By now, it's likely your social calendar is quickly filling up with group Zoom obligations with the family for the holidays — and chances are, you're planning to hop on, chat, and hop back off without any big thoughts about the actual call itself. However, if you're planning to host a virtual Friendsgiving this year, that may be a different story.
Sure, you're probably not overly worried about impressing your family with your Zoom-planning skills. But if you're known as the ultimate host to your friends, you'll likely want to maintain that title by setting up a group video chat that will impress just as much as your in-person parties of the past.
If that's the case, don't just send out an invite and cross your fingers in hopes that everything will go smoothly. Instead, check out the expert-approved tips ahead that'll help you plan a virtual Friendsgiving worth remembering.
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Send Out *All* The Details
Don't let your guests go blindly into the party — because as Event Planner & Designer of Art & Soul Events, Jessica Carrillo, tells The Zoe Report in an email, "Expectations are everything, so be sure to communicate what your guests can expect." That includes sending out a fun and festive invite with party details — "i.e., timing, party attire, a guest connection prompt, and a signature cocktail or signature dessert recipe."
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Designate A Tech Captain & Emcee
If you've ever been on a Zoom call, you're aware that they're not exactly known for running smoothly. To minimize the inevitable hiccups, Carrillo suggests designating a tech captain in advance "so the emcee/host can focus on the guests while someone else fixes tech issues or helps guests enter the Zoom call."
And if you're not comfortable being the actual host, find someone to hold that role as well, she says; that way, there will be someone to "welcome your guests, keep the energy up, handle transitions, and keep the party flowing smoothly."
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Set A Timeline
Awkward silences and confused moments are also often unfortunate parts of Zoom parties, so avoid this by setting up a predetermined timeline to help keep a basic flow of events. Carrillo suggests this simple example schedule, which can of course be tailored to your own event: Start with fun background music for the first five minutes to loosen guests up as they enter the call; then go into welcome drinks, toasts, and mingling for 30 minutes; games for 30 minutes; connection prompts (more on that later), toasts, and dessert for 30 minutes; and finish with a final closing moment.
Additionally, make sure you have a defined start and end time so that the call doesn't last forever. "I recommend 1 1/2 to two hours max depending on your party size and basic event details," says Carrillo. "You want to make sure the party purposefully ends on a high note and doesn’t drag on!"
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Communicate A Dress Code
It might feel like an annoying request, but Carrillo says that a festive, funny, or fancy dress code can actually "help [you] connect with your guests and make the virtual party feel more official." However, you should definitely take your guests into account when making this decision, she explains, and "build the dress code around their personalities and preferences."
And of course, don't forget to communicate the dress code on the invitation; as with any party, keeping your invite list in the know is key to making everyone comfortable when they (virtually) arrive.
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Skip The Full Meal
While you may not be able to share a potluck with your friends this year, Carrillo still has a few tips for connecting virtually over food or drink. "Skip the full Thanksgiving meal and opt for a signature drink and dessert!" she suggests.
That plays into another important part of the invitation to include, says Carrillo, who recommends adding a recipe or a request for guests to buy their favorite pie beforehand to eat together on the call.
How To Host A Virtual Friendsgiving: Come Up With A "Connection Prompt"
While you probably do want to share a cocktail or dessert together, everyone eating at the same time is bound to create some unwelcome silences — which is where Carrillo says your "connection prompts" can come in. This can include questions like "What are you thankful for in 2020?" or "What has the pandemic taught you about what is really important to you?" featured on your invitation beforehand.
Then, says Carrillo, "While guests eat pie, the host can give each guest two minutes to share something sincere and meaningful about what they are thankful for or what they have learned about themselves during this pandemic." It may feel weird at first, but that's exactly why you should lean into them, she says. "Those vulnerable moments are where the magic happens!"