There are so many reasons to gather in celebration throughout the year: babies and weddings, birthdays and graduations, retirement and promotions. These days more than ever, being alive is reason for celebration.
The holiday season is traditionally the cause of an especially full calendar of get-togethers; this year, things are looking a bit different. Instead of in-person gatherings, many people are connecting with loved ones virtually to keep everyone safe. Right now, it’s the best way to show we care. But how does one host a virtual holiday dinner? There are some fun ways to make it personal and encourage feelings of joy and inclusion.
Virtual Dinner Pro Tips
Some people have been hosting virtual celebrations with distant loved ones for years. Lessons from the pros offer excellent options to keep any virtual holiday dinner festive and fun.
Making the virtual dinner a unique event unto itself will help add to its value. Rather than trying to simply replicate an in-person holiday get-together online, make it stand out and maybe even better than the conventional event in a few ways.
Invites. Consider sending a video invite, accompanied by an email follow-up. You can still send a mailed invite if that’s your style, but why not send a virtual invite to a virtual event? Just like any other invite, make it special and specific. Make the video invite festive, friendly, and heartfelt. After all, whether it’s colleagues, family, friends or all of the above, you’ll want it to feel like a seasonal get-together, not a typical check-in call.
Be inclusive, but consider limiting the invite list. In a recent interview, Jessica Carrillo of Art & Soul Events recommends limiting the guest list to 20 people. “The more guests you have, the more complicated it gets. At a dinner party with a lot of people, it can be tough to connect. That’s not going to be any different at a virtual dinner party — it’s going to be even more challenging.”
Tech. Not everyone has the same level of technical savvy. Some may even be using virtual calls or meeting rooms for the first time. When you send your invite, let them know where to show up and how to make sure their tech will work.
For example, if it’s Zoom, send the invite link along with a link to Zoom’s troubleshooting page. Some are even setting up practice sessions the day before to troubleshoot with loved ones, so they know they can get to the celebration. You might choose to get some practice in with a virtual happy hour.
The scene. Plan on getting dressed up? If a holiday celebration normally includes ugly sweaters, black ties, sequins, antlers or pumpkin heads, encourage all of this and more. It’ll help make it familiar and memorable at the same time. Decorate to make sure the backdrop is as festive as possible.
Enlist a few people to help with troubleshooting. Inevitably, someone will have trouble getting online, and they’ll need some guidance. Having someone on standby will ensure everyone can join in, but the party won’t hit a standstill while everyone waits.
Once things are underway, have a few milestones or events planned to keep things interesting and engaged. Consider the following ideas as a way to bring everyone together.
- For smaller groups, do a round-robin. Have everyone answer a question about themselves or give a short update about their year. Ask everyone to name a goal for the new year or mention three of their favorite things from this year. Whatever you decide, make it something everyone can participate in that won’t put anyone on the spot.
- Raise glasses and toast together. Leave an open mic so everyone who wants to can offer a toast. Or have a designated guest give the toast. Whatever you choose, make it a moment that everyone pauses to participate in with the group.
- Build a new tradition to make the virtual dinner that much more memorable and unique. Ask a literary guest to read a festive poem. Have Grandpa read a favorite short story. Or share a video update from a relative who couldn’t be there.
- Add a game. Whether you’re doing a scavenger hunt for items around your house, competing for the best season or holiday-themed outfit or rating who has the best centerpiece, everyone loves a little friendly competition.
- Add a non-virtual element to your event to make it more personal and keep people feeling as connected as possible. Provide the guest list and ask everyone to send each other recipes. It can be for a festive cocktail or mocktail, a delectable dessert or leave it open to a personal favorite. You could also invite everyone to send each other something handmade.
- Create a holiday season shared folder where everyone can upload a video or picture. They can give a toast, offer an update about themselves, or wish everyone a happy new year. This will give everyone, including anyone who couldn’t make it, a beautiful series of videos to watch when missing friends and family.
- Take a group photo. Have everyone say cheese while you take a few screenshots. Then pass the picture to everyone who attended. It may not be a typical family photo or festive photo booth experience, but it will give everyone something to frame and a show of resilience, rather than leaving a gap on the mantle for the year everyone was social distancing.
Virtual Dinners and Digital Get-Togethers in the COVID Era
Long distances, work or school commitments, illness and age are just a few of the many reasons people may not be able to gather in-person or convene at the same table. Presently, COVID is looming strong and requires social distancing to keep everyone safe and healthy.
If you're venturing out to buy groceries or decorations for your virtual gathering, remember to wear a protective face mask. Boomer Naturals Nano-Silver Reusable Face Masks with upgraded protection, and they come in a great selection of sizes and festive holiday patterns.
Above all, plan ahead. Inject engaging activities and new traditions. Limit the guest list and keep the event short, so it remains manageable and guests can avoid digital fatigue. Hosting is a big job, but you are creating beautiful memories, new traditions and bringing people together in a special way. Ensuring everyone has a way to feel engaged and appreciated is vital year-round, particularly during the holiday season. Most importantly, remember to have fun!