A Step-by Step Guide to an Epic and Easy Virtual Company Kickoff in 2021

I’ll spare you the speech about unprecedented times and making the most of virtual platforms, because if we’re being completely honest messy backgrounds and nosy pets probably weren’t the vision you had for your 2021 kickoff. But, before you start freaking out, don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Take a deep breath, grab your favorite notebook and a warm drink, cause it’s time to plan an epic event!

CEO WELCOME

CEO Welcome

First, things first, it’s important you start the event with a bang, and what better way than bringing out the big guns. Make sure your guests feel welcome and heard with some words from your CEO. Start with a brief welcome, then get the entire crew rallied for some exciting events with a quick debrief of the kickoff itinerary. This is the perfect time to introduce the theme and even give a little teaser for the upcoming events. If you’re doing a Murder Mystery, drop a clue that will only make sense after the event; this will help make sure everyone’s engaged. However, if you’re having a live concert, it might be best to just leave them wondering instead of your DIY version of an opening act.

If you’re looking to spice up your welcome you can:

  • Drop the Beats

    You know that iconic Breakfast Club scene, the one where Judd Nelson throws his fist in the air as Simple Minds plays in the background. That is the exact feeling we’re trying to recreate in your attendees and what better way to do so than by taking lessons from the master himself. Music is a sure-fire way to set the tone and get people excited for the day’s events. You can even encourage people to dance; I mean nothing screams party like Karen doing the worm, even if it looks more like a deflated caterpillar.

  • Have a quick team-building activity

    Let’s get the Ohana vibes flowing early with a quick bonding activity. While we love a well-structured event, don’t be afraid to make it informal. Since the rest of the event likely follows a strict schedule, this casual set-up will make your team feel comfortable. Follow the Swedes tradition of Fika with a quick coffee-catchup. Spend fifteen minutes going over what’s new; this can involve personal lifes or be strictly business. If you have a large team, you can break-out into smaller groups. This sense of community means your attendees are more likely to be engaged throughout the rest of the event. Check out even more of our favorite team-building activities here!

  • Break the Ice

    We can’t lie, here at Offsite we love icebreakers. As bad as their reputation may be, there’s truly no easier way to liven up a room. One of our all-time favorites is Thumper. Everyone picks a word, for instance, ‘Clients’. Once everyone has the word - make up a quick intro for everyone to sing together - then one person says their “word” and then someone else’s “word”. That person then says their word and then someone else’s word. It keeps going until someone messes up. Once they mess up they have to answer a trivia question. Everyone starts with 5 points (depending on the team size) and you lose a point for wrong answers. Have a larger team or are short on time? We gotcha covered! Utilize the poll feature and play Controversial This or That. Have people vote if “chocolate icecream really is superior over vanilla?” You can even take it next level and make it company based “was the best retreat the ranch in Texas or the spa in New York?” For even more amazing icebreakers check out our 25 Virtual Team Building Icebreakers blog post!

 

UPDATES

20 Minutes Each Major Department

You just finished the welcome. The energy is high and it’s only going to keep going up, but first let’s get down to business (bonus points if you started singing Mulan). Keep with the feeling of unity, by giving each major department some time to talk. With twenty minutes, each department can provide updates, address any issues, or even take advantage of having the whole team and conduct surveys. To cut back on zoom fatigue make sure teams don’t extend the thirty minute mark. Quick updates will leave everyone feeling up to date and cut back on event stress.

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ENTERTAINMENT & EVENTS

Entertainment & Events

Looking for a way to make your kickoff memorable? Bringing in a fun event is a game-changer! With a variety to choose from, you’ll find one that’s tailored for your team.

Get Competitive

Does your team thrive off of a little in-office competition? You know the type of office that has a leadership board in the break room and takes secret Santa a little too seriously. Tina, we know that espresso maker didn’t fall into the $30 budget, stop flexing. Lucky for you, and Tina, these epic team-bonding events are sure to bring out your competitive side and leave your team ready for the rest of your kickoff!

  • The Legend of Treasure Mountain

    Compete + Connect. One of the most popular virtual events we have found on the internet. This virtual escape style game is actually a Treasure Hunt. Great for teams of any size. The best part is you can use any video conferencing platform you choose.

  • Murder Mystery

    Nothing screams memorable like a good ‘ole fashion “who done it.” Bring out your trench coats and detective books for this digital take on a classic. Watch as your team works together to find the murderer and solve the mystery. Pro tip: play some jazz in the background to really set the 1950s detective mood. After all, the more in character you get, the better!

