December is usually a time of celebration and family reunions, but as we all know, it’s not going to be quite the same this year. However, this doesn’t mean the holidays are canceled entirely – why not host a virtual family reunion?
At least 24 percent of Americans are looking to hold their family reunions online this year. Many of us have never had to celebrate in this way before and it might seem daunting to organize a reunion online. However, with a little planning, you’ll plan something that your family will appreciate well into 2021!
Here are a few tips to make sure your virtual family reunion is as fun and stress-free as possible.
Enlist the help of your family members
The organizer’s job is not to lead the whole family reunion but to delegate responsibility. This can take a lot of pressure off you and ensure that everyone feels included and invested.
The meeting can be hosted by one person who makes sure everyone understands the plan and ensures that a loose schedule is adhered to. The technical side of things can be in the care of another person to ensure that everyone’s equipment is installed and ready for the big day. This is an ideal job for a younger, tech-savvy member of the family. Remember, this is a gathering of families, and you don’t have to do it alone.
Plan some fun games, ways to continue traditions
Take some time to plan some activities: What games have you played in the past? Are there traditions in the family that can be transferred online? Many virtual platforms offer easily accessible games (Jackbox, for instance). There are also several activities you can find and integrate into your reunion online. For suggestions, you can also ask family members and colleagues.
Set clear expectations
Before the reunion, make sure you talk with everyone involved about what to expect and how to handle the “party.” If you are meeting for a meal this can be an excellent way to simulate an actual family reunion. Just make sure everyone knows when it will be dinner time and no matter what is planned make it clear to participants how long they are expected to be on the call.
Do a test run
Many of your family members, especially those whose jobs are now remote, may be well acquainted with the video call environment. Others may, however, have less experience with the video app being used.
Why not schedule a trial call a few days before the event if you have family members new to video conferencing or who could use some assistance to get set up? This low-pressure atmosphere can be an opportunity to try out the available features and set up the best settings to ensure success on the big day. For instance, sitting closer to the router can benefit some people with weaker wireless connections.
Accommodating those with hearing loss
Do you have any family members who have hearing loss? Encourage them to use a laptop or desktop computer to participate in the meeting. It makes it easier for them to see others and follow what’s being said by using a bigger screen. On the same laptop, get them to use a closed captioning app on a different browser so that they can read what’s being said.
When everyone adheres to the following video chat etiquette, the person with hearing loss will also find it easier to remain engaged:
- Take turns speaking. Use the ‘hand up’ feature and when not speaking, mute the microphone.
- Make sure everyone has decent lighting, avoiding any light behind them. Bright lighting makes it easier to see people’s expressions, recognize facial gestures, and pick up non-verbal signals.
- Get everybody to set up their phone camera to be stable, not handheld.
- Using festive backgrounds is fun, but this may make it more challenging to follow your family members’ interactions with hearing loss. The backgrounds sometimes glitch or flash on and off, and it is more difficult to focus on understanding words.
Happy Holidays from the Hearing Health Center of Houston
Hopefully, next year we can be with our loved ones but virtual family reunions will have to do for now. If you or anyone you know has noticed changes in their hearing, it’s time to get a hearing test. We are here to help! Treating hearing loss is one of the best ways to stay connected to the ones we love. Contact us today to set up an appointment.