Let’s face it, the holidays are coming, but the coordinated soirees and fortuitous run-ins they often afford will likely be missing this year.
We all know how easy it is to get wrapped up (pun intended) in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And while it’s true that amid a global pandemic, things like holiday travel may be foregone, most of us will still manage to find ourselves up to our ears in work and other end-of-year to-do’s.
Let’s not use that as an excuse to let merriment, camaraderie, and connection among personal and professional contacts fall by the wayside.
Now is the time to be proactive about your holiday networking, lest you find yourself all dressed up with no Zoom meetings to join.
Before we dive into ideas for hosting your own virtual holiday networking event, keep these things in mind:
Always add value
Time is precious, arguably more so now. Be mindful that in inviting someone to join your virtual event, you’re still making an ask of their time. Make your value proposition in the invitation. Are we briefly connecting over a holiday spirit? As a guest, am I learning or trying something new? Will there be games? It doesn’t have to be expensive, but as a host, you should be prepared with a theme of sorts so that you don't log in to a quiet, expectant Brady Bunch staring back at you.
Don’t invite your favorite clients and friends just because they’re your favorite
When selecting a group to invite to the party, be mindful of who in your network might benefit from meeting each other. (Remember ‘always add value’?)
There are some good things coming from the global pandemic, and blurred geographic lines are on the list. In the pre-COVID world, your college roommate now three states away was likely never going to meet your accountant neighbor, but in this new virtual-first world we’ve found ourselves in, you can host the party where they’ll both meet.
Because parties should be fun!
Alright, on to the virtual holiday party ideas:
1. Virtual Wine Tasting
Coordinate delivery of a bottle of wine with instructions not to open it until the event. At the event, you or a guest sommelier leads the group through a brief wine tasting, leaving time for networking after and along the way.
2. Virtual Wine & Food Pairing
Deliver a bottle of wine and include instructions for pairing with a key ingredient. At the party, guests bring their take on a dish prepared with the ingredient and share the recipe.
3. Virtual Class
Do you know someone who teaches yoga? Cooking classes? Even better, is this person a friend or client? Hire them and treat your virtual party guests to a class or demonstration.
The opportunities here are truly endless and if you don’t know any talented individuals you can hire to teach at your party, you can look to platforms like Skillpop which offer virtual classes on everything from crafting the perfect cheeseboard to watercolor painting.
4. Virtual Game Night (or Day)
A quick internet search reveals lots of options for trivia, escape rooms, scavenger hunts, and other games you can play with a virtual group.
Don’t forget to include an ice breaker so your guests can get to know each other and of course, leave time for more organic conversation.
5. Virtual Potluck
Assign your party guests a course and let each person describe the dish they bring to the virtual event. Like #2, this event allows a great opportunity to follow up with party guests later with the compiled recipe book from the night.
Themes or key ingredients encouraged!
6. Virtual Coffee
Pretty self-explanatory but definitely worth mentioning! I’m part of a local networking group that met regularly for loosely moderated coffees before the pandemic. With ease, we shifted to the virtual environment and never missed a beat. These meetings have been a lifeline during this challenging time.
7. Host a Virtual Service Project
Consider taking your favorite service project to the web. Distribute boxes of holiday cards, stamps, and recipient lists to guests in advance. Over a festive drink on your favorite virtual platform, you and your guests can sign and address holiday cards to a local nursing home or deployed military.
...do not let the absence of holiday parties leave you with a big 0.0 hours in the business development bucket
If you’ve made it to this point and the ideas above make you cringe, take nothing away but this: do not let the absence of holiday parties leave you with a big 0.0 hours in the business development bucket (or worse, a dry pipeline after your Q4 business has settled down).
Spend some time today identifying the individuals you haven’t spoken to in a while; the ones you love to see on your holiday party circuit; the people who mean the most to you and your business – and simply reach out to them.
Perhaps in this virtual-first world we’re living in, this is the year you send holiday cards via snail mail.
Lindsay Tiffany is Marketing & Client Service Manager at Wyrick Robbins