In a world where social distancing has become second nature, we’ve truly never been closer to one another. At the click of a button, you can hang out with friends, FaceTime your mom, or join a Zoom call with your team of 30 co-workers. There are as many types of interactions as there are ways to do it.
Below is a guide that will walk you through the ins and outs of hosting a virtual event along with several fun and engaging virtual group activities to try.
What to consider when hosting a virtual event:
1. Good internet One of the most fundamental and important components of a successful virtual event is your internet connection. Even though your bill says “high-speed internet,” you might have a less than optimal connection. Ensure you have a minimum upload speed of 15MB/s so your video and audio quality is good — nobody likes glitchy footage! If you have the ability to plug your laptop into an ethernet cable, do it. A wired connection is much more stable and consistent.
2. Services and apps to use Zoom has quickly become the standard for hosting virtual gatherings and events, however, there are many more options on the market, from Facebook Messenger and FaceTime, to WhatsApp and Google Duo. If your event requires screen sharing or has many participants joining via an array of devices (laptop, tablet, phone), it’s best to stick with Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or Skype.
3. Virtual etiquette and tips Just because an event is virtual doesn’t mean all manners and social etiquette go out the window. Here are just a few simple tips and behaviours to consider:
• When sending out invites or RSVPs give lots of lead time.
• Use your laptop rather than your phone. If the phone is a must, consider placing it on a stand or even a stack of books to keep it stationary.
• Make sure your camera is eye level and your background is clear of distracting items.
• With Zoom, gallery view is better than speaker video–that way you can see everyone and their reactions!
• When five or more people are joining the event, it’s polite to mute yourself when you aren’t speaking.
• The general rule of thumb is the more participants, the shorter the event should be. Expect participants to be present for 45-90 minutes.
• Know when to say goodbye.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to throw a virtual party, let’s explore some fun virtual event ideas and how to make them happen.
What it is: A fun event for kids and adults alike, virtual scavenger hunts are the latest trend to hit the internet. Participants are instructed to find funny, obscure, and unique items all around their home and are rewarded with points for the most items found.
What you need: Pick a theme for your scavenger hunt and then create a list of household items that might fall under that theme. The host or moderator will oversee reading the list and controlling the stopwatch. Participants will have anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute to ransack their house for the identified item. Points are awarded based on how many items a participant has found. Fun, physical, and entertaining! Here are some tips to follow:
• Aim for about eight to 15 people.
• Create a list of things that everyone will have in their homes but might have a hard time finding (ex: Three triple “A” batteries) to make the rush of finding the items much more thrilling.
• Remember to be mindful of the age of your participants.
• Have a real prize for the winner. Ask all participants to pitch in $5 to $10 to buy the winner a gift card or something small.
What it is: Casual, fancy, or family-style, virtual dinner parties are the new night out! There are many different dinner party formats to consider. Will participants be cooking the meal during the call or just eating? Will it be a home-cooked meal or take-out? Will everyone be cooking the same meal or something different?
What you need: Chat with your participants to decide on the format as well as the theme of the night. The host will oversee setting up the video call, distributing the recipes or takeout menu to participants, and setting the agenda for the night. Beyond that, it’s as simple as showing up, eating together, and feeling connected. Tips to follow:
• This format typically works best with two to three households/families.
• Themed dinner parties can be fun, where you dress up based on the meal you’re having.
• Using a meal prep service or catered delivery can save time and ensure all participants have the same recipes and ingredients for the meal.
• Have an end time planned.
What it is: There’s a pretty good chance you’ve already experienced some type of virtual birthday party in the past year. Sometimes it’s just a conversation, other times there are activities planned.
What you need: If you’re hosting a virtual birthday party, you’ll want to send out RSVPs at least three weeks in advance along with an agenda, the honouree’s address (in case guests want to send gifts in advance), and the link to the party. If you plan to send gifts or goodie bags, leave plenty of time to courier the packages. Lastly, have a schedule: introductions, a fun game, sing happy birthday, enjoy cake, and open presents. Despite the distance, it can still be an epic celebration! Tips to follow:
• Play virtual party games to keep things interesting.
• No birthday is complete without cake. Send a cake to your virtual birthday honoree or some cupcakes to all party guests. Local bakeries or food delivery services like UberEats and SkipTheDishes can make this easy.
• Don’t forget the digital decorations! Zoom lets you customize your background so take advantage.
• Encourage partygoers to wear party hats or dress up based on a predetermined theme.
Cooking or cocktail class
What it is: Want to learn a new skill all while hanging out with the people you love? Try a virtual cooking or cocktail class. Enjoy all the benefits of an in-person cooking class from the comfort of your own kitchen.
What you need: From cooking basics to delicious cocktails, there are many professionals offering paid (and free) cooking classes virtually. But before you contract your chef or mixologist, poll your group to see what they would be most interested in learning. Once your event is confirmed, the host and chef/mixologist should coordinate to ensure all participants have a list of all the necessary ingredients, equipment, and tools to get the job done. On party night, enjoy the learning experience, and delicious food and drink. Tips to follow:
• Think about the length of the class, instructor fees, and the cost and accessibility of required ingredients.
• Don’t choose overly complicated recipes that require special equipment or tools.
• Keep the group size small, usually no more than eight to ten participants. This allows for one-on-one instruction if needed.
• Don’t treat the class like a cooking show. The chef/mixologist is there to educate, entertain and converse with participants, so loosen up, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to chat.
What it is: Who doesn’t love a friendly game between friends and family to shake things up on a Saturday night? Grab a pizza, your favourite game, and a laptop–it’s about to go virtual!
What you need: A game to play–and there are lots to choose from! Bingo, 20 questions, trivia, charades, mad libs, and truth or dare are some traditional games you can easily play online without a third-party app. If digital group gaming is your thing, try Jackbox Games, All Bad Cards, Heads Up, or Among Us which all have apps, virtual rooms, or links that allow you to game together. Tips to follow:
• Take age into consideration when selecting a game.
• For games with no time limit consider using a stopwatch to call a hard stop, otherwise, your game could go on forever.
• Don’t forget the snacks!
At the end of the day, the best virtual events are those that help your employees, friends, or family feel connected, important and appreciated. We’re lucky to be living during a time where technology has closed the gap in distance and made us feel closer than ever.