Learn five tips to plan a virtual holiday party, send invitations, enjoy a meal, and be entertained no matter how far apart.
Sometimes, celebrating your favorite traditions in traditional ways won’t be possible or even desirable. Eager to show off new tech skills? Do you have family members for whom getting out of the house is an adventure by itself? Are certain rooms a “Do Not Enter” zone?
Don’t worry, we aren’t here to judge. Regardless of distance, a virtual holiday party can still be enjoyable with these five tips.
Written by Brad Gandy
1. Choose The Right Video Tool
Choosing a reliable, easy-to-use video chat site is the virtual equivalent of picking the perfect decorations. It makes all the difference. Zoom requires an account to schedule meetings and send email invitations through the My Account page. Skype currently lets you do this without an account through the Host a Meeting button in the top-right corner, and FaceTime is as easy as calling someone, but that requires an Apple device.
Another option is Sosh, a brand new service I discovered this morning, that requires no accounts or extra programs. All of these options have occasional lag, however, so test your connection before accepting virtual hosting duties.
For more tips on finding tools everyone can use, see Lela’s post on hosting a virtual Thanksgiving.
2. Try A Surprise Live Invitation
Digital invitations are fabulous, especially when you design them yourself, but what if you’re even busier? Using your video tool of choice, invite your guests for a surprise video call. You can test software, fix glitches, give access instructions, and get instant sweater compliments in one step.
Here’s a tiny detail that makes a big difference, especially on camera: As the host, put yourself in a festive area on the invitation call and at your party so that your Christmas tree, menorah, or kinara is always visible behind you.
3. Use Virtual Rooms
If you’re using Zoom or Sosh, rooms let you split a large group of attendees into more private ones. That means, like an in-person party, you could create one zone for games, one for appetizers, and one for crafts, without everyone else getting in the way of conversation.
4. Turn Meal Prep Into A Show
Food and drinks won’t lose their social powers when there are multiple ways to keep the fun going around your table.
Channel your inner Rachael Ray by teaching a classic family recipe. Ask everyone to present their favorites competition-style, or surprise your guests with fresh-out-of-the-shipping-truck cookies to eat together.
Don’t leave out the drinks, either. When you make yours, even if it’s non-alcoholic, give it a fancy or punny name like these:
- Santa’s Moo-lot (pronounced like merlot, but it’s milk)
- Polar Bear’s Delight (Coca-Cola)
- Life’s Essential Liquid (
- Southern Porch Escape (Sweet Tea)
- Specks on the Beech (Water)
- Red Delicious Royale (Apple Cider)
- Fireside Sunset (Hot Cocoa)
5. Use Screen Share For Games And Movies
No virtual holiday party is complete without virtual games, and most services can show both your camera and screen.
Zoom is the only major platform I’m aware of that allows screen sharing and computer audio without a super-technical workaround, but feel free to add any others that support this in the comments. In Zoom, there is a green Share Screen icon at the bottom. Once that window pops up, choose the screen you want to share, and check the Share computer audio box in the bottom-left corner. Here’s some of what that allows you to do:
- Online board games like Taboo
- Holiday-themed Pictionary
- Trivia games and game shows (even that game Ken Jennings is really good at)
- Karaoke (Search [insert song] lyrics on YouTube.)
- Stream TV shows, movies, sermons, or dramatic readings
- Show everyone a fun website you found recently
- Play background music for an ugly sweater fashion show
- Give PowerPoint presentations (these can also be games)
- Chubby Elf, a DIY game like Watch Ya’ Mouth, except with holiday treats)
Speaking of games, BuzzIn.Live turns computers, smartphones, and tablets into game show buzzers with sound effects. It’s free for up to eight players, but a one-day Premium pass costs less than $1! It sets up exactly the same way as a video call, but be sure to visit the buzzer site on a separate device, like your phone, since the video chat window for the party will get in the way.
Ready to Celebrate Virtually Now?
Let us know how you plan to ring in the holidays from home in the comment section. Who knows? A virtual holiday party could be your family’s hit new tradition. And check out more of our holiday blog posts here.