Tips for a Successful Virtual Family Reunion

Tips for a Successful Virtual Family Reunion

In Community, Tips & Tricks by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Holiday season is here and we want to wish you and yours a happy and healthy season! This year, family gatherings are going online and celebrating is going to look a little different. If you are planning your first online family gathering, here are a few things to keep in mind for an excellent event everyone can enjoy.

Make a Plan, Set a Schedule

While it may seem like less planning to stage an online gathering than an in-person event, you still need to put some consideration into your online meetup. First, set a time and date when everyone is available. Online gatherings often mean scheduling across different time zones, so plan with consideration and make sure everyone is clear about the technology they will be using and the time they are expected to log on.

It is also helpful to come up with a framework for your gathering – a flexible schedule to follow to organize and energize conversation and activity. Will you all be eating dinner at the same time? What about a tour of your holiday decorations – or an online gift exchange? Do any of your guests have special talents to shine a spotlight on like singing – or maybe you can showcase new skills your loved ones have learned in this unprecedented year.

While in-person seasonal gatherings can be day long or even multi-day affairs, we recommend keeping your online family gathering concise. Shorter online time helps keep everyone engaged, longer events can lead to distracted participants. Planning helps here too – once you’ve agreed upon the activities you will be sharing during your online event, share a schedule with your group. Having a schedule will help everyone feel like they are in the loop, and it is simply a must if you are trying to coordinate a shared meal across households.

Update Traditions

For many families, gathering time is the moment to share stories, old and new. While you aren’t in the same physical room, there can still be space in your Zoom room to connect. If you are a family storyteller you can add flair to your online performance with dramatic attire or a fantastic background. We know one family gathering that watched a fireplace video play while family members shared their stories and news.

Continue the Fun

When it comes to ways to connect with your loved ones this season, get ready to get creative. If your family usually plays games together, look for online networked versions that can get everyone involved from afar. Connecting over shared gameplay is a great low-key way to hang out with friends and family when you can’t be there in person.

Similarly, if you are a family who likes to cook together, stage an online cooking class. Send out the recipe in advance so everyone comes prepared with the ingredients, set up your screen a safe distance from any “splash zone” and take the time to cook and chat together. Whether you are preparing a traditional dish or something new, it is still possible to connect over food even from afar.

Think About Accessibility

One great thing about online gatherings is that they have the potential to help some people with accessibility issues. People with mobility concerns and those with hearing loss and deafness can become more involved in online spaces than physical spaces allow. For people with mobility issues, getting to a gathering or event can be difficult or impossible. Navigating travel can be unwieldy or unadvised in a way that online events simply aren’t. Virtual meetups allow people with mobility challenges to attend and participate in gatherings in an unprecedented way.

Similarly, a host of accessibility options can assist friends and family with hearing loss during a virtual event. For people who use hearing aids, their hearing devices may be able to stream audio directly from their computer to their ear, cutting out distracting noise and focusing the sound. 

Additionally, many video conferencing platforms now offer live captioning for conversations where a speech is instantly converted into captioning for superior comprehension. Even the format of a virtual event can make speech easier to hear and comprehend because speakers can be highlighted (identifying the source of a sound) and their lips are usually visible (to assist in lip reading).

The best way to stay in touch and connected with your loved ones is by ensuring your hearing health! Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of hearing loss treatment.