How to Plan and Host an Epic Virtual Party
Planning a successful virtual party that people will think of for years to come takes proper planning. Keep reading to learn how to make your next virtual party a success.
We are two month's into 2021 and the good news is, it looks like stay-at-home orders are lifting a bit. Though this may be the case, we still want to be cautious when it comes to large gatherings and celebrating big occasions.
I have definitely enjoyed partying in a virtual setting and even if it's not going to be our forever-normal, it is still a safe way to celebrate, especially with our high-risk friends and loved ones. Virtual celebrations are most probably here to stay, so, in honor of the last day of my birthday month, I am sharing tips on how to plan the perfect virtual party!
Planning a virtual party takes a bit of effort, but it will be worth every step once the party is flawlessly executed and you, along with all of the attendees, have the virtual time of your lives!
Back in November of 2020 I planned my first virtual party for my mom’s birthday. Needless to say, I, the “Queen of Extra” went all out, Mom had an amazing time and everyone in attendance enjoyed as well.
Such a party should not be left to chance. Planning out every detail of your event helps to ensure that things go off without a hitch (even though hitches are bound to happen). Plus, if you’re a planner, then you will enjoy every bit of preparation and creativity that goes into hosting your grand affair!
So, grab your scheduler, pen and notepad (pardon the "millennial in me"). It’s time to learn how to plan the most EPIC virtual party EVER!
1. Create a Theme
We all know that every party worth attending has a theme. Virtual parties are no different, in fact in my mind, a theme is even more important. A theme sets the scene for the party and gets your attendees invested early on.
There are tons of themes you can choose from but remember, some themes require more commitment on your end as the planner. Because of this, you want to be sure that you choose carefully and that you are prepared to invest the time needed for flawless execution of your event.
In the real-world I have planned all types of themed parties. A lot of these ideas easily transfer to the virtual world. Here are a few theme ideas for your virtual shindig:
Celebrity Look-A-like Affair
Murder Mystery Party
Afternoon Tea Party
Girls Night In
Beverage Specific Themes (Coffee, Tea, Champagne, Margaritas, Tequila Tastings, Gin… need I go on?)
As you can see, the list can go on and on and theVinoChronicles.com could easily do an entire blog post on party themes alone (and I most probably will some day). But for the sake of time, check out Little Miss Party Planner and Snacknation for more details on virtual party themes.
2. Attention to Detail is Everything!
As a virtual party planner, if there is one thing you have to be keen on its detail, detail, detail! You want to have things planned out so that in case something goes wrong, it doesn’t matter… And trust me, something is bound to go wrong.
Here are some of the details you want to focus on:
The Invitation List
How many people do you want to invite?
Invitations are a delicate balance. On one side, you don’t want to invite too many people because that could turn into a hot mess really fast. People speaking over each other, guest getting lost in the virtual shuffle, listen… sometimes too many people is just too much.
On the other side, any seasoned party planner knows that there is typically a 50% show up rate for RSVPs. I usually have 90% show-up rate due to the level of detail and pre-work my guests put in (but hey, who's counting). We'll talk about that in more detail later.
Either way, you want to have the right amount of people at your party for it to be BIG FUN! If hosting on zoom, I suggest anywhere between 6 – 15 people.
Key Dates: There are a few key days you will want to consider. Be sure to mark these dates on your day planner or calendar.
- Date of the party: Remember to think about holidays and other dates you may want to avoid. I accidently planned my birthday party on Super Bowl Sunday this year. But hey, it ended at 6 so we were good. Just be sure to check everything.
- Date to send your invite: take under consideration any pre-work or preparation that attendees will need to do and be sure to give them enough time to get prepared.
- RSVP Date: make sure you will have enough time to prepare for the party.
- Follow-up date: Follow-up or a “gentle nudge” is a great way to boost engagement and keep your party top of mind for your attendees.
