With Christmas parties off the festive menu this season, UK businesses are flocking to online experiences as a way to stay engaged over Christmas.
With any prospect of in-person festivities dealt a final blow by the government’s three tier lockdown system and tightened restrictions across the nation, businesses are looking at online parties to take the place of the traditional Christmas knees-up.
In a survey of corporate event professionals, events platform Hire Space – which expects 100,000 people to attend its “Big Top” virtual Christmas party experience this year – found that 89% of businesses were actively seeking online merriment as an alternative to the norm.
It comes amid a wider trend of businesses switching to online events during the pandemic, with recent research finding that 94% of businesses plan to run an virtual event in the next 12 months.
Tushar Agarwal, CEO of HubbleHQ, London’s largest flexible office space platform, is one such advocate of online events: He said “Christmas parties are really important for our company culture, but we clearly can’t hold one as usual this year. We’re going virtual instead, with some brilliantly innovative options available in the market.”
As the need for a virtual solution has grown, events companies have started offering increasingly sophisticated online experiences. Hire Space’s “Big Top” experience brings together comedians, musicians, actors, cabaret acts, magicians and more – many of whom face reduced income this season due to Covid – into a circus-style extravaganza allowing event attendees to jump between acts from burlesque rooms to bingo.
Attendees start the night in a virtual taxi, zooming through their city and learning about what’s in store for them over the course of the night. On arrival, they must get past the “Burly Bouncer”, who will, needless to say, deny entry for anyone wearing trainers. Inside, they can visit a live jazz bar, enjoy activities including karaoke or quizzing, or even get some downtime with their colleagues in a virtual “smoking area.”
Attendees will have food and drinks delivered to their home addresses as part of the experience. One attendee described the experience as “the most fun I’ve ever had in front of a laptop.”
With research by ticketing platform Eventbrite finding that companies traditionally splash out almost a billion pounds on Christmas parties for their employees, the demand for virtual events is likely to grow.
Will Swannell, co-founder of Hire Space, said: “The virtual market is huge at the moment, with companies hosting everything from conferences to product launches online. Success depends largely on creativity, which is why our Christmas party product is so proving so popular – it’s an experience like no other.”
With nothing more than a laptop and a sense of adventure required, virtual parties may end up being more than simply a stopgap.