Many of us will be attending family reunions and gathering with friends for the holidays virtually this year. Like much of social life, getting together with others has moved online for a lot of people. Utilizing virtual platforms has become a major way people have stayed connected throughout the year.
If you are organizing virtual reunions, you may be thinking about how you can make the time just as fun! With a little planning and creativity, virtual gatherings can be a dynamic experience. There are numerous tips you can practice to maximize this virtual time and space with loved ones including the following:
Like most events, it is important to establish and share the details in advance. This includes: start and end time, link to virtual platform, and anything people should “bring”. Communicating this information allows people to prepare and know what to expect. This alleviates any stress or anxiety, prevents potential schedule conflicts and confusion.
Take some time to think about what this reunion can look like and involve. Incorporate games and interactive activities that engage everyone. Some virtual platforms include games that you can easily access. You can also find a plethora of online activities that you can include as well. If you need help, ask others for suggestions or research popular virtual games. This is a great way to spend time with your family and have fun while connecting virtually. After identifying what you would like to do, you can organize this information by creating an agenda that you share with your family. Organizing an agenda is another useful way to set and share expectations!
Run Test Meeting
A crucial detail is identifying the virtual platform you will be using. You want to make sure that people have downloaded it in advance and that it is working properly. A great way to establish this is by running a test meeting which many virtual platforms let you do easily. This is a great way for people to get familiar with the technology and settings (audio, sharing screens, chat functions etc.). Running a test meeting is especially useful for those family members who are less tech-savvy!
Create Accessible Space
Virtual communication tools and platforms have become staples in daily living this year. Though they have made it convenient to connect with others, virtual platforms can present unique challenges for people who navigate a range of conditions that impact communication. This includes hearing loss, visual impairments, speech disorders etc. which require adjustments to be made to maximize hearing and communication. You can create an accessible virtual space by:
- Using Video: though this may seem obvious, sometimes people mute and/or disappear from their screen. Visibility is an important part of communication, particularly for people with hearing loss. Being able to see nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language as well as reading mouths are ways that people follow conversations. So, it is important to maintain clear visibility which you can do by establishing good lighting and appropriate distance from your camera.
- Reducing Noise: background noise can make it challenging to hear and process what is being said. An online gathering with multiple people also means multiple backgrounds with different noise levels. A useful way to address this and reduce background noise is by using the mute button. People who are not speaking should mute their audio which allows people to better hear who is talking.
- Avoiding Multitasking: another contributing factor to background noise and distraction is multitasking: texting, watching tv, listening to music in the background etc. Be sure to avoid activities that are not particularly relevant to your virtual reunion. This also helps you (and others) be more present!
Lastly, do not hesitate to be creative and festive touches. A few ideas to add fun touches are:
- Food: think about creating a menu so people can share the same or similar meals. This is also a great way to incorporate any family recipes or favorite foods!
- Décor: explore using the digital backgrounds that virtual platforms offer which add a festive splash.
- Theme: adding a theme for your gathering is another fun way to engage everyone.
One important element of connecting with loved ones all year round is good hearing! If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, we’re here to help. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.