For 8 years, our company day at Shake It has been loosely celebrated. For the first few years, we were too small. In the years that followed, we made just a special day in which we treated ourselves with a long, expensive lunch out and played board games, computer games or escape rooms for the rest of the afternoon.
For some reason, when our company turned 9 on May 2021, I felt the need to turn it into something special - an event. We’ve been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, so this sounded like the perfect opportunity to walk the talk and organise our very own internal virtual event.
In this post, I’ll walk you through my process of thinking and designing this event, and hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll take something for yourself to use in your own virtual events.
Shake It is the parent company of Evento Virtual, a virtual event platform that allows organisers to build a virtual home for their events.
Shake It Day happened in May 2021, it was 100% virtual, and the audience was the 11 members of the company.
First, what were my purposes for this event? What did I want to take from it? I broke it down into 4 main objectives:
1. Putting people on the same page regarding company strategy moving forward
2. Build up the love towards the company amongst the team
3. Give team members the opportunity to talk, collaborate and have fun outside work related stuff
4. Let new team members know the importance of what we do, understand our secret sauce, and feel the weight of responsibility by giving them the history of how we got to where we are.
The strategy session
The first and clearest thing I had in my mind was that I wanted to make a session about the company with only 2 items on the agenda:
1. Talking about the past - how we got to where we are
2. Talking about the future - discussing with the team our strategy, what our future might look like
Because I wanted to make this session interactive and let anyone intervene and react when they pleased, I decided to use our Zoom Integration feature, which allowed for real time interaction and actual conversations as the session was going on. I shared my screen and went through my presentation as needed, stopping to discuss each slide with the team when necessary.
Videos from clients and partners
While thinking about the story from past to present, I immediately thought that it would be very cool to have a few of our clients and partners recording a short video wishing Shake It a happy birthday. I sent out 34 emails, I got back 32 videos! Amazing 🥰 Although my initial idea was to edit them into a short video, the amount of responses made that impossible, as it would be almost an hour long. So, the first area of our platform was born: an event feed section hosting all videos sent from clients and partners, giving the opportunity for anyone to like and comment each video.
Creating a sense of belonging
I also wanted to create a greater sense of belonging within the Shake It team. I moved towards two things:
1. I asked an illustrator (who happens to be a friend) to custom design an avatar for each team member. The initial idea was just to create their app profiles with custom picture, but the team ended up loving them, and used their avatars in their Slack profiles. Some ended up updating their social network profiles and email signatures. This was kept a secret to everyone before the event.
2. I also asked one of our most recent team members, who has a background in logistics, to think, design and order some Shake It swag. Bruno did the amazing job of not only getting really cool t-shirts, social masks and sweaters with our brand, but he also introduced the idea of delivering, to each team member’s home, the swag together with a healthy yet delicious breakfast. And thus, the beginning of the event was also defined.
Although the session itself was really interactive, I wanted to let people co-create the event as much as possible.
I saved the surprise that the personalised avatars were animated to the part of the session where I talked about the team. As I presented each animated avatar, I activated a live poll, and quizzed participants on fun facts about team members. Each question had a bit of humor to it, and it ended up being one of the most fun parts of the event. We had a quiz, and the winner, not surprisingly, was Daniela, the project manager that most interacts with each team member individually.
Also, I decided to put photos of our history in a Share Wall (our first day at the office, early trade shows, important events, etc.), which ended up being the main screen when the platform was opened. From there, people could add their own photos to the gallery, so I decided to guide people towards an idea of how they could contribute; as you entered the platform, you were encouraged to post a picture of your newly received swag and breakfast. It worked great! I found it curious that some people chose to post a picture of a slide they found important from the strategy session.
Before and after the presentation session, I wanted to keep the tradition alive and just play a few games with the team. So, for the second time, I involved two game-loving team members - Ana and Ricardo. I asked them to explore which games we could play together virtually, and the end result was a few rounds of Jack In The Box before the session, and a virtual escape room after the session.
If you are sceptical about how a virtual escape room may work in a virtual scenario, like I was, give it a chance. A lot less is lost from the dynamics of team building than I initially thought.
Lastly (but not less important), I thought people should have their breakfast together, so I set up a mingle room, which is basically just a video-chat room where people could hang out virtually before the activities started.
Logistics & Platform Structure
I felt sending out e-mails was disproportionate to the size of the audience, so I just posted two messages via our internal messaging tool:
1. One, two weeks before the event, asking people to organise their work so they wouldn’t book meetings for this date
2. One the day before the event, sharing the link for the platform and telling people how they should login at 10am
This is when I found the last piece of the platform structure that was needed, a Welcome Page, with two things:
1. the team instructions on what to do as they entered the platform (explore, share, have breakfast together)
2. an overview of the agenda for the day
The final structure for the platform was:
- Welcome - instructions and share wall
- Warm up & Coffee On - video chat room for people to have breakfast together
- Session Room - where the Zoom strategy session took place
- Share if you care - where people could contribute with their pictures and videos to the share wall
- Happy Birthday Shake It - videos from clients and partners
- My Profile - where people could check out their personalized avatar
A few takeaways from this story of a really successful virtual event:
1. Purpose of the event comes first and foremost. Only then should you think about how technology can help.
2. Co-creation is the best form of engagement. Interactive sessions with quizzes, share walls, polls, etc., help participants not just attend the event, but be a part of the event!
3. The structure of the platform is really important. Keep it simple and intuitive. Don’t use features that don’t serve the purpose and have a clear idea on how they should be used.
4. Nothing in this event was underused. We thought of a specific time where each feature should be used. Also, we guided people on how they should use the features - i.e we shared the first few pictures on the event feed to break the ice, we gave them the idea on what to share. We not only created a video-chat room but we also allocated time in the event for it to be used.
5. Use the technology that makes sense for your event, nothing more, nothing less. Evento Virtual by Shake It is a full featured event platform and still decided not to use many of our features for this event. Registrations, live chat, emoji reactions, gamification badges, q&a, speaker bios are all examples of things we frequently use for our events, but chose not to do so on this one.
Does this make sense? If this story was helpful, or you’d like to add your own take to it, be sure to leave your comments on our LinkedIn page, we’d love to hear from you.