  • Rube Goldberg

    No matter how spread out you are, connect your team with this hilarious event. Get creative, while channeling your inner engineer. A team-bonding event that’s sure to bring out your team’s inventive side, it’s no wonder this is one of our all-time favorite events!

  • Trophies and Champagne

    Break out your rose-colored glasses. It’s time to celebrate your team and all the hard work they put in last year. Superlatives aren’t restricted to highschool. Ship your employees your favorite bottle and take turns decided whose “most likely to.” You can make these titles fun like “most likely to randomly break out in song” or focus on achievements like “most sales.”

  • People Trivia

    A favorite for teams under 250 people. Split your group up into teams of 8 and use breakout rooms and customized questions to make this an all-time fun event!


Bring in the Big Guns

Depending on your event budget, it might be time to bring in the big guns. Hire some virtual entertainment for your event to go down in kickoff history. Make sure to choose a guest that fits your company's aesthetic.

  • Virtual Concert 

    Is your team full of music lovers? Chances are your employees are having withdrawals because of live music restrictions. Give them an experience to remember with a virtual concert. Hire a local band to give a zoom performance that will live your employees dancing their way through the rest of the kickoff. Make sure to leave the chat open for the ultimate team-bonding experience. If you really want to blow their minds you can even offer limited edition merch.

  • Improv Comedy

    Let’s be real, we could all use a good laugh, especially one that can be tailored for your event. Not only will improv allow your guest to blow off some steam, but it can be personalized. With jokes directed at the event, we may be able to promise that you won’t have to hear Pat’s fake laugh, but we can’t make a guarantee that you’ll prefer the real one, especially when it sounds like a snorting walrus.

  • Latte Art

    Is your company a startup with the dress code of flannels, oversized jeans, and blue-light-blocking glasses? Welcome, fellow hipsters, we have the perfect event for you! Hire a latte artist to illustrate your event and attendees. Bonus points if you send out cold brew kits or coffee shop gift cards prior to the event. Team bonding and cappuccinos? Yes, please!

Take a Breather

It’s important to go into the event with the right headspace, and after a year like 2020, it’s safe to say most of our headspaces might be a little frazzled. Make sure that your team knows that you value their mental health with these relaxing experiences.

  • Virtual Environment

    Months of lockdown got you feeling a little stir-crazy? Let’s escape, a little virtual vacation if you will. Whether you want to take your employees to the white sand beaches of Hawaii or just teach them some at-home cocktail recipes at a virtual speakeasy, they're sure to appreciate the much-needed getaway.

  • Unleash Your Inner Zen

    Relaxation and a successful kickoff event? You heard us right. Hire a yoga instructor to teach a short class that will leave your employees level-headed and refreshed. The best part? It’s pet-friendly. I mean, it is called downward-facing dog.

  • Art Class

    Whether you want to bring in an artist to create real-time illustrations of your event or just let your coworkers get in touch with their inner child through some color books, this event will leave them feeling relaxed and creative. Meaning your brainstorming sessions will be more productive than ever; can someone say win!


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BREAK

Break

Sure, with epic events like the ones listed above your employees are sure to be hype, but it’s important to remember that digital fatigue is all-too-real. Scatter mini-breaks throughout your kickoff to avoid burnout. Whether you spread your event over multiple days or jam it into one, allow for 20-minute coffee breaks, or space out speakers and breakout sessions with entertainment. It’s important to find what works best for your team. If your team is full of parents with newly-homeschooled kids, perhaps you should consider if all-day events are practical.

How Long Should Your Breaks Be?

Let’s be real, zoom fatigue is all too prevalent. Despite our hipster blue-light-blocking glasses, screen time affects our eyes. And while breaks are all too necessary, breaks that are too long can distract your team and result in the rest of the kickoff becoming unproductive. For the most productive workflow, schedule a short break every hour. Ideally, breaks should be around 20 minutes, but this can change depending on your break activity. Make sure your switching up your types of breaks for optimal rest.

Types of Breaks

Networking

  • Speed Networking
    We all remember that one time in our mid-20s when we were feeling a little extra lonely. The time when all your friends were started to get engaged and Amanda convinced you a speed dating event would be where you met your soulmate. We can promise this will be nowhere near as awkward, and you won’t have to hear about Brad’s five cats! Utilize breakout rooms to have everyone meet for 3 minutes of networking. Do five rounds of this for the perfect 15-minute break. Not only do you get to meet a lot of people, but the game-like nature of it will get people excited and ready for the next session!

