For many of us, Thanksgiving will be pretty different this year. While you might still debate with relatives about your values, you might also be managing those dinner conversations through an awkward, virtual space, complete with “you’re muted” and “how do I turn the camera on?” Fortunately, there are things you can do in advance to help smooth out your video chat-based holiday. Here are some ways to make a virtual Thanksgiving a bit easier.
Designate a host
We all have that friend or family member who has the itinerary ready and activities planned. The event-planning site Eventbrite says this person would be a multitasker, is a great listener who knows everyone’s likes and needs, and loves lists. If this person hasn’t already reached out and started making plans, have a conversation with them about hosting your virtual gathering.
Your designated host should know the ins and outs of the video chat platforms to use and have access to a strong internet connection. Zoom suggests hardwiring your internet instead of relying on wifi, if possible: “This will help you avoid any issues with an unstable wifi connection, which can affect your audio quality and the overall attendee experience.”
Send tutorials of the video platform in advance
The holidays are for spending quality time with friends and family, so you don’t want to spend the majority of your time troubleshooting the video chat settings. Entrepreneurs at CIC say to send all of the event details ahead of time, such as links and passwords, and schedule a time to test the tech beforehand. I would go as far as to send along directions for the audio and video settings, with links to some tutorial videos for family members who may not be as tech savvy. If you’re using a platform your family is already familiar with, even better.
Make an itinerary
Your loved ones may think this is a bit over the top, but having scheduled activities help avoid awkward silences and curb those overly talkative moments where conversations can go off the rails. Contributor Aly Walansky at Forbes suggests to “Create touchpoints and schedule them,” and should include when to log on and when dinner will be served.
Remember to be flexible. “The reality of any virtual gathering is everyone will be juggling what’s happening in-person at their own home,” says Walansky. Make the schedule and allow time for unexpected interruptions or a change in attendees.
Consider cooking a group activity
Since food is the focus on Thanksgiving, consider scheduling a group cooking session for interested family members. You can swap recipes and send links to what you will be cooking, or enjoy the same delivered meal kits, which have become not only popular but a real lifesaver for essential workers and large families at home during the pandemic. It’s easy for those who might not be able to get out to the grocery store, and you can stay safely at home as the ingredients arrive in a box. The best part is that the meals are easy and pre-measured, so even the worst cook can get it right.
When it’s time to sit down and eat, rather than looking at a tablet or small computer screen on your table, consider connecting your device to your television. Choose the proper view on your video platform so everyone is visible, and enjoy the larger screen.
Plan games to play remotely
Online party games like Jackbox or Cards Against Humanity are great for friendsgiving, but you can also so simpler, more classic icebreaker games like would you rather or two truths and a lie. These are intergenerational games that are easy to play and don’t require any more than what a simple video chat offers.
Reach out to those outside of the chat
In the holiday spirit of togetherness, plan e-greetings to friends and relatives who won’t be present on the video chat. You can send your own recorded video message in a stylish digital card, perfect to send to those who can’t make the call. Get everyone involved by recording in your group video chat platform.