Are you seeking an inexpensive yet engaging team-building activity for your remote employees? Here’s a quick, practical guide to virtual bingo, which can provide cheap, easy-to-execute fun for a virtual workforce.
1. Find your program/app.
There are many ways to play bingo online (a favorite is Bingomaker). When you search for your preferred online solution, consider:
• How many people can play at a time?
• Can you customize the virtual cards?
• Do you have to download anything to play?
• Can you play different games?
• Can you choose the complexity of the game?
• Can you track how the virtual play is proceeding?
• Is it cost-effective?
2. Decide when to play.
Participation is better if the bingo event connects to a theme. We tie ours to St. Patrick’s Day: “Play Lucky Bingo!” Other options include May 4th (Star Wars Day) and “Is the 4th With You?” or Independence Day and “Red, White & BINGO.” Another option: Find a time of year when your team is under more stress than usual and theme the bingo session as a stress release valve.
3. Set up the sessions.
Though individuals will likely play the game directly through the bingo site, set a meeting up in Zoom or Teams so you can make it interactive. In our experience, a bingo game typically takes about 10 minutes, depending on its complexity. During a 30-minute session, we play one regular bingo, one simple shape card, and a full blackout card.
When calendaring, consider time zones. We conduct two 30-minute sessions on the same day: at 12:30 Eastern for East and Central-located employees, and at 2:30 Eastern for Mountain and West. These time blocks sit in the lunch zone but immediately before lunch for West, which helps maintain compliance with California wage and hour laws. Depending on how many employees you have, where they sit and the structure of their breaks, you can conduct shorter sessions with fewer games or hold multiple sessions at different times for different teams.
4. Make it easy to play.
Announce the game(s) via cadenced communications and, if possible, an intranet splash banner and post with signup and play instructions. Create a downloadable calendar invite that includes all the game details and how to log into the game site. Having clear instructions in both an accessible post and a calendar invite reduces confusion when people try to get into the game on play day.
5. Choose your tunes.
Games run better with mood music in the background, but it must be instrumental. Lyrics mask number calling and limit conversation. If you’re going with a theme, select matching music. For Lucky Bingo, try Irish Traditional Instrumental; for Star Wars Day, Samuel Kim; and for July 4th, 50 Best Patriotic Songs.
6. Pick prizes.
Bingo means prizes, of course! At KCoe Isom, we use Giftogram, which allows remote employees to convert winnings to the gift card of their choice from over 180 retailers. If operating under de minimis tax rules, keep gifts to $25 or less.
More flexible? Consider bigger gifts for more complex games ($25 for a simple bingo, $50 for a shape game, $75 for a blackout card) to increase excitement and stickiness. Important: Be sure to budget for multiple winners at the same time. If more than one person bingos at once, you’ll create more goodwill if you let everyone win.
7. Prep, prep, prep.
Games are boring when all you do is call numbers. If you’re the emcee, think of yourself as the session entertainment. Share trivia. Ask people to comment in the chat window. Heckle. Get them competing with and talking to each other. The more people talk and interact, the more fun they’ll have – but if you don’t keep the conversation going, the momentum will wane.
8. Have a wingman.
If you’re entertaining, you won’t have the bandwidth to troubleshoot. Ask a colleague to step in and manage muting, questions and platform issues so you can concentrate. This person can also act as a foil for conversation and help maintain the banter for the group.
With the right tools and plan in place, virtual bingo can be one of the best and fastest ways to get your remote workers to engage with each other. Just pick your theme, plan, prep and make internal comms the stress relief hero of your teams’ virtual workday!
Debra Helwig is the senior internal communications manager for K·Coe Isom.