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How to Host Virtual (or Hybrid) Holiday Parties For Your Team

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How to Host Virtual (or Hybrid) Holiday Parties For Your Team


The pandemic has forced the traditional holiday office party to go virtual. But things are different this year — now, a variety of workplaces include remote and in-person employees (or a hybrid of both).

So here’s the challenge — how can you host a fun holiday party that satisfies everyone? What activities can you plan? What logistics are involved?

There’s certainly a lot to think about, but don’t stress. Here are some tips from HubSpot’s remote workforce on how to host a virtual or hybrid-friendly holiday party.

1. Use a spreadsheet to organize your activities.

Planning a virtual holiday party requires plenty of logistics. That’s why you should use a spreadsheet to stay organized.

Kara Korosec, a remote senior customer success manager at HubSpot, says, “I used to coordinate Secret Santa at my last company, a 100% remote company. I set up a spreadsheet where everyone listed some of their interests, then we used a random generator to assign secret Santas. Everyone had a budget of $50 and used the spreadsheet as inspiration for what to get. After the gifts were mailed, we had a Zoom where we shared our gifts and guessed who our secret Santa was.”

2. Make it interactive.

Virtual events might automatically feel “hands-off” — but this doesn’t have to be the case. In Korosec’s secret Santa example, they opened the gifts on a live Zoom call.

The goal here is to be creative.

Eimear Marrinan, a director of culture at HubSpot, says, “There are a ton of amazing remote vendors and minority-owned businesses that we partner with in the Culture Team. They are doing amazing work. If your budget allows for it, consider outsourcing to the experts. A few brilliant events I have seen: Ski Chalet Experience, Walkthrough Christmas Markets, Cocktails in a Winter Wonderland!”

There are several online games and activities you can use for your virtual holiday party. Below are some of our favorite interactive remote activities:

  • Virtual MasterChef: Ask one person to host and send out a list of ingredients (or modified ingredients for dietary restrictions) and supplies. On the cooking night, have everyone dial into the Zoom to cook the same meal together as the host walks them through the recipe. Once the recipe is ready, sit down and have a virtual dinner together!
  • Ugly Sweater Contest
  • Virtual Escape Rooms, like Puzzle Break, Mystery Escape Room, or The Escape Game

3. Incorporate food.

When hosting an in-person event, providing food is typically part of the gig. Why can’t this be true of remote holiday parties too?

Emily Tong-Sanchez, a remote revenue operations specialist at HubSpot, says, “Let people comp their meal!”

This gives people a reason to celebrate and enjoy the party.

Marrinan adds, “Ask questions if you’re incorporating food. Are there allergies or preferences? If you’re arranging a cocktail hour, does everyone drink alcohol? This is all about being inclusive in how you’re arranging your event.”

If you’re sending food, it’s important to be aware of any restrictions so your event is inclusive of all participants.

4. Encourage people to dress up.

Holiday parties are usually fun events where everyone can dress up and celebrate. Being remote shouldn’t change this — so don’t ditch the ugly holiday sweater just yet.

Tong-Sanchez says, “Encourage people to dress up. We like having a reason to put on fancy clothes!”

5. Always lead with an inclusive mindset.

A major obstacle with remote meetings is that it’s hard to feel included.

Marrinan remarks, “We are working in a distributed and remote world right now, so when thinking through a holiday event for you and your team think big & think global. Will the timezone work for all on your team? Do ‘The Holidays’ resonate across the globe? Make sure you plan something fun, and inclusive that everyone can get involved in!”

6. Plan in advance.

If you’re planning a virtual holiday party, it’s important to give yourself enough time to plan. Send invites in advance, finalize an agenda, and test-run activities.

Marrinan says, “The end of the year is busy. Really busy! Give people advanced notice and book time in advance. A lot of people are juggling right now, so being protective of time is important! Similarly, be mindful of caregivers on your team, or anyone that may have blocked time in their day.”

7. Send something physical.

Just because your event is remote, doesn’t mean you can’t include a physical element in your virtual holiday party.

“Can you send something out to the team in advance to spur some excitement? This doesn’t have to be a physical gift — maybe it is a handwritten card or a note of gratitude,” Marrinan remarks. “A holiday event doesn’t have to be a big, big thing. Sometimes it’s the simple acts of kindness that go a long way for people.”

8. Pick a goal.

When you’re planning your holiday party, it’s important to decide what your goal is. For example, it’s hard to play a game while also getting to know each other.

Caroline Merewether, a strategy and operations manager at HubSpot, says, “The biggest takeaway is to figure out if it’s more about deepening relationships or playing a game.”

One of Merewether’s favorite events her team put on was an Airbnb experience which was a virtual escape room.

“That was fun to do something different and it was a fun mental shift. But it wasn’t great for getting to know people because we were trying to solve for clues. For our next party, we wanted to drive conversation between us,” she adds.

For her team’s next virtual holiday party, they’re going to send international candies that will be a great conversation starter for breakout rooms. Then, they’re going to do a costume contest and online trivia.

Jeff Boulter, an engineering lead at HubSpot, decided to combine the interactive activity with a way of getting to know each other via an interactive trivia game.

