This year, it was a next-level challenge to organise a Xmas party for everyone while keeping social distance and avoiding a Zoom call with 50+ people.
We had the added “disadvantage” that we had to prepare all the arrangements online, and most of the time, asynchronously. Thanks to tools like Basecamp, this job became a lot easier, and we managed to arrange everything without seeing each other more than a couple of times in the past months.
After the initial brainstorming session, we anticipated that it would not be possible to bring everyone together for a big party in the Starware tradition. We also discarded an online event. As a matter of fact, even though online events are currently booming, our personal experience is that it’s really difficult -if not impossible- to keep the audience engaged for more than 20 minutes through a screen, even with the best content. Also, while being across different continents now it was very hard to plan it anyway. So what was left?
A different approach
We would switch roles. Instead of bringing everyone to the Starware Xmas party, we brought a little bit of the Starware Xmas spirit to everyone! In this way, people could enjoy it with their loved ones in the safety of their own homes.
This set up had a couple of hidden benefits:
- The risk of falling on your head (while trying to help your colleague finding his hotel room) is significantly less as you are on familiar ground.
- Absolutely no peer pressure to get up the next morning at ridiculous hours to enjoy yet another crazy rave or being shouted at by a prison warden.
- No closing hours on the bars, so you can finally really drink for as long as you like (or as long as your partner allows you to).
- There is much less chance of someone making speeches or trying to start a singalong.
- Marc and Roland don’t have to dress up in stupid outfits! (oh well…)
We tried to provide all Starware people with an evening of amazing food, “a few drinks”, and some home entertainment.
As it couldn’t be otherwise, Marc and Roland took it to the next level when it came to home entertainment. They recorded a movie starring “Trump” and “Biden” and had Boom Chicago chipping in their crazy idea.
What was the video about? It was supposed to be a lovely cooking video where Marc and Roland would explain how to prepare the tasty recipes everyone got at home. Well, that escalated quickly! It turned into a “Presidential Cooking Bake-off”, where Biden and Trump would compete for the presidency of the USA, given the elections were “a massive fraud”. They needed to clear things up! What better way to do it than seeing who prepares the best Starware Xmas dinner, with Marc and Roland as the Jury?
The surprise factor
One of our main challenges – aside from convincing the two American presidents to participate in our video- was how to gather all the information we needed. In time. Without giving away the surprise. Because as you may know by now, an essential part of every Starware party is the surprise factor: no-one knew what was going to happen. That’s why we prepared this list of questions:
- Who is going to be home with you to enjoy a nice evening? (Are you with your partner, with a dear friend, your parents, with your partner and two kids, with your kid only, etc.) Please let us know the number of adults and number of kids.
- What is your favourite Xmas carol?
- What are your (and your partner’s) food preferences (fish, meat, or vegetarian)?
- Who is your favourite reindeer?
- Is anyone in your family afraid of heights?
- Do you (and your partner and/or kid(s)) have any allergies? Please let us know.
- When was the last time you took a corona test, what was the outcome?
- What are your shoe size and that of your partners?
- Do your kid(s) eat “small kids’ food” (simple stuff all kids like) or “adult food” (more complex flavours)?
- Do you currently have any injuries that will limit your ability to participate in moderately straining physical events?
Good use of information
You would think some of these are just misleading questions, although it turned up we could use almost all the information in the questionnaire to create the most personalised experience possible.
For example, we played everyone’s favourite song and Roland wore a special name tag with the name of everyone’s favourite reindeer when they visited each person to bring the presents. Some people made a couple of unconventional choices, as there are always some extra funny guys amongst us 😉
A 5-star meal
So what did Starware’s Xmas present consist of this year? The main part evolved around the idea of bringing a deliciously prepared meal at home, to enjoy as much as if you would join a Starware Xmas dinner at a restaurant. We could make this possible with the collaboration of Chef Ron Belt, who prepared an amazing 5-course meal menu with different variants to satisfy all palates.
Besides, we paired the outstanding food with an excellent selection of wines from Pandora’s bottle, including a delicious Moscato for dessert.
Next to the movie entertainment for the people that already finished Netflix during the quarantine, we made sure there were some nice board and card games to play with. In addition, we were able to create a set of Uno cards with some of our colleague’s photos in them, so people would remember what their colleagues looked like after all this time.
A simple pair of VR goggles made sure you could join in in some exciting roller coaster rides or some base jumping, and a Hangover Kit always comes in handy after a Starware party to help with the heavy headache on the day after!
At this time, everything was packed and prepared for delivery. Marc and Roland – all dressed up for the occasion-, drove house by house to all our colleagues in the Netherlands and Belgium to bring the packages in person. It only took three days and enough kilometers to drive to Morocco 😉 The downside of having colleagues living all over the country!
Unfortunately, it was impossible to ship the food menus to some people as they live in different time-zones or in cities whose names we can’t pronounce (ehm, Székesfehérvár). We would risk long deliveries causing the food to spoil or even customs problems where food might end up eaten by local authorities. Therefore, to prevent disasters, we also arranged some local deliveries and sent the goodie-packages their way, hoping they receive them before 2021 ?
Say it with a song
Next to all these nice things, we created a dedicated Basecamp Project where we provided all the instructions and where people could share their experiences with cooking and enjoying their presents.
Furthermore, we also made a playlist which was a compilation of all the great holiday songs we received from everyone to play during the evening. If you are interested in the musical (dis)taste of the Starware crew, you can find them here.
A great big smile
Above all, we aimed to put a smile on everyone’s face during this difficult time. We recorded some of the reactions and we think it was a great hit!
Happy and safe holidays!