At Leapfrog, we have a tradition of conducting an All-Hands meeting every Friday and a quarterly All-Hands meeting every three months.
If you aren’t aware of the term “All-Hands,” it is a company-wide meeting where everyone from the company comes together to share their updates, announcements, and achievements. At least that’s the “Leapfrog definition”.
Every Friday, pre-COVID, we used to have a weekly all-hands meetup at the rooftop. And every three months, we had a quarterly all-hands program where all the teams come together to share our achievements of the last quarter. We get to have a town hall session with our principals, distribute awards, and hand out promotions. This is followed by a small office party with dinner and dancing.
Apart from that, we also frequently had other exciting events. There were Acoustic nights every month where talented Leapfroggers gave mesmerizing performances.
Raffles happened every once in a while where we won gift hampers. We also had “Leaptalks”, where an expert on a specific field gave talks and shared their knowledge with us.
Events like these kept the spirit up and after these fun-Friday events, we would always find ourselves returning on Monday with a more motivated attitude at work.
But since we had to switch into a full-time remote working, all events have been transitioned to virtual. This, of course, makes us miss all the perks and the fun of physical events.
The transition from physical to virtual events was a challenge for the company’s events team. The very people that used to be the masters of making work gatherings enjoyable and knew precisely how to balance work stuff with fun– were now confused.
We had a short talk with the events team lead and communication officer Pranjali about their team’s challenges during this phase. We talked about the difficulty in transition, among other obstacles.
“At first, it was tiresome! For me, organizing events is such a hands-on experience, and physical presence makes all the hard work worth it. So I could not even imagine running an online event. We meet with the team frequently to brainstorm ideas and plan tasks, and when you are not even in the office to conduct any of this, it steered a bit of a panic in the team.
“Imagining breaks in between to keep the audience engaged, coming up with themes to work around. And not even being able to see the reactions from the audience… it was so alien for a company-wide event. Imagine having to plan an event where you don’t even know if the joke you said was funny because you can’t hear the audience laughing.”
If there is one thing all Leapfroggers loved unanimously, it was the fun we had at those events– the little games, raffles, the music, and dancing. Naturally, all of these things didn’t easily translate into online. And this was another major challenge.
Especially at an event like the quarterly all hands, there would be a certain pressure to make it fun and enjoyable. Mostly because a lot of people will inevitably end up comparing it with the in-person party. When we were talking about this, Pranjali said:
“We want to keep our standards high, keep Leapfroggers engaged, and company culture alive. Active games and team building activities were important, but virtually it’s a challenge to keep the participants focused and actively participating at the same time. Keeping a program filled with surprises along with conveying important information is difficult when going virtual. Coming up with new ideas every time to keep people engaged and entertained is so challenging since there’s just so little you can do virtually.”
When I asked Pranjali what the most challenging parts of virtual events were, she replied,
“We’ve always experienced remarkable turnouts in our physical events. However, when it came to virtual events, there was little we could do to coerce the attendees.
“Another challenge I would say was the entire presentation. The person changing the slides would have to keep up with the speaker, which is kind of a risk in itself. Because of uncertain mishaps like internet connection, electricity issues could happen any time! It’s like… if the speaker stopped talking, or the slides stopped moving in a physical hall, people would understand. But you are under so much pressure to have a backup plan in this case.”
On that, Sworup added,
“For me, the most challenging part was to get the audience hooked and make them engaged, and making sure they pay attention when they look at the screen.
“Whether we do a program in person or virtually, I think there is always a slight pressure to keep the main essence of the program alive, and in this case, our goal was to keep it informative plus fun.”
The Gradual Transition to Virtual
Though the initial days were tough, the team gradually started getting the hang of online events. By spending a lot of time on research and surveys, each event started getting better than the previous. The events started attracting more and more participants. I asked Sworup, who is an event coordinator here, about what changed and how they managed to grab people’s attention. He said:
“I think what we lacked initially was practice. And as we started doing it every week, we learned from those experiences and tried to implement our learnings in the next one. Like for example, if we simply asked participants to turn their cameras on, they would and we could get their reactions now. And in informal events, we opened the chat for everyone and let people have their say, which only made the events more interesting.
“If some unfortunate mishap happened once, we made sure to have a proper back up the next time. You know, the little things really made a difference. For example, in the first 5 minutes of a company-wide meeting, we started playing lively or popular music, instead of waiting in silence. And when we abruptly stopped the music, suddenly we had the attention of everyone, without even trying!”
Along with making existing events more lively, the events team also came up with pandemic special events, which were a major hit.
The events team introduced a new program, ‘Koffee and Kura,’ in which they invited a few Leapfroggers as guests in each episode. Our favorite host, Kiran dai, interviewed them informally, and we got a chance to know them better. They combined this with interactive games like guessing the movie or song titles and “rapid-fire” rounds. Everyone absolutely loved the energy of the program, and… it was a huge success!
In the pandemic’s initial days, the COVID scare took a toll on everyone, and it was really important to have our mental health in check. So, we started weekly meditation sessions and “What’s on your mind” sessions. We put our best foot forward to make sure all Leapfroggers were in good health.
Virtual Quarterly All-Hands, Done Right
Thanks to the events team and the volunteers’ relentless efforts, the third quarterly all hands was a blast. At this point, it’s safe to say that the events team had gained mastery of the online events and were now getting ever so creative with their ideas.
The Theme of Togetherness
The team updates and achievements sharing was this time combined along with some really interesting, creative, and funny pictures and videos that all the teams had sent, based on the theme of “Togetherness.” It reminded us that although we cannot come together physically right now, we are not alone and that we had to make the best out of our current situation.
Virtual Music and Dance
Not only that, to compensate for all the dancing we had missed practising and performing on numerous events and outings, dancing enthusiasts encouraged fellow dancers and came up with an idea for virtual dancing, which everyone loved!
We were talking about how they came up with the whole virtual dancing idea. Sworup replied:
“We were having many formal and informal discussions and chit chats with Leapfroggers so that we could get some unique ideas for the event. I remember it was Kritika Di who sent me the video of a quarantine dance cover. And then, it just clicked in our heads. After the physical quarterly all-hands events, we always had dance parties where we could dance and enjoy physically, which was definitely missing in WFH all hands. So we thought of making a similar one.”
A Blast from the Past
Going with the theme of togetherness, the events team compiled all the videos of Leapfroggers having fun on previous events, making us nostalgic about the past and hopeful for the future. It reminded us that even though we are apart right now, we are one big happy family.
They also asked Leapfroggers what Leapfrog meant to them, which certainly gave rise to some interesting and emotional answers.
In the end, we had an acoustic night event in which many talented Leapfroggers showcased their excellent singing right from home. It helped us remember the magical acoustic nights at the office rooftop with a warm bonfire in the chilly evening air.
On an ending note, Pranjali said that although it was a bit difficult at first, we could master it within a few months, and after that, it was pretty smooth sailing. And finally, Sworup concluded the talk by saying that since they were able to work from the comfort of their homes while being connected with excellent communication within the team, it was a lot easier than expected. After a few months of practice, of course!