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How to Host a Virtual Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather around the table, relishing a good meal and enjoying each other's company.

For some an in-person visit might not be an option but that doesn't mean Thanksgiving won't still be wonderful. Today's digital technology allows you to gather friends and family online. These following tips will help you celebrate this Thanksgiving in a virtual way.

A woman next to a freshly baked turkey.

Setting Up a Virtual Holiday Get-Together

The first step is choosing one of the many video conferencing options, that are available today. With different bells and whistles, keep in mind the following:

  • Number of people you want to video invite to your virtual party
  • Whether a video conferencing app works on your phone or computer
  • What types of devices each person has
  • Do you want to record this gathering?

Once you've chosen a platform, set up a meeting and send out (virtual) invitations that include the time and log-in link.

Tech Tips

As with any online meeting, be sure to optimize your tech. In most cases, a laptop is the device of choice when hosting (or attending) an online holiday event. Why? Because holding a phone up to your face while eating is no fun, and laptops tend to have better audio and video capacity.

For the best (a.k.a. most flattering) view of your face, set your laptop so the camera is about at eye level. Good lighting is essential; in most cases, aim for soft light that comes from the sides, rather than behind.

While hosting an event such as a dinner, a "gallery" view where all participants are visible on the screen may be most appropriate. Finally, don't be afraid to use the "mute" button. In fact, for get-togethers with more than five people, background noise can become overwhelming if participants don't judiciously mute themselves.

Screen-Savvy Decorating

Thanksgiving is a holiday, not a work meeting... so how can you make your virtual get-together feel festive? Start with the decor.

Some video conferencing apps allow you to set a virtual background. For a seasonal theme, choose images associated with Thanksgiving, such as fall leaves, a table loaded with delicious foods, pumpkin pie, an autumn scene... the possibilities are endless.

Prefer a real background? When it comes to virtual meetings, as a rule of thumb, less is more. Avoid sitting in front of cluttered, messy, or dark backgrounds, as these can be distracting. Instead, consider hanging a family photo or other memorabilia that sets a warm tone for the holiday.

Real-Life Touches

If you were meeting in person for Thanksgiving, guests would probably each bring a dish for the feast. That may not happen this year, but you can still connect through food.

Choose a treasured family recipe and send it to all guests (well in advance of the event, of course). If everyone makes Great-Grandma's sweet potatoes with marshmallows or her famous green bean casserole in their own kitchens, you can all still enjoy them together... which is the next best thing to doing it in person.

For more fun, ask your guests to all wear the same color shirt, or even have "Thanksgiving 2020" shirts made for everyone. Then you can create a "family photo" using screenshots.

Even if Thanksgiving isn't in person, you can still create lasting memories. With a bit of planning, today's technology can make for a fun and festive virtual celebration.

Family in the kitchen.

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