To start, Boulter sent out a Google Form with a mixture of icebreaker questions. A few examples included:

  • What was your first online handle or email address?
  • What course did you do the worst at college?
  • What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
  • What’s your least favorite song?
  • What’s your favorite conspiracy theory?
  • What’s an unusual skill you have?
  • Star Wars or Star Trek?
  • Yanni or Laurel?
  • If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would it be?
  • What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received?
  • Who would get eaten first if we all got stuck in the 1C elevator?

Then, they used a free online trivia site called MyQuiz. Here, the answers were either picking one person from their squad (who’s least favorite song is “It’s a Small World,” for example) or picking the correct answer amongst three other made-up answers. They ended up with 54 questions. See the picture below for what this looked like.

5 Tips for Hosting a Hybrid Holiday Party

The best hybrid holiday parties engage both virtual and in-person guests in a meaningful way. But if you’re unsure about the logistics, check out these tips to build connections among coworkers near and far:

1. Think digital-first.

When planning the activities and agenda of your hybrid holiday party, your virtual attendees should stay front of mind. Consider how your virtual employee can interact and remain engaged at each step.

2. Find the right venue.

The venue for your party can either make or break the hybrid experience. Pay close attention to your venue’s internet stability and sound — and make sure you have access to the right equipment for video conferencing.

3. Prioritize hybrid-friendly activities

A common mistake when hosting hybrid parties is organizing activities for in-person guests and simply broadcasting the festivities for virtual attendees. Instead, look for hybrid-friendly activities that everyone can enjoy together, while apart. Here are a few examples:

  • A Funny Team Awards Show
  • Holiday Trivia or Game Night
  • Secret Santa
  • Paint Party
  • Festive Talent Show

Remember, hybrid holiday parties should actively engage both in-person and virtual attendants — so prioritize activities that can achieve this goal.

4. Share the ambiance.

Sometimes virtual guests can feel like they’re missing out on the fun because they’re remote. To help counteract this, hosts should create a shared experience and ambiance for all attendees. For example, if your in-person decor includes paper snowflakes and vanilla candles, consider sending virtual guests a smaller-scale version of these items for their home or office.

5. Put in-person and remote guests in groups or pairs.

One way to encourage engagement between in-person and virtual guests is by placing them in groups or pairs. For example, if you play holiday trivia, consider breaking up your guests into groups, with each group containing in-person and remote guests. Take this one step further by encouraging groups to brainstorm creative team names.

When it comes to planning remote and hybrid events, it may take more time and effort to nail the logistics. But when done right, you can host a party that inspires camaraderie and belonging within your team.

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Native video tops social media in brand awareness study

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Native video tops social media in brand awareness study


Native video ads have a greater impact than video ads on social and video platforms, a new study from Kantar reported. The Multichannel Brand Impact study measured video ad effectiveness for brand goals in native environments against other environments.

Favorability. Participants in the study gave a favorable rating 59% of the time when exposed to a native video ad. That number dropped to 50% on social platforms and 51% in a video platform environment.

Source: Kantar Context Lab/Taboola.

Awareness. 33% of participants displayed top-of-mind awareness about a brand when shown a native video ad. This displayed a marked improvement over the control group, which only had 14% top-of-mind awareness.

When native video was combined with social video ads, the awareness climbed to 49%.

Impact of native ads. Taboola, which sells content discovery and native advertising products, sponsored the study.

“With industry estimates indicating that video advertising in the U.S. will reach nearly $50B this year, brands have a lot of opportunities to influence customers, as long as they’re choosing the right platforms and mix of platforms to relay their messages,” said Taboola CEO and founder Adam Singolda, in a company release.

Read next: Taboola acquires Connexity

Why we care. Social media is where consumers receive word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends. Still a potent source of brand impact for marketers. But social is also a highly contentious space for politics and other turnoffs. It’s not the ace in the hole it once was, and should be complemented with other native environments in a digital video campaign.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.



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Worsening economy has more shoppers getting online info before making in-store purchases

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Worsening economy has more shoppers getting online info before making in-store purchases


Summer’s here and the shoppers are wary. Consumer spending increased in May, but only by 0.2%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This explains why 76% of U.S. shoppers are searching online for reviews and better prices before buying in store, according to a new Adobe Commerce study of sentiment among over 1,000 U.S. consumers. Also, when they’re in a store 60% are using their phone to look for better prices elsewhere.

Another sign of the slowing economy: 24% say they won’t be able to take advantage of big summer holiday sales because they have less discretionary money to spend due to inflation and the higher cost of goods. 

Read next: Adobe: Online prices were up only 2% in May

On the good news side: 76% of those planning to participate in summer sales say they’ll spend more or the same amount as last year. And the motivation varies — more than half (56%) of consumers say they save money by shopping on Prime Day and other sales events, while others want to get ahead of their seasonal holiday (32%) and back-to-school shopping (23%).

However, most of those who intend to buy don’t believe big retailers’ promises of deeper discounts because of overstocking. Almost 65% expect discounts to be smaller than last year. 