Choose which platform are you going to use to host your party. I chose Zoom since I was a bit familiar with it. There are other options such as Google Meet and Zoho Meeting which can be used. Zoom was quite simple to host on and navigate so it is what I will go with going forward unless it proves otherwise. Also, so many people are familiar with Zoom so it makes it easier from a technology stand-point for your guests.
Games and Contests
Games and activities give your party structure which makes people feel like they are engaged in something other than just another video-conference.
Make some plans to spice things up by adding party games and contests to your virtual event. There are tons of virtual game ideas available online so I won’t bother to list them here, just google it and start browsing. What I will do is list what we did for mom’s online birthday soiree which was oh-so-marvelous!
- Decorating Contest: Give your guests a theme and challenge them to decorate their space. Balloon arches are everything to me, so I decorated my background with a beautiful arch with the birthday girls choice of colors. I threw in a dash of champagne, some homemade macarons and Patron cupcakes and voila, the party was live!
Although you don't have to go this far, the more festive your decorations, the more festive you will feel!
- Best Shoes: Everyone has a pair of shoes they’re proud of. This took a direction that I was not expecting at all. People represented their Jordans, Via Spigas, hell, even a pair of Crocs entered the contest. It was the unexpected that made this contest both fun and engaging.
- Most Fabulous Cocktail!: Yes, the explanation mark is totally necessary for this contest. Again, the entry range was all over the place. From expensive tequila shots and Vueve Cliquot to top-shelf margaritas and 6 packs of Coors light. Guests were proud to enter their selected beverage of the night. This is another easy contest entry point that most guest can participate in.
- Honoree Jeopardy: Host a contest/game centered around the honoree of the night. Mom’s favorite game show is Jeopardy so it was only fitting to have the main game of her party to follow suit. We played a Jeopardy-style trivia game and she was the main subject of all the questions. No need to overdue the preparation for this. Simply ask your honoree about 10 questions in advance. Then use these questions to ask you party guests, and make sure they state “what is” prior to their answer. Trust me, this gets fun!
Have a host… or 2
There are a lot of logistics for hosting a virtual party. Because of this, it’s usually advantageous to have a host and if possible, more than one.
In the case of my mom’s party, we needed more than one person to help keep score, watch the chat function for answers and help determine tie-breakers. Although you can pull off a party with one host, it’s definitely better to have more than one person.
Prizes are totally optional but highly suggested. First of all, it takes that level of extra to the next level of “extra, extra,” which I am always here for.
Because the party is virtual, the cost is very minimal. There’s no need to pay for a caterer, venue, swag bags and the like. This opens up the budget to offer your guests prizes for each contest or game. Set a per-prize budget, $10, $25, $50 or whatever your choosing.
To make it easy, I used Amazon and searched, “adult prizes for under (insert amount).” Save the images of the prizes you plan to offer and present the selection to your guests before and after the game portion of the party.
Using Amazon makes this easy because winners can just send you their address and you can ship their prizes them directly. No need to go shopping or to the post office because #amazonisking and they do everything for you!
Another great thing about this is that more than one winner can choose the same prize. So, if everyone is dying to have the Hamilton Beach Breakfast Sandwich Maker like at mom’s party, no one has to fight over their prize! Just be sure to order soon after the party, one of the chosen prizes were sold out by the time I went back to purchase.
3. Create a Loose Schedule
It is important to have a loose schedule for your event. Key word here is loose. It is not necessary that everything is planned out to the minute, but a loose schedule gives you great time boxes in efforts to keep the party moving along. You don’t want to get stuck in one area of the party and miss out on something fun that you had planned later in the event.
I also like to start the party off with a “Happy Half-hour”/Tech Check.
Surprisingly, people usually show up to virtual parties either on-time or early. With that being said, it’s always nice to build a little time into the beginning of the party to make sure everyone is comfortable with the technical side of the hosting platform. It’s also a great time to make sure everyone has everything they need for the party.
Here is a sample schedule I used for mom’s birthday party. Once you set a start time, I advise inserting both the times and the minutes to ensure time checks are easy throughout the party.
