A few months into the pandemic, one of our coworkers retired. It would have been great if we could have had a big party for him, with decorations and delicious desserts. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. So we forged ahead with a Zoom retirement party, and I think it went really well. But it was difficult to plan. It was uncharted territory. It’s not easy to make a videoconference call fun.

If you find yourself facing a similar situation, author Ximena Vengoechea is here to help. She has provided some excellent tips on how to plan and execute a virtual retirement party that’s enjoyable and heartfelt (rather than tedious and awkward). Here’s what you need to do:

  • Pick the right time – Choose the day and time when the event will take place. Try to schedule it during work hours, if possible. (Right now, people are often working longer hours than ever, and may not appreciate having a work event scheduled during their dinnertime.)
  • Plan some activities – Plan one or two activities that will take place during the event. For instance, you could plan to do one or more of the following:
    • Ask participants to share a favorite memory about their colleague.
    • Ask participants to talk about something that they learned from their colleague or something that they’ve always admired about that person.
    • Show video clips of your coworkers talking about their colleague.
    • Put together a fun slideshow of pictures of your colleague going about his or her work or interacting with various coworkers.  
  • Keep the guest list small – Don’t invite too many people to the event. Small events are better, because everyone has a chance to talk and participate. If you invite a huge number of people, most of them won’t be able to get a word in edgewise.
  • Keep it short – Vengoechea suggests that you schedule the party to last 30 minutes. This is the perfect amount of time for people to voice their well-wishes. If it were any longer, people might run out of things to say, and then there would be a lot of awkward silences. Of course, if there are people who would like to stay on longer, they should be free to do so.
  • Keep it festive – When you write your party invitations, make sure that you tell people that this is going to be a happy celebration. Set the tone, right from the start. And as the host of the event, try to keep things fun and joyful. Even though you might really miss your colleague, this is a time to celebrate.

Vengoechea, X. (n.d.). 6 tips for planning a (not awkward) virtual goodbye party for a coworker. The Muse. Retrieved from: https://www.themuse.com/advice/virtual-farewell-party-event-work