Since graduating from college, many of my closest friends moved away to begin their new careers. In a way, I think that experience helped prepare me for quarantine. We’ve spent countless nights catching up over FaceTime and sending each other messages, texts and letters. I’ve learned that no matter the distance, you can still keep your loved ones close.
Staying Together While Apart
During quarantine, I’ve kept up with loved ones near and far by attending virtual birthday parties, double dates, friend group hangouts and themed happy hours with my coworkers. It’s made a world of a difference. And I’m not alone.
Our CEO and President, Bonnie Kintzer, has kept up with her loved ones virtually, too. Bonnie and her family recently hosted a virtual Seder with 25 people that spanned 8 different states across the country. She described it as a very special experience—since they do not usually have the whole family together for the holiday. Now, she’s looking forward to attending more virtual events like cocktail hours and catching up with her mother and daughter. She points out that just because their times spent together are virtual, it doesn’t mean they are any less special, or that they should be put on hold.
Hosting a virtual party may seem daunting at first, but there’s a way to make it incredibly fun for all people involved. Whether you’re hosting a virtual birthday party or a virtual happy hour with your coworker, here’s the best virtual party tips so you can sit back and have some fun.
Which Platform Should I Use?
- FaceTime: If your whole group owns iPhones or Macs, try using FaceTime. It’s as simple as video chatting gets. Scroll to your FaceTime app, click the + symbol button, select your friends and there you have it! You’re on a video call in no time.
- Zoom is on the rise across the country. I recommend using Zoom for larger groups. The best feature? It shows everyone’s camera simultaneously. No need to wait for the cameras to rotate while speaking.
- Skype: This app is perfect for large groups, this classic video platform can be used on multiple devices from phones to Xboxes. You can even call and text cell phone numbers from Skype.
- Facebook Messenger: If you have a small group, I recommend using Facebook Messenger. This app is easy to use and if you have a Facebook account, you don’t need to set-up anything new to participate.
- Google Hangouts: Just like Facebook Messenger, the biggest perk of Google Hangouts is that you don’t need to make another account to video chat. Google Hangouts is free to use straight from your Google account.
- Houseparty is perfect for small group game nights. This app has a built-in feature where you can play games from Pictionary to Heads Up. Let the games begin!
How to Host a Virtual Party
1. Send virtual invite
Virtual invites can be as formal or as simple as you’d like. It’s truly up to you. You can send out a quick group text or if you’re feeling fancy, whip up a virtual party invite and send it out over e-mail.
2. Plan together beforehand
No one wants to show up to a party unprepared. Discuss the party theme (I’ve listed a number of ideas below) with your group beforehand and what each party go-er should bring, cook or dress up in.
3. Designate responsibilities
If you’re having a virtual holiday or themed party, designate any tasks and responsibilities out to your friends and family. For example, if you’re hosting a virtual game night, be sure to have a designated “game leader” who will establish the game rules and lead the game.
4. Let’s party!
Dress up, set up your camera and get your party snacks and drinks ready. It’s time to have some fun!
Virtual Party Ideas
- Happy hours: Whip up an easy cocktail recipe and get ready for a night of laughs and chats. Virtual happy hours are perfect for girls nights and coworker get-togethers, alike.
- Dinner party: Cook a dinner recipe and share a meal together with a friend (or 5!). If you’re feeling up for it, make it a three-course meal with appetizers, main dishes and dessert. You can make things interesting by making it a friendly cooking competition, Great British Bake-Off style.
- Costume party: The digital team at Taste of Home has mastered this fun theme. Let’s just say, I dressed up as Pam from The Office and it. was. amazing.
Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home
- Virtual watch parties: Binge-watch your favorite shows and movies with company. Netflix even has secret codes that will put an end to your endless scrolling to find something that your group is in the mood for.
- Show and tell: Has quarantine turned you into a stellar baker? Or maybe you want to show off your impressive antique collection? Pull a group together to play a round of show and tell.
- Talent show: Show off your hidden talents with your friends and family. Be sure to create a line-up of the night’s performances beforehand so everyone knows when they’re ready to show their skills.
- Band concert: Are you in a band? Or maybe you want to graduate from singing in the shower? Gather up some musicians and play a few songs together. It can be as silly or as serious as you’d like it to be. If you’re more of a music listener, attend a virtual concert together instead.
- Book club: Reading is the perfect quarantine activity. Dolly Parton thinks so, too. So, what better way to do it than sharing your experience with friends? Choose a book for the month and assign chapters to read each week. Then, meet on video chat to discuss your thoughts together.
- Date night: Plan a romantic dinner together and maybe even queue up a fun movie to watch at the end of the night. Quarantining with your significant other? Plan a virtual double date night (and prepare one of these dinner recipes for two).
Christina Herbst/Taste of Home
- Game night: Don’t miss out on a family game night. Play a game of charades or Pictionary without having to leave the house. You can even find virtual games that you can play online or on the Houseparty app.
- Holidays and celebrations: Celebrate the birthdays and holidays you look forward to most while staying safe in the comforts of your home. Keep up family traditions like grilling Memorial Day recipes or whipping up a birthday treat to celebrate together online.
Virtual Party Tips
Mute your microphone when others are speaking
This tip is especially important if you’re on a large group call. Even if you’re not speaking, your microphone will pick up the background noises going on behind you.
If you’re hosting a virtual party in a busy room, try using headphones. That way, your conversation can be kept with just you and the party go-ers and you can easily hear the conversation.
Place your camera at face level
Whether you’re using a laptop or phone, placing your camera at face level is a must. Your family wants to see your smiling face! I recommend placing your camera on a flat surface, like a table or desk. If you’re tired of holding your phone up, try propping it up against a small object like a book or candle.
Avoid busy backgrounds
Avoid backgrounds that are backlit or busy (unless you’re using a fun Zoom backdrop). I recommend sitting in front of a plain wall with light that is directed towards your face.
Be mindful of camera lagging
Camera lagging is pretty typical when video chatting, but don’t fret! If you have a spotty connection, give your friends and family a heads up beforehand. So if you’re camera goes out, they’ll know you’ll be right back as soon as you can. Also, keep in mind that some cameras will lag more than others when chatting. I usually wait a couple of seconds after someone speaks to make sure we don’t talk over one another.
Focus on time spent together
I know it may be tempting to focus on discussing the current events going on in the world, but make sure you use this time to take a much-needed break from it all. Be fully and truly in the moment and make some new memories along the way.
Looking for more ways to cook, clean and make the most of your time safe at home. Read through our complete guide to navigating life during the coronavirus.