By: Alex Schrecengost, CEO of Virtual With Us
It’s more important than ever before for companies to go the extra mile to retain employees and lift morale. As more professional organizations adopt a hybrid model of in-person and remote work, hybrid-friendly virtual events are a reliable way to bring colleagues together for the kind of casual after-work entertainment we’ve all been missing.
Alex Schrecengost is founder and CEO of Virtual With Us, which curates and plans online, hybrid and eventually in-person events for professional organizations and private groups to take the guesswork out of the process and get people together, faster. A new pillar of her company, Culture With Us, is perfecting the art of corporate gifting, unique experiences, and inclusivity across hybrid, remote and in-person employees with onboarding and team building offerings like Meet and Greets, Office Tours and Hybrid Retreats.
“With employees deciding to work from anywhere, whether it’s to travel and experience more than they were previously able or to spend more time with their families, inclusivity is essential to maintaining the satisfaction that ultimately leads to productivity,” she says. Finding the balance between the interactions employees enjoy at the office and these beneficial freedoms can make all the difference, empowering professionals to do their best work while ensuring nobody is left out just because of where their desk may be.
Facilitating conversation is key to a successful hybrid event, allowing the event to progress at a natural, comfortable pace that keeps remote and in-person teammates engaged and focused on each other. Look to the company’s values for inspiration on conversation starters, ice-breakers, and topics that foster interpersonal connections. “It’s about understanding the objectives of the organization,” adds Alex, who thoroughly researches each client during event planning. “Realizing the perspectives of the attendees is the best way to inform successful programming for both Virtual With Us and Culture With Us.”
Finally, and most importantly, every great event needs top-quality entertainment, and this is where the fun comes in. A huge range of interactive entertainment is available via livestream, from sommelier-lead tastings to dueling pianos, circus performances, cupcake decorating lessons and yoga classes. By booking remote professionals that are excited to impart their own unique flair, you set yourself apart from every video conference that doesn’t have a circus performance or sommelier-led wine tasting.
“Culture With Us recently hosted a hybrid event with a blind wine tasting that transitioned into a dueling pianos performance, which was a lot of fun,” says Alex. “There’s a whole new world of leisure we’re helping companies discover and benefit from.”
CEO of curated virtual events company Virtual With Us, with more than 15+ years of experience in wine, spirits and luxury hospitality communications.
A WSET level 3 certified wine professional and longtime fine wine and spirits communications specialist, Alex launched the company when she saw her husband and his colleagues’ need for nurturing and building professional relationships. Virtual With Us is the only virtual events business that’s focused on high quality interactive experiences and ultimately relationship building in the workplace–for socialization and interaction with colleagues, so no one feels like they are in a silo. Giving voice to diversity and inclusion are at the center of Virtual With Us, especially in the digital medium which will be the backbone for vibrant workplace cultures and inclusion in the future–whether it be hybrid virtual onboarding first day meet & greets, office tours and retreats/off-sites.
And because VWU’s sommelier network is composed of top wine professionals who seek to continue educating the public about outstanding wine and producers every day, whether in-person or remote, it created much needed jobs and opportunities to the hospitality industry which had essentially collapsed amid COVID. Today, it’s helping hospitality professionals with additional income after an incredibly tough year, as well as giving them the opportunity to #workfromanywhere if they want.
Alexandra is currently studying for the WSET Diploma, and holds a Masters of Public and Organizational Relations from Montclair State University. She serves on the beverage committee for The James Beard Foundation on and on the board of Self Help Africa. Alex lives in New Jersey with her husband and their identical twin boys.