Tips for Hosting a Virtual Family Party
Getting together as a family can be difficult. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, travel costs, and distance can all prevent relatives from showing up to your next family party or reunion. Faced with these challenges, families are increasingly turning to technology to stay connected. Virtual parties are becoming a convenient way to gather online as a family.
Anyone can host a virtual family party with a little preparation. Below are some suggestions for making your virtual party an enjoyable, memorable event.
Choose the Right App
One of your first and most important decisions when planning a video party is your choice of app. With plenty of video conferencing apps out there, you’re spoiled for choice. Possibilities include:
- Facebook Portal
- Google Hangouts
- Zoom Meetings and Chat
When making your choice, consider how many people will attend the party and what devices they’ll use. Take into account the tech skills of your relatives, how easy the app is to use, and any app features that would add to the party. While many apps are free or offer free features, you may discover purchasing an app provides you with better picture resolution, less lag time, and more features.
Set a Time, Date, and Theme
Send invites to the party well in advance to give family members time to prepare. You can send invites through text or email. Include step-by-step instructions for downloading and using the communication app.
Liven up your virtual party by picking a theme: cocktail hour, BBQ, dinner party, or pajama party are all popular choices that tell people what to expect from the gathering. It’s also wise to create and send a schedule of events for the get-together, to help keep the party on track and allow time for general chat, music, speeches, and party games.
Create a Tech Support Team
If possible, recruit younger, tech-savvy members of your family to act as tech support for senior members who lack the online knowhow to download and use the app without help. Suggest family members who aren’t comfortable with technology partner with your informal tech team to practice using the app in advance of the party.
On the day of the party, open the video conference early, and be available to answer any questions family members have about the system. Ask younger relatives to log in early as well to help out.
Set Some Ground Rules
In a physical party, people can break off into small groups to chat. In a larger virtual meeting, this isn’t an option. To prevent situations where everyone is talking at once, set some simple ground rules, such as muting microphones when not talking and taking turns talking.
When a multigenerational family gets together virtually, some glitches and setbacks are to be expected. You may have to provide sudden tech support to an aged aunt who accidentally signed out of the conference. Everyone will have slightly different internet quality, and some may lose connection during the party. A little patience and a sense of humor go a long way towards resolving such issues.
Just because you’re not all in one place doesn’t mean you can’t take photos of your party. Take plenty of screenshots to commemorate the get-together, and record singalongs and speeches and share them on your social media channels. Most importantly, have fun! A virtual get-together is just as much a real party as a physical reunion, and offers just as many opportunities to make memories!