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The company holiday party isn’t what it used to be. With almost 70% of companies offering at least one type of telecommuting option, it is increasingly rare that every employee can attend a year-end party. So how do you get everyone under one roof to celebrate the holidays and another year in the books? ‘Tis the season to take your office party virtual.

Why should we host a virtual holiday party?

Today’s incredible technological innovations make flexible work arrangements and global communications a vital part of corporate culture. Cloud computing technology helps workers join webinars and web meetings from anywhere — at home or on the road. And smartphones make emailing, conference calls and even video conferencing a breeze with mobile apps. But when it comes to the holidays, telecommuters and remote office workers can feel left out of the cultural ritual of the office party. With today’s technology, take your year-end party virtual and create a sense of seasonal cheer for all your employees.

How do we prepare for the event?

Every company is different, and the key to creating an exciting virtual party is to keep it simple and plan your methods carefully. Here are a couple questions to ask:

1. Have we ever hosted a virtual event?
Your company probably hosts virtual events — web conference, video conference, webcast or webinar — for investor calls, press conferences or sales meetings. Find out who coordinates these virtual meetings and pick their brains.

2. How much can I spend?
Your budget will help you determine the size and scope of your holiday party. Webcams for every employee or just every office? Food and drinks for every office? Holiday gifts? Inexpensive web-based video conference or huge global production?

3. Do we want to manage the virtual event or have a partner do it?
Hosted events are popular for major corporate events, so why not use them for your holiday party if you have the budget? Learn what options are available and fit your unique needs.

4. What are our employee work arrangements?
Determine what ratio of the following your company has: home office workers, road warriors, onsite workers, remote office workers.

5. Do we want everyone to be live on video or just stream the main event?
Choose the people that need to be on video: telecommuters, regional offices, executives and/or the main event.

6. Who are we inviting?
Determine who you want to attend: all employees or just certain employee groups. Send e-invitations with the date, time, log-in information and technical requirements for users who will join remotely.

What virtual service should we use?

Your employee work arrangements and office geography will determine which solution is right for your meeting.

1. Large corporate office with <10% remote workers: For the budget conscientious business, low-cost web conferencing services, like GlobalMeet, incorporate live webcam video with active speaker technology to everyone can be on video, share pictures and more.

Big budget and big holiday party? Webcast services, like On24 with PGi, create a hybrid party for your business — a video feed of the main event streamed over the internet to remote workers and offices.

2. Small and medium-sized company with

3. Large corporation with global teleworkers and regional offices: For large companies with employees scattered throughout regional and home offices across the world, your best bet is a hybrid party that uses high-quality video to stream your corporate party to offices and home workers. Everyone can see the main festivities, see and hear your executives’ speeches and more — right from their laptop or on the conference room projector.

4. Regional celebrations with teleworkers: If your company breaks down year-end parties by region or continent, look at the regional employee community to determine if web conferencing, video conferencing or webcasting meet your operational and budgetary needs — just like the options above.