With many family reunions moving online this holiday season, you may be thinking about how to organize a successful virtual gathering. Virtual get-togethers with friends and family have allowed us to stay connected during this unprecedented year. Though it requires a few adjustments, online reunions can be just as engaging! By taking the time to plan, you can provide a dynamic experience for loved ones. Some tips to help organize a fun virtual family reunion include the following:
Set & Share Expectations
Like all important events, it is important to establish key details: start and end time, platform you will be using, attendees, and other relevant information people should know beforehand. Setting and communicating these expectations prevents confusion, potential schedule conflicts, and allows people to properly prepare. It also can alleviate anxiety and stress around planning and attending social gatherings. Encourage people to set a calendar reminder so they don’t forget!
Organize an Agenda
Taking some time in advance to think through what you would like to do during the online reunion is incredibly helpful. Are there any family traditions that can be translated to an online context? What are the games you would like to incorporate? There are many possibilities for engagement during virtual gatherings. Different platforms have games that you can easily access in addition to the countless online activities you can find and include. You can also ask others for suggestions and find that you have plenty of options! It could be useful to organize this information in an agenda that you can share with others which also helps communicate expectations!
Plan Test Meeting
One of the most important details is to identify and share the virtual platform you will be using! You want to make sure that people know in advance so they can have the platform downloaded and ready to go. A helpful way to help with this is to run a test meeting on the platform which is typically easy to do. Test meetings allow people to launch the platform, ensure that it is working on their device, familiarize themselves with the technology, and become more comfortable with the different functions. This is especially helpful for people who are less tech savvy!
Meet Communication Needs
Virtual communication tools have made staying connected with others more convenient in our daily lives. But it is important to be aware that they can also present unique challenges for people who navigate conditions that impact communication. This includes hearing loss, speech disorders, and visual impairments. There are ways you can create an accessible environment that better meets the communication needs of everyone involved. Some tips are:
- Use Video: being clearly visible is important because it helps others pick up on nonverbal cues (facial expressions, body language) and/or read mouths which are useful strategies to follow a conversation. It is important for the speaker to appear directly on the screen. Lighting significantly helps create clarity so people should be in spaces that are well-lit.
- Reduce Noise: background noise can be distracting and a barrier to hearing clearly. With multiple people and multiple backgrounds, noise can be even louder. To address this, people can use the mute button to silence their audio when they are not speaking. This substantially reduces background noise and focuses the attention on the speaker.
- Apply Closed Captions: some platforms provide live closed captions services which allows the text of speech to appear on screen. This allows people to follow conversations with greater ease.
Lastly, flex your imagination and get creative! There are ways you can make your virtual family reunion festive, a few suggestions:
- Food: you can create a food menu or suggest a dish that everyone prepares so the group can share a meal together. This is also a great way to include any family recipes or favorites!
- Décor: explore the digital backgrounds that virtual platforms offer or decorate your background to add some fun.
- Theme: adding a theme to a party is a great way to include everyone and create excitement.
By planning, incorporating games, and adding festive touches, virtual family reunions can be just as dynamic!
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