We here at the Party Palooza Blog would like to welcome our first guest blogger! Stella Torres has been part of the Party Palooza team as our virtual assistant. When she shared with us last month that she staged a virtual celebration on Zoom for her Dad’s birthday, we just had to learn more! Here’s Stella with her experience on how to stage a virtual party–and how you too can hold one for the holidays!
It all started when my Mom discovered Zoom at the beginning of our lockdown period in the Philippines. Mom’s friends used Zoom to plan online events while keeping in touch with their other friends from around the world. After a particularly choppy experience holding a video chat on another app with my brother and sister, she suggested that we should also use Zoom for our family chats as well–and even to chat with family members whom we haven’t seen in a while. So when my Dad’s birthday rolled around, we decided that we were going to plan a virtual celebration on Zoom for him.
At first the planning was easy: we were going to invite our immediate family–my sister in Hawaii, my brother in California, my aunt in New Zealand and my uncle in Nevada–to a sit-down chat with my Dad. But as the date drew near, more people joined the guest list, to the point that we were still fielding guests on the day of the chat! By the time the appointed hour came around, we were scrambling to get as many people on-screen as possible. Eventually, we got a hang of the app, and everyone had a good time.
So what did we learn about hosting a successful virtual celebration on Zoom? A lot of things, as it turned out! Read on for more…
(This post is not sponsored by Zoom; it just so happens that this was the app we used!)
Send invitations to guests in advance
Regardless of which program you use, it’s best to prepare the virtual party invitations beforehand, with clear instructions on how to log into the chat. The pre-made copy-and-paste invitations that are auto-generated by Zoom offers a link to the chat, an ID number, and a password, but it only gives the “local” time from the host’s time zone and doesn’t give specific instructions on how to use the chat ID and password to log in, especially for users accessing Zoom from their web browser. Check your app’s online FAQ for more detailed instructions on how to log in.
Follow up regularly
I sent the first invite one month prior to the Zoom party, but as the date grew closer, I followed up to make sure that everyone had a program for the celebration. This also helped me add more people to the party, since the invitations were getting forwarded to other relatives.
Maximize your time limits
Unfortunately, while our family had the Zoom app, we were also on the free plan, which meant that we only had less than an hour to “entertain” more than three users during our virtual celebration. (Other programs such as Google Meets may not have the same problem; again, check with your app’s FAQ.) We had to make the most of the time we had with the other party guests on Zoom, so we drafted a program to schedule who gets to talk at a given time. I also gave ample time at the beginning for users to log into the chat to make sure that we got everyone in the frame before the program started.
The mute button is your friend
My biggest mistake as a virtual celebration host–and one that could’ve been easily prevented–was forgetting to use Zoom’s “mute all” button at the very beginning; as soon as my Dad went “face-to-face” with his family, he immediately got confused over who he should talk to next. Once we muted everyone else, though, we regained control over who my Dad talked to at any given time; all we did was “un-mute” each user, and Dad was able to talk to each “guest” one by one.
With all this in mind, I put together a sample program for your very own holiday celebration on your video-conferencing app of choice. I recommend drawing up a program in advance with your party guests if you’re working with up to 10-12 users (including yourself) in an hour or less. Make sure that everyone honors the time they’ve been given during the celebration; with a steady hand in party moderation, you can have a virtual celebration that will leave everyone with a smile on their face!
SAMPLE PROGRAM for a Virtual Holiday Celebration
- First five minutes: Give guests time to log in
- Open with a prayer or statement of gratitude; you can delegate one person for this part of the program
- A toast to the holidays (don’t forget the drinks!)
- One-on-one conversations with each online guest (note: if your parents or grandparents are hosting the party, make sure to have a moderator at hand to enforce time limits and handle tech issues)
- OPTIONAL: Games and/or contests–best holiday decor, best food, ugliest holiday sweater, etc.
- A closing prayer or toast before signing off
While virtual celebrations may not replace an in-person gathering altogether, it’s nice to know that you can still find a way to celebrate with your loved ones. With cross-country travel becoming more difficult by the day, it’s important to keep in touch regardless of which technology you decide to use. And who knows, you might end up with a new way to celebrate!
Can’t wait to celebrate the holidays in person? The Party Palooza has a place for you! Our dedicated party space at the York Galleria can accommodate up to 25 people in accordance with existing COVID-19 guidelines in the state. Book your next party with us and we’ll take care of everything–all you need to bring are the food and the guests! Call us at (717) 751-1720 or send us an email at [email protected] for more information.