It seems like a lot of us are conducting our whole lives via video platforms like Zoom these days. We use them for work, classes, meetings, AND connecting with our friends and families. Needless to say, we’re quickly getting Zoomed-out. While the idea was novel at first, the thought of attending a “social event” on Zoom just doesn’t sound that thrilling anymore.
But the reality is that social distancing (to some degree or another) is probably going to be around for a while. And until we are able to gather in groups more safely, virtual parties are one of the best ways to (digitally) get our peeps together to celebrate whatever needs celebrating.
So I wanted to share my two cents on how to host a virtual party that has a little more pizazz than just your regular Joe Zoom call. Part One deals with the logistical side of hosting a virtual party, whereas Part Two offers more of the promised “pizazz.”
When you send out the invitation to the party, make sure you let guests know how the “party” will be conducted. Also ask them to confirm with you whether they are comfortable using whatever platform you chose.
If they aren’t, send them crystal clear instructions on how to use it. Provide screenshots. Have a test call with them beforehand. Do whatever it takes to make sure they know how to join before the call actually starts. Because once the “party” starts, you know it’s going to be uncomfortable to watch them struggle to login. Or you’ll have to coach them through every single step (in front of the rest of the participants.) Most importantly, it’s just the kind thing to do. So make sure everyone knows how to use the platform ahead of time! A lot of us are video platform pros by now, buuuut a lot of us still aren’t.
If you are using Zoom, PLEASE just purchase a one-month subscription so that you have access to their “premium” features. Namely, being able to have a call with more than two participants for longer than 40 minutes. Because if your virtual party is just two people, or less than 40 minutes, is it really a party? Seriously – it’s so annoying to be kicked off a call 40 minutes in and then have to restart it all over again.
Cisco WebEx has been offering an upgraded free plan for their video conferencing platform that allows you to have up to 100 guests for as long as you want! No time limit! Woohoo!
The caveat is I’m not exactly sure how long they’ll be offering the upgraded free plan…But it would certainly be worth checking into if you’re morally opposed to paying for Zoom.
Avoid using platforms that are only compatible with certain types devices or require downloading software. (E.g. FaceTime is only accessible from Apple devices.) Make it easy and inclusive for everyone!
Video calls that have a ton of participants quickly get overwhelming and hard to follow. When there’s too many people it gets noisy and becomes difficult to have actual conversations. So take the number of participants into account when setting up a call. If you just want to get a big group together to wish someone a happy birthday and then everyone goes their separate ways, then sure, it’s fine to have lots of people there. But if you’re hosting something where you want guests to “socially interact” or do an activity together, try to keep the number of people in the 10-ish range .
If you are going to have a virtual party with 10 or more people, I’d suggest asking guests at the beginning of the call to mute themselves unless they are actually talking. This at least somewhat helps eliminate the various background noises you can get from having that many people on a call at once. I’ve been on many calls where the combined background noises made it close to unbearable to stay on the call. So let’s avoid that.
Zoom-bombing is one of the most disturbing trends since…well I don’t even know. (If you haven’t heard about it, I suggest giving it a quick Google search.) It’s not as big of a risk for smaller groups, but it doesn’t hurt to take precautions. Make sure your video call is password protected and only share the password with participants directly via email/text close to the day of the event. That way there’s much less of a chance some nefarious person gets ahold of the information and makes a very *unwelcome* entrance.
Another way to help protect the call is by changing the settings to send participants to a virtual waiting room where you’ll have to manually let them into the call. It’s a good way to ensure that only people you know are joining.