  • Conversation Spaces

    Want something a little less-structured than speed networking? Utilize breakout rooms that attendees can go to during breaks to create that same feeling of starting a conversation while waiting in the drink line. This will encourage networking and exude the charm of an in-person event.

  • Friendly Competition

    What better way to zap your brain back to focus than with a quick game. At your next 20-minute break, tell everyone to come back five minutes early with something that reminds them of home. A scavenger hunt and team-bonding? Yes, please! This will keep them in the zone over break, while also giving them talking points for when they come back.

Recharge

  • Iron Chef

    No one, and I mean no one, likes hangry co-workers. Instead of a traditional snack break, use it as a chance for some team-bonding. For a slightly longer break, hire a chef to lead a virtual cooking class. Make sure to send ingredient packages or have them go shopping ahead of time. For a slightly more informal lunch, give everyone 15 minutes to grab their go-to snacks. Then have everyone come back and share what they’re eating. After all, nothing says bonding like communal lunch!

  • Get Moving

    Now so more than ever events leave people feeling sedentary. Movement is essential in the learning process. It prevents distraction and fatigue. Get their blood moving with some quick stretches or a dance break. You can even encourage your employees to utilize a standing desk throughout the speaker sessions.

  • Reflect

    Want to give your attendees a chance to relax while still staying on topic? You’ve come to the right place. Offer a journal break. These 20 minutes will give them time to flush out their distractions, while also allowing them to reflect on everything they just learned. They’ll come back refreshed and ready for the next session. You can even facilitate conversation by asking if anyone wants to share what they wrote about.

Switch It Up

  • Anticipation

    Before giving them the 15 minutes they need to recharge, make sure they come back to the event hyped. Like in the CEO welcome offering a tease will keep people engaged and excited for what’s to come.

  • Positions

    Let’s take a note from Ariana Grande and encourage your attendees to switch up their positions. Sitting in the same uncomfy desk chair all day can lead to stiffness and bad posture. Since a lot of virtual events have recorded sessions, use this to your advantage. For the next speaker, encourage guests to grab their headphones and listen to the recording while going for a walk around their block. Their dog will thank you.

  • Create

    Everyone became an artist over quarantine, so why not give them their time to shine. Start a co-create challenge. Whether it’s doing a Bob Ross tutorial or letting everyone create something based on the same prompt, this is the perfect way to get everyone’s inner Picasso showing. Trust me, your team will have no issues brainstorming creative marketing strategies after this break!

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COMPANY ANTHEM

Company Anthem Video

We can’t even hide the fact that we’re completely obsessed with this epic team-bonding activity! For lip-sync karaoke, we’ll start by splitting up into breakout groups of 8-10 people. Before your team’s big debut you’ll have time to pick a song, coordinate some dances and maybe even grab that feather boa from the top shelf of your closet. The best part? It’s lip-sync karaoke, no singing required, meaning you can give the performance of a lifetime and still save face in front of your boss. Seriously, leave them all wondering if you’re the next Mariah Carey.

MAGIC

Virtual Magic Show

End your kickoff with a bang, quite literally, or at least some flying doves. This event is sure to leave your attendees mystified. You can choose to stick to your traditional “saw-people-in-half” Houdini or stitch it up and hire a hypnotist. Full disclaimer: we take no responsibility for your actions when you are “under his spell.” We will, however, claim all the laughs this show is sure to create!


LASTLY

That’s it! You’re officially ready for a legendary kickoff! Let us know how it goes, by tagging us, @theoffsite in your pictures! But before you go here’s some last-minute tips.

Keep in mind…

  • Get Physical. Sending out merch, whether a t-shirt or coffee cup, can help eliminate the distant feeling of virtual events.

  • Picking a theme can help enforce the cohesiveness of your event, as well as get your attendees excited. Some themes to consider are Ignite, Breaking Barriers, or Portraits of Success.

  • So maybe it’s not in person, but that doesn’t mean it has to feel remote. The best virtual events have in-person events reflected through them. Utilize the chat feature, break-out rooms, and virtual environments to increase engagement. You can even mail out gift-bags to get your team excited.

  • There are unique benefits to virtual events, utilize them. The fun doesn’t have to end; record your sessions so that your attendees have access to this epic event even after it’s over.

  • After the event, send out polls. This will help you measure your success and make the next event even more epic!

Guides, LatestTaylor Moreno