief form your leaders and team to making sure all the details are confirmed with the supplier on the day of the event.

Too much communication is far better than having to send “sorry for the delay” messages and finding your window of booking avaliabiltiy has gone. We hope this post has given you enough questions and insights to be able to avoid the key mistakes others have made on their virtual event planning journey. Please feel free to bookmark this page, share with others and let us know what other tips you have for organising your virtual team building event.

Good Luck!
Steamed Egg

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