Wavy has spent the past two years learning how to ensure online experiences are actually fun. Now we’re sharing our expertise.
It all started with the Stay Home Festival that Wavy pulled off in summer 2020.
Over the two years since, our team has hosted hundreds of curated online experiences, experimenting with different platforms, structures, and ideas along the way.
Needless to say, our team has learned a lot about what can be done to ensure they go off without a hitch, and are actually fun for participants. Not to toot our own horn… (okay, maybe just a little) but we’ve gotten pretty dang good at it. Now we want to empower others to do the same!
If you’ve been tasked with organizing an online team-building activity, this article is for you. This advice comes from the Wavy operations team, who is responsible for all the nitty-gritty details that can make or break an online experience.
Do these 10 things to ensure your online experience is a smashing success.
- Get a good sense of how many people will be attending.
Do everything in your power to get an accurate idea of how many participants you’re expecting. It will affect the kind of events that are feasible for your team, and how you go about running them, so it’s an important first step. For example, certain platforms might have a maximum meeting capacity of 100 people. Likewise, certain games you might consider playing will only work with a certain number of people.
- Ask the important question: To partner or not to partner?
Okay, it’s no Shakespearian query, but it’s certainly worth due consideration. Do you want to DIY or work with a partner to bring this experience to life? A “partner” can include a host, an organization who specializes in the activity you’re running, or a supplier who would be sending kits, food, drinks, etc. No matter what experience you’re working with, consider all of the required materials, the time it will take you to prepare everything, ship things to your team members, and so on. Don’t underestimate the commitment you’re taking on as an organizer and/or host. Is it worth outsourcing, or are you better off doing it all in-house? That’s for you to decide, but be realistic and make an informed decision before you commit one way or another.
- Give people LOTS of time to prepare.
Remember: it’s leeway or the highway. You’ll never regret giving yourself more time than you think you need to prepare for an experience you’re running. Giving your team enough notice will also guarantee a higher participation rate, which is your end goal. That said, this tip is especially important if you do decide to partner with an individual or organization outside of your own. Likewise, if you’re shipping anything anywhere, this is so important. Most companies that offer shipping will need at least 2 weeks notice, if not more.
- Outline expectations for participants beforehand.
Pre-event communication is key. Whether you stick with email threads or decide to get creative with a video or one-pager, you want to create excitement and alleviate any confusion your team might have. Plus, if you’re working with a partner, you’ll want to share any assets you’ve received from them with your team. Give your people something to look forward to and get them excited about it! This step in the planning process is also a great opportunity to make accommodations for any accessibility concerns that may arise, or to provide a tutorial on the platform you’re using if necessary.
- Know your platform really, really well.
Whether you’re using Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, or any other platform, make sure you know what the limitations and capabilities of the platform are. There is nothing worse than fumbling over platform features during an event. It can break the flow and make you look disorganized. Some platforms have limitations that may mean that certain experiences won’t work on that platform. (Pro tip: at Wavy, Zoom reigns supreme. It’s our favourite, and for good reason. It does it all so, so well.) Once you’ve chosen the right platform, these are some things you will want to make sure you feel comfortable doing well in advance.
✅ Sharing screen and sound
✅ Creating and managing breakout rooms
✅ Spotlighting participants
✅ Muting and unmuting participants
✅ Using the chat feature
This is not an exhaustive list – make sure you’ve thought through your event and aren’t missing any essential features!
- Make the experience as interactive as possible.
We promise, it will be way more fun. You can do this by using the chat feature right from the beginning. Figure out a clever way to get the conversation going and do your best to keep it alive throughout. You’ll be surprised how many more people contribute to the conversation when it doesn’t involve unmuting themselves. Going with a team-based experience is another great way to guarantee interaction. Take Wavy’s online trivia experience as an example. We intentionally created a “team-based trivia” option in addition to the standard version where individuals answer on their own. That’s because we watched how much easier (and more fun!) it was for teams to connect when we broke them off into smaller groups working towards a common goal!
- Choose your host wisely.
Whether it’s yourself, someone on your team, or a partner you’re working with, the host’s personality can make or break any online experience. Make sure that the person you choose to be centre stage is comfortable talking in front of large groups, has a bit of character, and knows what they’re doing. If the host doesn’t bring the right energy to the experience, your people probably won’t either.
- Plan for intentional interactions throughout the experience.
Nobody likes awkward silence. Will there be any kind of waiting period or lull in the experience you’ve chosen? Will folks be waiting for a dish to cook or a craft to dry? These moments are where the real magic happens and connections are formed, if you’re prepared for them. Injecting a mini icebreaker (usually 5-7 minutes long) and sending people off into breakout rooms to play is always a good idea. In smaller groups, everyone has a chance to have their voice heard – to get out of their shell. Bonus points if you’re able to mix up the groups so teams get a chance to chat with different people each time. Some of Wavy’s favourite mini-games include “Conversation Street” and “Something in Common,” but there are a lot of these out there!
- Timing is everything.
Feeling rushed is never fun. On the other hand, you don’t want people to be keeling over waiting for the thing to end, either. There is a sweet spot, and you’ll need to find it. Depending on the experience, we suggest keeping it to no more than one hour. Unless, of course, you’re doing some kind of activity-based experience (like a cooking or cocktail-making class, for example). In that case, believe us when we say you’ll be grateful you gave yourself some wiggle room to finish up and let people show off their end result. We find that no more than 90 minutes is usually enough time in that scenario.
- Collect feedback and do something with it.
Improving your company culture through shared experiences is a never-ending feat. Never underestimate the value of collecting feedback from participants and when you get it, apply it to your plans for the next experience. A good trick is to leave 5 minutes at the end of the event for people to share feedback in real-time using a digital collaboration tool like Miro, or by sharing the link to the form in the chat before you close the room. Once you get that feedback, go out of your way to implement it in the next experience you host. This is what it’s all about.
Lastly, here’s a little bonus tip from our team to yours…
Don’t be afraid to be silly!
People love to see it. Besides, it’s likely that the whole reason you’re organizing this experience for your team in the first place is to create space for letting loose, having fun, and not taking yourselves too seriously! There are lots of ways to get creative with what this means for you and your team. Maybe get creative with Zoom backgrounds or video filters. Challenge everyone to wear a crazy hat that day. Tell everyone who is comfortable having their video on to smile for a virtual team photo. The list goes on!
Whether you’re looking for help, partnership, or even just some inspiration, visit our Experience Marketplace to explore a wide variety of online experiences. Each one was thoughtfully designed to help distributed teams feel more connected – and we’re always adding new ones to keep things fresh.
As Wavy grows, we’ll be sharing a lot more advice like this. We’re now offering in-person, DIY, and asynchronous experiences as well, in addition to shifting our focus to the broader world of culture management. So you can be sure there will be no shortage of knowledge to share!