Partying on Zoom: A look at Pixo’s end of the year celebration in 2020

How did we make our holiday party remote AND fun?
A box full of snacks, little champagne bottles, and a Pixo sticker.
Key to a good remote party… a well-stocked party box! (photo by Allie Ofisher)

How in the world were we to make a Zoom party not feel like work?

When I joined Pixo in April 2020, I heard about the epic holiday parties of years past. Back in April, I was hopeful then that we would be not only back in the office by December, but most certainly renting out a local restaurant to celebrate the end of the year. I was very wrong!

Cut to October 2020, and the dreams of an in-person shindig had faded. We were asking ourselves… How in the world were we to make a Zoom party not feel like work? How can we surprise everyone with gifts and entertainment, and make everything feel authentic and inclusive? Zoom fatigue is real. Being a parent during a pandemic is tough. And daily work during a time of cultural, political, and economic upheaval is well, HARD.

Fortunately, I was part of a hopeful and experienced planning team that genuinely wanted to make everyone feel appreciated and joyful after a challenging year. We’re practical, adaptable problem solvers!

To pull off the 2020 part virtually, we needed to overcome several challenges…

  • Engage 25 people with activities that everyone enjoys
  • Make everyone feel special and appreciated for their work throughout the year
  • Support local businesses with our planning and purchasing
  • Keep it simple and sustainable — don’t try to do too much

So how did we make all of this happen?

We delivered a “party box” to everyone’s homes on the day of the party.

The box was filled with “little things” (our theme for the night) like gifts from local businesses, treats to eat and drink, and fun toys for the kids (and kids at heart).

Each box was assembled to consider the recipient’s preferences — alcohol or no, other dietary needs — and included plenty for their partners, too. We taped a note inside the box with info about the night, and a bit about the items inside the box.

The contents of a party box!
The contents of a party box!

We used Zoom, Miro, and Slack to make the party happen online.

After decorating our home party spaces with string lights from the box, we hopped on Zoom at 7:00. The mood was noticeably excited and festive! Everyone mingled for a bit, saying hello to partners and kids. We shared a Party Headquarters on Miro, and a dedicated channel on Slack for chatter. I emceed the party, and reminded everyone that they could get up and leave whenever, make another drink, grab food, relax in their homes, and just enjoy themselves. I tried my best to make the vibe feel engaged but laid-back — basically, I didn’t want anyone to feel like we were all in a meeting. I wrote a script for myself so I didn’t forget anything, but was sure to throw in a few ad-libbed side splitting jokes now and again.

We kicked off by popping our DIY party crackers and playing a few games as a group.

Pop! From the party crackers spilled candy, a dumpster-on-fire 2020 sticker, and a slip of paper containing a word and simple instructions. Each word strung together a 25 word message, which we read aloud in a hilarious take-turns game (Zoom recorded for posterity, of course).

A hand holding up a paper party cracker decorated with pinecones and berries.
A grid of instructions for a word game.

What else?

We kept it rolling with a rapid-fire round of Play-Doh charades, a little scavenger hunt, and good old fashioned charades. Everything was very easy to pull off over Zoom. We kept this part brief, topical, with voluntary participation.

We had a group toast. Cheers!

About 45 minutes in, we took a little break, grabbed more snacks and drinks (some people put kiddos to bed), and reconvened for a toast from Pixo co-owners Melinda Miller and Jason Berg.

Everyone lifted a little bottle of champagne or sparkling cider, and we all shared a nice moment together that felt just as meaningful and connected as ever, even from our homes.

We loved a performance by local musicians.

At 8:00, we invited in our surprise guest, local musical duo Dearie (Carrie Chandler and Kayla Brown), to play and sing a few songs for us. It was a huge hit for all, and allowed for a nice moment to sit back and relax together.

We chatted and chose from a variety of games.

After the entertainment, everyone could stay in the room to chat, or head to one of four Zoom rooms to play charades, chess, GeoGuessr, or pictionary. Everyone coordinated their own gameplay in a Slack channel for that room.

The night continued until folks decided to drop off, and many stayed and played games and talked into the early hours! (No cabs to call when you’re already at home!)

Wrapping up...

Looking back, there were a few things we could have done differently, but we were really proud of what came together.

The past several months have been a roller coaster — with mostly frightening ascents into the blind clouds, but it feels like we could reach the crest any day now. Thankfully, with constraint comes creativity, and we now know how to throw a party in quarantine. (Hopefully we won’t have to in 2021!)