Sample for a 2.5 hour event:
Happy Half-Hour - 7 – 7:20 (20 mins)
Icebreaker (this gets everyone comfortable) 7:20 – 7:40 (20 mins)
Games & Prizes Overview 7:40 – 7:50 (10 mins)
Games (have these planned out) 7:50 – 8:50 (60 mins)
Winner/Prize Announcements and Farewells, Champagne Toast 8:50 – 9:20 (30 mins)
Again, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the schedule, and you may go over time, but just remember to be respectful of your guests’ time as they may have plans following the party.
4. Be Creative with your Invitation
Speaking of your guests, it is important to get them invested early on. I’m talking from the minute they receive the invite they should be intrigued!
In my humble, party planning experience, the invite sets the tone for attendance, engagement and how invested your attendees will be.
In my invites, I like to make things seem as grand as they (truly) will be. I use enticing words that are “on-theme” and let the guests know what they are in store for in advance.
With that being said, my party invites tend to get a bit lengthy, but in my opinion this is what grabs the attention and commitment of your audience.
Here are some things you should include in the invite:
Who or What you’re celebrating
Anything they need to be prepared for (shoe contest, all-black attire, decorating, drink prep, any game that requires preparation, i.e. pen paper etc.)
Time (don’t forget time zone), Date, Virtual Room Link
Gift link (a lot of people asked for ways to send mom a gift)
A list of Virtual Party Best Practices (lighting, sound, etc.)
If you want to be even more extra, you can create your own version the invitation box I sent out for my Balloons and Bubbles Afternoon Tea Birthday Party. Now don’t get me wrong, this invitation type is for party hosts who don’t mind going the extra mile, such as myself. It should be reserved for intimate affairs or special engagements, but I had an absolute amazing time creating them. If you’re interested in how I created and invitation boxes let me know in the comments and I will do a blog post about it!
As I was typing this very post I was hit with another fabulous idea... A VIDEO INVITE! I've never done one before, but trust a believe, that will be next!
Now we are cooking with gas. It’s almost time for the actual party however, there is one last thing to do prior to the party, that will help with the success of your event.
5. Follow-up Again… and Again.
Now, in total transparency, most people will not read the entire invite. This is why follow-up is crucial to your event being a total win.
You: “Hey did you decide which shoes you plan to wear for the contest?”
RSVP’d Attendee: “What contest?”
Clearly, this attendee RSVP’d but did not read the invite. But that’s okay! It’s obvious that you’re a reader, since you’ve made it this far into reading this post, so you knew that was going to happen.
That’s when you can say “oh, I mentioned on the invite that there will be several contests…” in the sweetest, non-accusatory tone (even though you have every right… jk).
This will give you the chance to share the contest with them again and pump them up to get as excited as you are for the upcoming celebration.
Let's keep it 100, people are busy. We all get wrapped up in our day to day routines and responsibilities. This is why follow-up is key to a successful party full of engaged attendees. You just want to be sure not to come off as desperate or offensive in your approach. Remember, planning a party should be fun. Keep this at the top of your mind and you’ll be good to go.
6. Flawless Execution!
Last, but definitely not least, it’s time to party.
This is the moment that everyone has been waiting for; the actual event.
If you followed the advice I’ve shared above then you’ve done all the right things to set your party up to be a successful event. The only thing left to do is have fun!
Keep your party schedule handy and remember it is only there to keep the party on track not to be a distraction. Your attention should be more focused on connecting with your virtual guests as if you are hosting the event in person.
Have fun with your games and don’t worry about hiccups or tech issues. In a virtual environment people are definitely going to be more laid back and non-judgmental about your event.
So, there you have it. Everything you need to consider when hosting a virtual party.
Now, the student has become the master. Go, young lad, into the virtual world of party hosting and make your mark. You will do well!
Have you hosted a virtual party? If so, what tips would you share with other party planners?
Share your tips in the comments below for others to take note of!
xoxo – Rue