It has been over one year that I have founded my own company — a major milestone of my business life which I planned to celebrate with some customers, network colleagues and friends from the Stuttgart area where I am mainly working from. But then, as so many other f‑2-f- events, my first anniversary party got hit by COVID-19 and of course, no local party.
After being sad for two seconds an idea came to my mind: virtual meetings are getting more and more common because of the current situation: video calls with other colleagues working from home, online seminars and conferences, video chats with friends and even “seeing” my godchildren via video calls. But what about an online business party? Never experienced that before… Being a consultant for digital transformation I did definitely not feel like canceling my party, rather looking for digital alternatives in a flexible and creative way. Isn’t this a key characteristic of being self-employed?
Thanks to great people in my network, various ideas how to design such an event came up and within only a few days, the planning was done. In contrast to a meeting for dinner & drinks in a restaurant, such an online event requires for sure more preparation: defining a course of actions with an appealing dramaturgy, choosing the right suited tool, sending a little package to every guest with some party equipment, writing a screenplay and script for technical details, creating slides, assisting guests with technical access etc.
As my guests were both skeptical and curious what to expect in an online celebration, our target was to “deliver the unexpected”: The event was planned for 75 minutes on a Friday evening and included breakout sessions, a quiz for interaction and networking groups:
- With the latter one, me as the host tried to form small network groups of three guests branded with a special name or topic which every group member could relate to. By that method, people who did not know each other got in contact — people who would perhaps not have talked to each other in a restaurant as you usually stick to the people you know.
- We offered three different breakout sessions in parallel so that each guest could choose from a diverse offer: a meditation session, an information session on an e‑scooter start-up I am involved in or an interactive session to surprise the host. All three sessions were a great success.
- Nearly every video conferencing tool offers the poll function which we used for a quiz to interact with the guests. We reviewed my first year of being self-employed with a bunch of questions, my assistant asking the questions, the guests answering by poll, commenting it and me explaining the correct answer. By this, we had a very entertaining way of looking back.
The event was entertaining, surprised our guests and created a relaxed atmosphere where people felt linked to each other despite being remote and not knowing all other guests.
One of the main advantages was to have colleagues from further away involved who would not have made it in person for a local party in Stuttgart. Plus, a big difference is the guided networking: as host, I was able to connect the guests with each other in a more direct way than in a restaurant.
My key take-away: Such an event requires for sure more planning than “just” renting a restaurant, and it was all worth it. We offered a great event that people really enjoyed. It was much fun and thrives — as mostly — on the people involved! Thanks to all of you for being part of my network!
PS: Keen on more details? Feel free to get in touch with me here.