Virtual celebration

A virtual event to celebrate special occasions, holidays or the achievement of high points and milestones in a partnership or a project which includes both formal presentations and opportunities for informal interaction.

Area of application

Virtual celebrations are an appropriate format to mark the launch or completion of a project or any point in between that merits special recognition within the framework a project or a partnership. The goal of virtual celebrations can be to recognize individual and group contributions, to build up momentum and motivation, or to establish and maintain trustful relationships.


Depending on the context, virtual celebrations can range from small intimate gatherings to larger-scale events. Accordingly, the target group can vary from several people (e.g. the closest circle of collaborators on a project team) to a large group of people (e.g. the extended circle of people involved in a project including external partners, donors, political figures, etc.). Celebrations involve close and intensive interaction, characterized by a certain degree of informality as the idea is to connect to people on a personal level. Ideally, the interaction is mutual rather than one-way, with everyone actively participating.

Virtual mode

In the offline world, celebrating special moments in the lifecycle of a project is done together with the partners involved through rather informal and more personal events such as going out for dinner. It might also happen in a more formal framework, e.g. a kick-off conference attended by high-ranking speakers and the press.

Although in-person meetings and travelling to toast together remain the best way to celebrate, cooperation can also be kicked off and completed virtually to show partners that they are appreciated and to connect to partners as well as to the project team through memorable events. The virtual celebration should be as personal and meaningful as possible. The organisers have to find a balance between an event providing interesting content which the participants can look forward to while also leaving space for open interaction. The event should, therefore, also provide virtual opportunities for formal and informal chatting and exchange. A festive moment, also in a virtual context, should speak to multiple senses, in addition to looking at the screen and listening to others, e.g. tasting by having a common meal or touching by mailing objects beforehand.


Virtual celebrations can serve a variety of purposes, depending on the point at which they occur. For example, in the beginning of a project, festive gatherings contribute to building up of shared purpose, ownership and engagement of partners. Moreover, they also serve to establish trustful relationships within the project setting, within the project team and with partners. In the course of a project, reaching important milestones might deserve special attention to keep up the team spirit and contribute to visibility and motivation. At the end, partners want to close the cooperation not only operationally, but also emotionally, looking back at shared moments, acknowledging achievements and ensuring the sustainability of results, further cooperation and maintenance of networks (if applicable).

The first step in planning a virtual celebration is to determine what are its goals and which accomplishments to highlight and celebrate. In conjunction with that, a very important step is to decide who will be invited and accordingly determine the setting. Will the celebration be held in an intimate circle of just a few people or will it be a larger ceremonial online event? Will the team present the project’s results in front of a larger audience, or will it be an internal gathering with coffee or dinner together over a video conference? Will you celebrate within the inner/outer circle of your project team or is this the right moment to bring in other hierarchical levels of the organisations involved or external partners for symbolic backing and appreciation? This should be determined in advance so that a suitable setting and activities can be chosen.

Another important aspect is to decide who is in charge of organizing the event and who else is involved in the planning. If a local team or a steering committee is part of the project coordination, it would be helpful to include this group in the planning and implementation of the festive event. In this way they can propose their own ideas and wishes in line with their cultural or professional context and tasks can be allocated accordingly. For bigger festive events, partners not directly represented in the steering committee could also be invited to make their contributions or do so via the steering committee itself.

Once the goal and size of the event have been decided, suitable formats or elements of the celebration need to be selected.  For example, for informal gatherings, an appreciative gift in the mail or a fun hour with virtual (team) games is a good solution to strengthen relationship with the team members or partners and express appreciation of the collaboration. For festive launches or closings in the context of a larger audience, a hybrid celebration could be considered, mixing in-person and online participation. In selecting formats, think about what knowledge about the project’s region can be integrated into the event (folklore, tales, food, traditions, etc.). Audiovisuals, such as a short videoclip of a classical concert or a self-made video or a photo slide show with the highlights of a project is another format that can be included.

With regard to the setting, make it as specific as possible and communicate that in advance so that the partners can dress accordingly, for example fancy for a shared virtual dinner, casual for a virtual cup of coffee or black for the setting of a funeral (intercultural dimension). Make preparations activating different senses (sound, lighting, etc.) to make the setting as realistic as possible.


Another partial substitute for an in-person presence is to mail partners and stakeholders physical items before the celebration. For example:

  • A postcard (with handwritten message) expressing appreciation of work or celebrating success
  • Small treats like chocolate which should be opened during the event so that the moment can be shared
  • A print-out photograph of the team and partners
  • A present from your organization
  • A (custom-made personalized) cup or glass or a bottle of a beverage of choice (taking into account cultural and personal preferences e.g. toward alcohol) to toast each other and the cooperation
  • A table firework or a candle and matches to be lit together during the event.
  • Any other object that fits the occasion.

Knowing one’s colleagues on a personal level makes maintaining partnerships and multi-stakeholder networks easier. Therefore, it is always worth it, especially at launch celebrations, to ask personal questions and make space for informal conversations. One idea for smaller groups could be to ask participants to share something the others are not likely to know about them and have others comment to identify common interest or hobbies. For example, A: “I am the only one here who can knit very well.” B: “Actually I am good at knitting too!”.

Another idea is to use the “triangle of commonalities” for groups of three, where each corner of the triangle stands for one group member; commonalities between all three people are written in the center of the triangle, while commonalities between two of the group members are written next to the line that connects them. Not only words, but also pictures work well in such a context.

A third idea is to ask participants to bring a souvenir or an object that represents them and share it with the group in a presentation round.

During a wrap-up event, it is common to reflect on the months or years of a partnership and show your appreciation by looking back at those times. This can be done through storytelling (“Do you remember when…?”) or visualisation (putting together funny or professional photos of project events). One idea is to create pictures using conceptboard: Picture 1: How did we start?  Picture 2: Where are we now at the end of the project? Ask also the partners to contribute as they will bring in their own perspective on the most important milestones and special moments which they would like to share with the participants.

Some topics of conversation and reflection for a closing celebration are:

  • How did the project start?
  • What were some highlights during the project?
  • What were the lowest points?
  • What is special about our team?
  • What are the team members’ and partners’ views on the future (collaboration, maintaining the network?

After the event it might be a good idea and a sign of appreciation and commitment to share the photos, presentations, etc. of the event with all the participants or send a thank-you card or email. To conclude the event and to add to the visibility of the cooperation, a Candela article could be published and shared with the participants and beyond.





Do not underestimate the time necessary to organise a virtual celebration. For some elements advance planning is needed (e.g. ordering a custom-made souvenir and mailing it to partners in time for the event).



Virtual celebrations are more cost-effective as, for example, a venue might not need to be rented and travel expenses are not incurred. However, a certain budget should still be allocated for some aspects (e.g. presents to partners, licences for some online tools, etc.).



Select the video conferencing platform and other tools depending on the group size and the features that you will need, while keeping in mind the internet and technical constraints of participants.



Core organizing team:
in charge of deciding on and implementing the main parameters of the event  

Local partners or project steering committee:
provide input and ideas for the event planning and might be allocated some tasks to implement


Practical Tips

  • Find out if any member of the team or a partner has had previous experience with a successfully implemented opening or closing event in the same or another region.
  • Define your long-term goal concerning the partnership: Do you aim at maintaining the network of stakeholders? If so, think about ways of communicating this to your partners without making them feel pressured so that you can find ways to do so together


Suzana Lange

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