Other findings:

  • 61% said receiving personalized promotions or recommendations will make them more likely to make a purchase.
  • 43% said they are more likely to purchase from a retailer that offers buy now, pay later.
  • 72% want the online purchases delivered the same day or via two-day shipping.
  • 50% are now more likely to make retail purchases on their phones, 26% prefer in-store shopping and 24% prefer shopping via their computer
  • 57% search for and buy products online if they can’t find them in stores.
Categories for which consumers report using buy now, purchase later.

Why we care. Inflation and higher interest rates are, as expected, taking an increased toll on consumer spending. That makes marketing more important than ever, via activities like personalization and customer experience. That should also include offering payment options like buy now, pay later. People are used to putting everything on a credit card, but interest rates are making that less attractive to them.


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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.



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Getting Started with the Agile Marketing Navigator: Building a Marketing Backlog

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Freeing agile marketing from its software development roots


We recently introduced you to Agile Marketing Navigator, a flexible framework for navigating agile marketing for marketers, by marketers in the article A new way to navigate agile marketing. The navigator has four major components: Collaborative Planning Workshop, Launch Cycle, Key Practices and Roles. Within these categories, there are several sub-pieces for implementation. In recent articles, we covered the pieces in the first stop of the navigator, the Collaborative Planning Workshop.

Now we’re going to dive into the next stop on your agile marketing journey — the Launch Cycle. The Launch Cycle is a repeatable cadence for delivering valuable marketing experiences early and often. Within the Launch Cycle there are five key components — Marketing Backlog, Cycle Planning, Daily Huddle, Team Showcase and Team Improvement. If you’re familiar with the Scrum framework, there are a lot of similarities here — with a few different nuances to make it more applicable to marketers.

Building and managing an effective Marketing Backlog

Now, let’s dive into the Marketing Backlog and some tips and tricks for marketers to be most effective. 

The Marketing Backlog is an ordered list of prioritized work that the agile team will pull from to work on in their Launch Cycle. The backlog is emergent, not static, and changes as new information is learned. 

This part of the framework is incredibly important and can have a major impact on how marketers work. First of all, there’s one shared place where all work lives. This avoids work happening “behind the scenes” that no one knows about.

In fact, one client that I worked with took all of the work that was already assigned to stakeholders, put it in a single backlog and realized that it would take five years to deliver! It’s with this level of transparency that teams and leaders can begin to visualize everything the team is doing and start to really understand what’s important and what may just be someone’s pet project.

There are many tools for managing your marketing backlog and they all have their pros and cons. The main thing to watch out for is ensuring that everyone on the team, as well as stakeholders have access. We want to build a transparent system.

If you’ve started with the Collaborative Planning Workshop, you’ve already begun to build out the Marketing Backlog. The items in your Minimally Viable Launch will go near the top, and other items will fall below. Work is never guaranteed until the team starts working on it, and even then sound business reasons could cause them to pivot, although that shouldn’t be the norm.

Prioritizing the backlog is one of the key responsibilities of the Marketing Owner. While they don’t do this in a vacuum and conversations with stakeholders are imperative, this role has the ultimate authority to decide what order the team will work on and which items won’t be considered (there are always way more good ideas than time).

The role of the Marketing Owner

The Marketing Owner needs to really understand the business value that each idea brings. Each marketing backlog should be thought of in terms of:

  • Level of effort it will take the team to complete (let’s face it — all things aren’t created equal. Building a Tesla may take longer than a base model Honda, so think through marketing ideas as well).
  • What value does it bring to customers? Joy? Satisfaction? Solves a problem? Addresses a cause?
  • What will the business gain from this idea, and how does it tie to business goals, KPIs and revenue?

Stakeholders, customers and team members should all be thinking about new ideas all of the time and everyone is invited to submit ideas to the backlog. However, it’s at the Marketing Owner’s discretion to decide which ideas will be worked on by the team and when.


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Work should never be directly assigned to a team member in agile marketing. It should be submitted to the backlog or discussed with the marketing owner as it needs to be visible and prioritized among everything else.

In agile marketing, backlog items should be used to test and learn and are thought of as micro-experiments, rather than large campaign blasts. 

While a backlog item may be for a post on Facebook, the team should be thinking in terms of testing elements, such as content. If the content is successful, similar content pieces would be on the backlog. However, if the content doesn’t perform well, the team would want to think of new backlog items with different content.


agile marketing workflow

Catch up on the Agile Marketing Navigator series!


The backlog may contain some business as usual items to keep the lights on, but the majority of items should be small, testable experiments that can quickly get to customers for real-time feedback.

If you haven’t started a marketing backlog yet, what are you waiting for?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Stacey knows what it’s like to be a marketer, after all, she’s one of the few agile coaches and trainers that got her start there. After graduating from journalism school, she worked as a content writer, strategist, director and adjunct marketing professor. She became passionate about agile as a better way to work in 2012 when she experimented with it for an ad agency client. Since then she has been a scrum master, agile coach and has helped with numerous agile transformations with teams across the globe. Stacey speaks at several agile conferences, has more certs to her name than she can remember and loves to practice agile at home with her family. As a lifelong Minnesotan, she recently relocated to North Carolina where she’s busy learning how to cook grits and say “y’all.”



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