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How to Host a Virtual Holiday Party

How to Host a Virtual Holiday Party

Log on and have fun

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Lulls in conversation, awkward pauses or accidentally talking over each other have become commonplace when it comes to virtual parties with family and friends. Add in shadowy figures on screen because of poor lighting, lag in video because of bad connections and microphone issues, and you may experience a get-together letdown. Don’t let it happen this holiday season. To understand how to have a virtual holiday party no one will forget, here are some tips from Andrew Horn, the creator of interactive video card service Tribute.co and a social entrepreneur who specializes in spreading gratitude and creating meaningful conversation.

As people enter the party, play music

As people enter the party, play music

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Music is the gateway to the soul. It’s also an awesome party starter. As people are entering the call, have some music playing to let guests know that there’s fun on the way while everyone gets settled.

Now that people are on the call, lighten the mood

Now that people are on the call, lighten the mood

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Once all guests are on the call, Horn recommends taking a break before the party starts to play some tunes and get people up and moving. “One of the simplest things you can do to ground people in the Zoom meeting is lighten the mood by putting on a little music,” Horn said. “Invite your guests to just shake it out when they get to the meeting, wherever they’re coming from. Just put on a happy song. It’ll help them not take themselves too seriously. 2020 has been a long year.”

Lead the conversation with purpose

Lead the conversation with purpose

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“Lead the conversation with purpose,” Horn said. “Say, ‘this is how long we’re going to be here, and here are some of the things we’re going to talk about.’”

Try box breathing

Try box breathing

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If you want to do something really different, you can do some thoughtful box breathing to ground yourself to the present moment. Rather than just talking, this is a great way to calm everyone down and help everyone focus on each other.

Use time during the call to reflect

Use time during the call to reflect

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Use each other as a sounding board to talk about your previous year as well as the year ahead. “Especially as we head more toward the holidays, holiday parties are such an obvious time for us to reflect and think about the year and what’s behind us,” Horn said.

Be a conversation catalyst

Be a conversation catalyst

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“If we just bring people together, they will just default to surface-level conversations like ‘how are you,’ or ‘what are you doing for the holidays,’” Horn said. “But if you think about it, most people want to go a layer deeper. They’ve experienced a lot this year, they might have a lot on their mind. As the host, you have an opportunity to be the conversation catalyst. The conversation catalyst has an opportunity to make conversations for people go deeper by integrating prompts into your event.”

Ask about favorite moments from the year

Ask about favorite moments from the year

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“Even in the midst of a challenging year, I promise you that there have been some happy moments, some bright spots,” Horn said. “What’s helpful is when you talk about a moment, it allows someone to go back and think about their year and pick out a story.”

Ask about important lessons learned

Ask about important lessons learned

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“Any time you give someone the chance to share this wisdom, it’s not only beneficial for the person who’s sharing that to be heard, but it’s also the type of information that can help someone they’re sharing with,” Horn said.

Pop in more questions about New Year’s resolutions

Pop in more questions about New Year’s resolutions

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“As you get in the territory of New Year’s resolutions, you can pop in the question: What are you looking forward to in 2021?” Horn said. “[This] gives people a chance to go a little deeper. Anytime you can create the space for people to have more meaningful conversations, they’re going to appreciate it.”

Play a game that requires movement

Play a game that requires movement

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Video calls can drag when people are glued to their seats, so get your virtual party guests moving with games. “[A] game you can play without props is show and tell,” Horn said. You can also challenge people to find one item that is really meaningful to them for a virtual show-and-tell.

Have a scavenger hunt

Have a scavenger hunt

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Separate houses mean separate stuff to find, making for a unique virtual spin on the classic scavenger hunt. Make a list of things to find like “something you bought on vacation” or “a book you haven’t read yet” and see which team can find all the items the fastest. Make every team share their treasures and don’t be afraid to let the conversation wander to side topics based on your fun finds.

Tell stories

Tell stories

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Prior to the event, assign everyone on the call another person on the call and have them reminisce on a good story involving the other. It’s a fun way to remember the good times and make plans for the future.

Have a toast

Have a toast

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Let everyone know in advance to pop the Champagne and prepare to make a mini toast. It’s not too much pressure if everyone is getting involved, and it might even help prepare some guests for the new year. It will also give them helpful practice — more toasts are expected to be a top wedding trend in 2021.

Share a meal

Share a meal

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If all of your guests live close by and the weather outside isn’t frightful, make your virtual party a potluck by picking a central meeting place and safely exchanging dishes so you can all have a shared experience. It can double as a conversation starter if you compliment your family chefs on their delicious dishes. Bonus: This means you won’t have to miss out on your aunt’s famous brownies this year.

Express gratitude

Express gratitude

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If you're unable to show loved ones in person how much you care, it's important to use your words during your virtual event. “If you have anything nice to say, say it all,” Horn said. “Whether it’s with your family members or friends, as we head toward the end of what’s been one of the most challenging, upside down years in history, if you have anything nice to say, say it all. Reach out to friends and family and tell them why they’re awesome and why you appreciate them.”

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