Making Magic: Reimagining the All-Team Meeting in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

January 22, 2021

When I joined ROI more than two years ago, it was just before the company’s all-team meeting. This is an event ROI holds every spring, and it’s easily the most anticipated date on the calendar. It’s the one time every year when the entire company comes together to learn about all the work ROI has been up to and socialize with colleagues we usually only see online. For 19 years the event was always held in person near our company’s headquarters in California, and I was grateful to attend only a few months after joining the company. I flew out from my home in Florida and can honestly say I’ve never attended a more well-planned event. It was clear that the company genuinely cared about its peopleand I left feeling even more excited to have joined the company. I was definitely looking forward to returning again last year (I even I already had an eye on a couple of outfits I’d bring). And then the pandemic hit.

While I was disappointed when I found out that our annual all-team meeting was going to be held online as a result of the pandemic, I was also a little relieved to not be traveling. I also knew that my colleagues planning the virtual event would work wonders, but I didn’t think the online version could be as good as the in-person experience. Some things just can’t be replicated.

I’m so glad to report was wrong.

In true ROI style, the meeting organizers seized the moment and came up with a truly unique experience that was as good, if not better, than the original format. For one thing, they incorporated the entire family into the event, encouraging us to share the experience with our loved ones. There was a family picnic with a magic showan online photo wall that recreated the much-loved, inperson “Wall of Amazing People”, and multiple a goody boxes arriving at our door containing meaningful gifts to evoke the physical elements of the in-person meeting we surely would have missed. And while I was skeptical at first about having my little preschooler attend even a fun work meeting, it turned out to be a touching moment, as he played happily with the playing cards ROI had sent while my husband tried presumptuously to recreate the magic tricks we were seeing.

Then the next day, the yoga session began. Now I have to admit, I was apprehensive about the idea of doing downward dog (or any bending or contorting) in front of all my work colleagues—but it turned out to be an incredibly fun bonding experience, and since we were all in the comfort of our own homes and confined to our own little Zoom boxes (as opposed to physically next to each other), it didn’t feel at all strange. In fact, it felt oddly natural. No one laughed when I fell, just as I didn’t laugh when anyone else fell. We all just felt closer.

There were other aspects, too, that were made perfect because of the online format. Like for instance, we all got to test out new technologies that we might one day use with our clients. In an in-person meeting, we probably wouldn’t have had time for that kind of demo or if we did, we’d probably have to sit and watch while someone else gave it. Instead, we got to be the testers. We got to be the ones playing with the new toys.

Being online also just made the event feel less formal and rigid. If it had been in person, everything would have had to have been perfect. But because we were online, it was okay if something didn’t work right or if the timing was a little off. Perfection wasn’t a priority—camaraderie was the goal.

The format also enabled us to stretch the meeting out over an entire week rather than cram it all into a couple of days. That gave us more time to digest the content, more time to be with our families, and more time for our client work—which for me was a big relief during the busy month. It also meant I didn’t have to get on a plane and leave my family for several days, which would have been a stress point under normal circumstances, to say nothing of a pandemic.

By the time the all-team meeting ended, I literally had tears in my eyes during the closing reception, as one of our colleague’s husband played guitar—a tradition that happens at every all-team meeting. It just made me think, if we could pull all this off in the middle of a pandemic, what might an online meeting look like in a normal year?

I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out. If we’re lucky enough to have the event be in person this year, I’ll be the first one ready to pack my bags. And, if it‘s online again due to the pandemic, I’ll have my yoga mat and magic cards ready. Either way, I’ll be eager for it. Either way, I know it will be special.


Tania Ulrich ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Tania Ulrich

Senior Consultant

Tania's decade-long career in the hospitality industry has taught her the art of education and persuasion. No matter the industry, she believes in meeting your audience where they are and delivering a message that speaks to them.