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Four key ingredients to a successful virtual team offsite

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What happens when you combine a 110-minute Saturday Night Live-inspired virtual show with nonstop emoji reactions flooding in from the crowd, 18 set changes, 1,240 messages blowing up the chat, and 15 custom afterparty rooms? 

Nearly 150 employees at InVision Communications, a 30-year-old agency specializing in integrated audience engagement and brand experiences, discovered all of the above and more at their holiday-themed virtual offsite. And it wasn’t just about the numbers.

“Impressing an agency of experience designers is no easy task, but the Engagement team did just that. They delivered one of the most interactive and emotional virtual events I’ve ever seen,” said Jill Tanner, VP of Engagement Solutions & Marketing at InVision.

So, what were the key learnings from InVision’s unique, engaging night? 

1. Mixed live and pre-recorded segments make the experience.

Ray McCarthy Bergeron, ohyay creator and Digital Experience Director at InVision, set out to craft a virtual offsite where employees could have fun, get closer, and feel recognized and rewarded for their work.

“We’re event professionals who understand what a great experience is like. We want to achieve a high standard not only for our clients, but also for ourselves,” said Ray.

InVision’s Engagement team divided up the event into a broadcast and an after party. In the broadcast portion, they entertained 150 employees with a high-quality HD mixed feed of pre-recorded and live skits. The variety of content — from mixology to employee milestone recognitions — featured many of the agency’s own staff, which made for a memorable event

The Engagement team sprinkled employee-made skits into the broadcast, like this cookie decorating activity :)

“By hosting in an environment like ohyay, we were able to bring over 16 employees on stage,” Ray said. “People felt like they were a big part of the program and its overall success.”

2. Frequent “set changes” drive engagement.

InVision’s creative, design, and production teams collaborated to craft differentiated set changes and “mini experiences.” The uniquely styled, holiday-themed stage designs framing the speakers — from a snow globe to a row of paper cut cottages — held the audience’s interest throughout the event. With each set change, animated snowflakes flurried across the screen. 

The broadcast's opening snow globe scene.
A moment of recognition of InVision's marathon runners, framed by paper-cut trees and cottages.

The broadcast’s setup allowed teams to collaborate “backstage” in a sandbox-like environment, while presenting a polished experience to the live audience. A special backend in ohyay simulated switch boards to cue moments, green rooms for talent, and audio switchers to prevent audio feedback from presenters who were piped into earpieces on set. 

“We built in ‘main/backup’ camera situations so we could switch perfectly in sync if a camera feed went down, and a special overlay where we’d re-orient how emoji reactions rose or fell during some segments. Think falling snow or ‘make it rain’ moments,” said Ray.

3. Interactive features provide a critical feedback loop between the audience and speakers.

Both the speakers and the audience appreciated how reaction emojis gave visual and auditory weight to important moments — particularly when employees gave speeches to each other.

“A big thing missing on most platforms is audience feedback and connection to presenters. Simple things like applause and emoji reactions elevate the audience’s experience and influence the emotion and tone of the speaker,” said Ray.
The applause gave weight to moments of recognition for employees.

4. Themed, custom breakout “social” rooms facilitate deeper connections between attendees.

After the broadcast, over 80 employees joined the second half of the offsite, called the Afterglow. They were given special rooms to network, thank leadership, and engage in party activities like ugly sweater decorating.

The Afterglow map, with buttons to navigate into themed social rooms.

"For everyone to feel included, we created rooms where people could leave notes to those unrecognized during the broadcast and guess the heights of new employees,” said Ray.

One of the most popular rooms, the puppy cam.
Guests could guess the heights of new employees and hover over their headshots to reveal the answers.
Snowman building activity and photo booth.
Ugly sweater decorating activity and photo booth.

The most popular rooms in the Afterglow were a puppy cam where guests could watch golden retriever puppies play together (surprise, surprise), a fireside chat with InVision’s founders, and a “Name That Tune” game that shuffled holiday songs on a retro radio. 

Fireside chat with InVision's founders.

The team offsite not only achieved InVision’s goal of strengthening coworker relationships across departments, but also reinforced the feeling of working within a tight-knit community. The team is looking forward to continuing the collaborative spirit towards Part II — an in-person offsite scheduled for six weeks after the virtual one.

“Engaging on a platform as dynamic as ohyay allowed InVision to realize the dream of integrating the company into a fun evening,” said Ray. “We pushed the capabilities of what we could do with the platform and are thrilled with how it turned out."

InVision's Tweet about the event


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