Have you heard the one about a Charlotte comedian who bombed, then came out ahead?

I was featured in The Charlotte Observer, you guys! And they told everyone my age! HA!

Note: You’ll need to sign up for a FREE account with The Charlotte Observer to read the article, but I think it’s worth it, and I hope you do, too!

Top 6 Tips for Successful Virtual Holiday Parties

Have you been wondering how you could POSSIBLY pull off a holiday party this year? You are NOT alone.

Good News: No one has EVER hosted a virtual holiday party in a global pandemic. EVER.

Some More Good News: This means there’s no rule book! There’s no such thing as the “right way” or the “wrong way” to host a virtual holiday party.

Here are my Top 6 tips to best utilize the virtual setting for your holiday party…  

Tip #1: Just Freakin’ Go For It!   Like I mentioned above, there’s no standard operating procedure for virtual holiday parties! A bit of thoughtful planning will go a long way. And don’t forget to sprinkle in some fun along the way.


Tip #2: Engage, Engage, Engage!

Zoom fatigue is a real thing. And attention spans are WAY shorter in a virtual event vs. in-person. This means your virtual event should be shorter, too. The traditional four-hour holiday company party becomes the two-hour (or LESS) online party.

Q: OK, but how do you get people to stay engaged and interested?
A: By getting and KEEPING your guests active and involved!

Here are two of my favorite ideas:  

  • Don’t Open Til’ Gifts: How it works – Mail all employees a gift. Label it “Don’t open til *date of your holiday party.* The wait plus everyone opening the gifts together creates anticipation, excitement and camaraderie. Bonus points if you challenge them to guess what the gift is in advance!
  • Virtually, Everyone’s a Bartender: How it works – Give employees a recipe card and ingredients list for a holiday cocktail or two. Mix up your drinks together during the party! Bonus points if you outsource to a Virtual Mixologist to share fun facts about the drinks. Non-alcoholic versions can be easily accommodated.

Pro-Tip: Allow some downtime between activities so people can take a break, grab a drink, make a pit stop, etc.


Tip #3: Let the Games Begin!  

Here are a few game ideas that translate well to a virtual setting:

General Fun:

  • Ugly Sweater Contest – A virtual classic, this one is pretty self-explanatory. The tackier to better! .
  • Gingerbread House Decorating Contest – Two ideas:
    • In Advance: Challenge your employees to build gingerbread houses in advance and show them off during the party.
    • In Real Time: Challenge employees to create the BEST gingerbread houses in 5 minutes or less!

Pro-Tip (for Both): Set up a poll and allow everyone to vote for their favorite! Consider multiple categories: Tackiest, Best Overall, Judge’s Pick, Most Creative, Ugliest, Least Structurally Sound, etc.

For Some Team Building + Friendly Competition

  • Pictionary or Charades (or hey, why not both?!) – Divide into teams and utilize the private chat feature to share a secret word with the drawers/actors.

Pro-Tip: For Pictionary, use Zoom’s built-in whiteboard feature! You could also grab an actual whiteboard and marker.  

  • Scavenger Hunt – Break up into teams, have them find the items on the list, first time to collect all the items wins! Have fun with the items – i.e. hand sanitizer, light bulb, TV remote, ice scraper, post-it note, a pet, etc.

Honorable Mention (and Shameless Plug): Your Company’s Friendly Feud – a fully customizable virtual game show offered by yours truly. You pick the questions, we set up and host the game. Here’s a clip with more info:


Tip #4: Add in a Jingle Mingle (This is one of my FAVORITES)

One of the challenges of online events is the lack of interaction and one-on-one conversations in a larger group. Enter: Break out Rooms! Zoom has this feature down PAT.

How it works: Randomly assign guests to different breakout rooms. Set the timer, and off they go into their smaller groups.

Pro Tip: Give them a conversation starter/topic to help encourage conversation and rotate the groups a couple times.


Tip #5: Trust the Virtual Experts

Professional entertainers who have gone virtual – oh hi again! – are very familiar with hosting and producing virtual events. Why not make your planning that much easier by engaging with us!

We will gladly give you ideas and guidance on what we’ve seen others do in a virtual setting and what could work well for your group. Tell us more about your group, and we can suggest creative ideas and enhancements and help work out the logistics with you to ensure a successful event. Most importantly, engaging with an expert will give you peace of mind knowing your event is in good hands.

Keep in mind: In some scenarios you may just want virtual entertainers who will simply show up to perform – cool – that we can do! In other cases, you’ll want your virtual entertainment to be more involved in the planning process and maybe even host your event (I do that, too!). Whatever your comfort level and preferences, let your entertainers know, so we can meet your needs accordingly.

Virtual Entertainment Ideas:

  • Emcee / Host
  • Stand-Up Comedians
  • Live Music with Singer /Songwriters  
  • Step-by-Step Instructional Virtual Mixology + Bartending
  • Award-Winning Magic + Mind Control Feature Entertainment

I book virtual entertainers in ALL of these areas –  just sayin’! And here’s a sampling of a holiday party flow by yours truly:


Tip #6: Set Yourself Up for Success with Thoughtful Planning

Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to consider several logistics for a successful online event:

  • Select the best platform and consider its capabilities and possible limitations (i.e.  Zoom Meeting, Zoom Webinar, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc.)
  • Attendee size – some activities work well for smaller groups, others work well for larger groups. Be sure to keep in mind your platform’s capacity limitations.
  • Run of Show – set the agenda and flow of the event in advance (Pro-Tip: Factor in breaks/optional downtime)
  • Host/Emcee – Make sure your host/hostess is familiar with the Run of Show and will ensure a smooth transition from activity to activity (Pro-Tip: Schedule a dry run in advance with your host/emcee and all entertainers/speakers to ensure the Run of Show is understood.)
  • Survey Says! – Poll your employees. Ask them what their favorite part of previous parties has been. Consider how you can creatively incorporate those into a virtual setting!

Ultimately, the goal of a holiday party is a celebration of the year – or in 2020’s case – a celebration that the years is OVER. Finally!

Bottom Line: This year may look different, but a virtual holiday party is a totally viable and fun way to show your teams you care. With some thoughtful planning, you’ll be set for success and a fun celebration for all.

# # #

Based in Charlotte, NC, Lauren Ansley is a stand-up comedian, emcee/show host, producer and talent representative. Lauren is an entrepreneur whose mission is to provide entertainment and comic relief that engages employees, boosts morale, and creates memorable moments of joy and laughter.

Lauren has been a featured performer in several comedy festivals throughout the Carolinas, named one of the comedians to know by Charlotte Five.

Her passion to make others laugh and slight southern accent are only overshadowed by her infectious smile and abnormal height of 5’13”.

Now in the world of social distancing, Lauren has taken her services virtual, producing quality and creative entertainment online. In or out of a pandemic, Lauren is committed to providing quality entertainment and comic relief that engages employees, boosts morale, and creates memorable moments of joy and laughter.

Diversity – On and Off the Stage

So very proud to be a part of the Charlotte performing arts community, taking important steps for diversity on and off stage.

“From Broadway to Hollywood to arts organizations across the country, artists are speaking out about longtime injustices, lack of representation and equity in their fields. In Charlotte, artists are coming together to share their experiences and take action through the Diversity On & Off Stage initiative.”

Last night during our third discussion, we all stood in front of our computer screens and pledged out loud together to acknowledge the deficiencies that exist and to work towards prioritizing diversity ourselves and within our organizations.

It’s important, and it’s one of the reasons I started my own comedy show production company.

As Maya Angelou brilliantly stated, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” And we all know better.

Read the full article here.

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