Community
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5-min read
December 3, 2021

6 Tools for Virtual Christmas Parties, Recommended by Community Pros

‘Tis the season – for hosting fun and festive virtual parties within your community, that is.

Of course, in an era of ever-increasing Zoom fatigue, it’s not always easy keeping folks engaged.

So, inspired by a recent conversation in our Slack community, we asked a few community pros which platforms and tools they’d recommend for hosting successful end-of-year celebrations — here's what they had to say.

Cue Mariah, please.

1. Topia

What is it? Topia is a social engagement platform with fully customizable, beautifully animated virtual worlds. Event attendees can move their avatars around to explore the world you’ve created, or interact with each other in a way that more closely imitates IRL events.

Where can I find it? Topia.io

“I've used it a couple of times: once for a casual hangout that was mostly just exploring the platform, and once as a panelist at a conference. Each event was really different, and fun in their own way. You can create really intricate and unique environments that allow for exploration and interaction outside of your typical online event experience

For example, for the conference, there was a really big world that had been created outside of just the conference context, and the stage was just one small part of the overall experience. You could wander all over the map and find small group discussions, music, scavenger hunts, access to badges for attending the specific event that could be used in the world as well as on other social platforms. It really felt like walking around a small festival and popping into conversations or activities.”

Alex Angel, Chief Community Officer @ Commsor & The Community Club

A look inside Topia.

2. Elfster

What is it? Not a video platform like many others on this list, but one that will certainly add depth to any virtual event you have planned. Elfster classifies itself as a “Secret Santa generator and Christmas list app”, and helps facilitate gift exchanges, even for communities dispersed globally.

Where can I find it? Elfster.com

“I've used Elfster for a community gift exchange and a family secret Santa gift exchange. It's super handy to be able to manage the logistics, communications, and wish lists all in one place. I think my favorite part is the fact that you can restrict who can get paired up, so for my family gift exchange, I was able to make sure that people from the same household (spouses, for example) couldn't be matched. I love how easy it is to use for both the organizer and the participants!

— Jamie Langskov, Sr. Director of Community @ Unusual Ventures

3. Bramble

What is it? A platform for creating customizable spaces for virtual events online. Bramble positions themselves as “a more human way to gather” — it also offers ways for attendees to mingle and interact one-on-one within a larger group setting in a more natural way.

Where can I find it? Bramble.live

“I may be biased here, but even if I weren’t the Community Manager at Bramble I'd like to think I would still have this exact take. I've hosted many community events in Bramble from comedy shows to live music to games nights and one of my favorite things is watching new community members experience it for the first time. As soon as they move their avatar and realize they are no longer constrained to a static box their eyes light up. Seeing them cruise around the space, or run into people they know on a rooftop or under the Northern Lights is so much fun to see.

My personal favorite thing is the warmth of the Bramble designs. There is much care in making the spaces feel welcoming — from a campfire pit in a snowy forest to beautiful Scandinavian furniture to gather people for games and drinks — it's definitely a cornucopia of coziness.”

Gabrielle Leith, Community Manager @ Artery & Bramble

A look inside Bramble.

4. Toucan

What is it? A really neat take on a traditional video chat platform, where attendees videos appear in little bubbles that can float around, allowing them to join smaller huddles to have more intimate chats.

Where can I find it? Toucan

“We use it for our student kickoff events because it's a great way to bring people together in a flexible digital space. People float around (literally!) and can join other individuals or groups and bounce between groupings really fluidly, so it's great when you know you're having sort of a free-form event where people can chat and get to know each other. Essentially it recreates the idea of people just entering a room and gravitating around conversations naturally! It's difficult to facilitate that feeling in a platform like Zoom because breakout rooms are so rigid.

So if you were having like a holiday party, it would be a much better tool than say, Zoom, to make people feel like they can naturally interact with others instead of being trapped in the Brady Bunch grid.”

Cait Levin, Community Educator @ C School

5. Gather

What is it? Another platform where users can navigate through fully customizable (and often, incredibly elaborate) pixel art virtual worlds. This one, however, offers a more game-like experience, with avatars akin to cult hit games like Stardew Valley.

Where can I find it? Gather.town

“We did a holiday party last year on Gather. We hired an artist to create a special retro pixel art town and it was so much fun (people even brought their whole families)! Our team also had fun decorating the virtual space with holiday decorations just as if it were an offline party. We also hired a Zoom DJ (or ZJ) which I thought was a waste, but it turned out to be totally worth it since they knew how to encourage people to participate.”

Erik Martin, VP of Services @ Commsor

A peek at Gather

6. Kahoot

What is it? A platform that facilities competitive virtual quizzes, which you can create from scratch yourself. It’s primarily positioned at educators and students, but it can also work brilliantly for a community setting – particularly if you work in some trivia only your members will know.  

Where can I find it? Kahoot.com

“We used it for a remote team Christmas party last year at Port, and it was a definite hit. It’s super easy to set up, with a drag-and-drop editor, plus lots of fun features. Everyone was able to download the app on their phone and play from anywhere in the world in real-time, by selecting multiple choice answers that come up on a live scoreboard. It made the whole experience really fun and interactive.”

Jake Stott, VP of Ecosystem (formerly founder of Port)

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For more recommendations (and to share your favorite tools with us) join the conversation on our forum.

Kirsti Buick
December 3, 2021

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