The Christmas season is approaching fast and it’s past time to start thinking about what the festivities are going to look like in your office this season. With the way we work evolving over the last two years, and the future still highly uncertain, it’s not an easy question to answer. The way we celebrate, relax, and unwind should now be evolving too. Widely available and free video conference tools could hold the key to success.
Of course, this isn’t the first year firms have had to look at alternative Christmas party plans. It is, however, the first year that companies are looking to improve on their remote Christmas party arrangements. Ditching the worst of last year’s technical mix-ups, crossed plans, and awkward silences—there are efficient and effective ways to hold remote events.
Using the right tools is just part of the equation. The Christmas party could well be the most important event on the office calendar. Even as teams navigate a new normal, ensuring this key annual event goes off without a hitch is pivotal to team bonding, getting to know each other, and having a bit of fun in an otherwise serious and productive office environment.
Free video conference tools can be key to creating a fun and friendly atmosphere for a team’s Christmas party this festive season.
There are, of course, both benefits and drawbacks to hosting a virtual office party over an in-person one. There’s no denying that ‘virtual event’ doesn’t have the same ring to it, or create the same eager anticipation a physical event would hold. There are, however, still plenty of opportunities for hosting an outstanding remote event this Christmas season.
The perfect Christmas party for remote teams doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Free video conferencing tools, party games, and socialising are enough to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that offers a welcome break from the norm.
Much like an in-person event, the remote Christmas party can be as simple or as extravagant as you wish to make it. Play some party games, book remote entertainment, or simply meet up with a story or two to tell.
Breaking the ice, getting some conversation going, and getting people into the swing of things can help to make this year’s remote event a memorable one.
There are plenty of things that the party host can do to make sure things run smoothly.
Traditional party games such as trivia questions and gift exchanges can go down just as well across a virtual environment as an in-person one. Additionally, some games and events can take advantage of digital devices like game controllers, or even a karaoke platform for those brave enough.
Whatever you choose, giving everyone an event or show to talk about for the next year to come is sure to prove a big hit amongst staff. Some ideas for your next remote party might include:
With some party ideas in mind and a rough estimate of numbers, the next step is to choose a hosting solution that will connect everyone on the day.
Here, we’ve collected some of the best free video conferencing tools available to avoid your guests glitching out, failing to connect, or missing out on the fun of the party.
Below is our complete guide to the best Christmas video conferencing tools in 2021.
Whether you already have a solution for remote working in place or are looking to switch to a better option for a party—it’s worth evaluating a handful of options to make the right choice ahead of time.
Ever since the way we work has changed, Zoom has seen a remarkable and seemingly lasting uptick in use. The brand is so popular now that ‘Zoom call’ has quickly become shorthand for any kind of video meeting amongst offices, families and friends.
Zoom is a platform that has become a leading communication service for some very good reasons. It has proven to be a huge hit for meetings, interviews, and social events due to its ease of use, intuitive interface, and quality of service.
Already, Zoom has become a major and accepted part of family gatherings and events. Its ability to use almost any desktop or mobile device with ease has proven a huge boost to getting people connected for meetings and events.
To host a welcoming and friendly event, a platform that people are already familiar with is a good step in the right direction.
Both versions allow up to 100 participants. Only the host needs a Zoom account.
Free version: events limited to 40 minutes at a time
Pro version($14.99user/month): no time limits
No need to install the app or create an account ahead of time to attend
Free tier highly capable of hosting a large number of people for a shorter gathering
VoIP and toll-based dial-in options for staff without readily available internet or device access
Breakout rooms available for smaller side-meetings
40 Minute time limit may be restrictive for some
The mobile application has some limitations in functionality compared to the desktop one
Paid tiers are more expensive than competitors
Another suite that has seen a sharp increase in use over the past two years is Microsoft Teams. Primarily for business use, its software is highly capable and reliably hosts up to 300 participants on its lowest price tiers.
Teams is included in Microsoft’s Office 365 packages, so you may already have access. For many businesses, it makes sense to extend the traditional meeting platform to include an out of hours Christmas event or two. Then again, do you want to remind people of the office during the year’s best party opportunity?
If you already have access to the suite, and staff are already familiar with its use, it might be an ideal default option.
Microsoft’s video conferencing solution is relied on for education and business for its reliability and stability. Even if you’re not already in the ecosystem, it may make sense to join for a one-off event.
Included in Microsoft Office 365 plans
Anyone can attend a team meeting without an account
Free tier: 100 participants for a 60-minute meeting
Basic tier($5.00 user/month): 300 Participants, 24-hour meetings
Up to 300 participants on a 24-hour call on the paid tier
Guests can attend from almost any device without an app install or account
Free tier more capable than other options
Basic tier very reasonably priced
Presentation features included (ideal for shows/events)
Integrates well with other tools such as a calendar to make sure no one misses the party
Fewer customisations available than in other options
Both mobile and desktop apps are resource-heavy—meaning your guests might be looking for a charger soon
Interface isn’t entirely intuitive—particularly for new users
Despite changing names in recent years, and with the company offering various competing versions of similar tools, Google Meet offers an accessible and straightforward route into free video conferencing tools at scale.
Hosting a Google Meet is available to anyone with a Google Workspace account. Attending a meeting is open to anyone with a regular Google account.
Google Meet includes all the features you’d come to expect of video conferencing tools today: blurred and custom backgrounds, HD video quality, and messenger capabilities. The suite doesn’t come with a whole lot of premium features and functions but handles what it does have exceptionally well.
Google workspace plans are available from around $6 a month
Business standard level supports up to 250 participants at once
No time limit on an event
Easy to use, even for newcomers
Excellent audio and video quality reported by users
Integrations with other tools, such as calendar, are exceptionally useful
Requires a Google Account to attend
Limited functionality for hosts
Some users will be missing from the screen in larger gatherings
Not ideally suited to addressing a large number of people at once (event entertainment, for example)
LogMeIn has been an invaluable tool in the IT industry for many years now. GoToMeeting has been one of the company's flagship products since 2004, offering remote working and meeting options to teams.
The software is ideally suited to teams needing more flexibility in connecting with colleagues. GoToMeeting includes outstanding support for in-room conferencing solutions for connecting with satellite offices, distributed employees, and large groups all at once.
Additionally, excellent dial-in options are available to connect with staff members who may not have access to strong internet or a suitable video conferencing device. With flexibility baked in, GoToMeeting offers options that ensure no one is left out or forgotten from the party.
Basic tier allows for 150 guests (£8.95 user/month)
Standard tier allows for 250 guests(£18.95 user/month)
Enterprise plan available for up to 3000 participants(£39.95user/month)
Software works well with mobile devices
Flexible approach to access means that everyone should be able to connect regardless of location or setup
No time limits
No need to download an app or sign in to the service
No free plan for small businesses or limited meetings
Limited visibility of larger groups
Users often report issues with mobile devices in meetings
High price in comparison to other services
Skype has a similar long-term heritage in video conferencing and web calls. Available for decades now, it’s a package that has long offered an easy and low-cost way to connect people from anywhere in the world.
The software is now ubiquitous on mobile and desktop devices. As an invaluable communication tool for so many people, it can be a great option for events where setup and configuration might otherwise be tricky. Skype’s latest service, Skype Now, allows those without an account to join in without signing up to yet one more service.
In recent years, Skype has been gradually transitioning into Teams and the Office 365 ecosystem. The business version of the software reached end of life during this year, leaving only the free version supporting up to 20 people on a call.
Microsoft Teams offers a more modern, more highly equipped version of the software, but Skype still has a place for keeping it simple across smaller gatherings.
Free home version allows up to 20 people to join the call for unlimited time
Free for small teams
Works across all mobile and desktop devices
Trivial to set up and use
Excellent presentation modes for large groups
Live subtitles available
Excellent Outlook integrations
Works well with reliable, high-quality calls
Can be buggy on some devices
Needs regular updates
Functionality less rich than other options
not as up-to-date as other options
Slack offers something a little different to most platforms listed here. Slack has rapidly become the backbone of office discussions as an open platform for communication over the past couple of years.
One of its more underused features is a video conferencing solution that supports groups of up to 15 people at a time. In addition, it offers integrations with third party services such as Zoom to create a way to connect people into larger calls.
Slack can offer an ideal solution for connecting teams into calls with an easily accessible ‘meeting point’ that ensures nobody gets left behind.
From $6.67 per user, per month
Excellent integrations with third-party platforms
works well across browser and mobile platforms
Can be combined with other options (zoom) via third party integrations for larger and more feature-rich meeting options
Only 15 participants at once
Relies on third-party integrations for larger gatherings
Slightly lacking in audio/video quality compared to others
The virtual Christmas party is, above all else, a chance for employers to show appreciation for a difficult year and excellent work. For employees, it’s a chance to check in with colleagues they might have drifted away from and keep in contact with teams they might not get a chance to see.
To do all this in a fun and welcoming environment outside of the pressures and deadlines of the office is a great gift to give.
The virtual Christmas party can, and should, be a huge amount of fun. It might even have some advantages over the more traditional approach. If working from home is indeed here to stay, there’s never been a better time to start building new traditions and for your organisation, people, and teams.
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