2020 has been full of surprises so far, and we’re only in April! Who would’ve thought four months ago that we’d all go full digital in such a short space of time? It truly is the 21st century; work meetings in your PJs, yoga classes at lunchtime with a teacher halfway around the world, and more Instagram and Facebook lives from your favourite celebrities than you can shake a stick at.
Naturally, we’re all finding new and innovative ways to stay in touch with our friends and loved ones, and one of the trendiest right now is to throw a Virtual Party. You may not physically be in the same room, city, or even continent as your guests, but it’s still possible to have a jolly good time – and there’s less washing up to do afterwards.
If you’re thinking of hosting your own virtual party, here’s everything you need to know in order to be the virtual hostess with the most-est.
Choosing a platform
The first thing you need to do is decide what platform you’re going to use to host your virtual party. Sure, you can just stick with Skype if you want to keep things really simple, but if you fancy being a bit more adventurous there are plenty of platforms and video conferencing software available.
Zoom is the word on everyone’s lips right now. The daddy of all video conferencing platforms, it’s simple to use, and the checkerboard feature means that everyone can see everyone. You can also use its background feature to add a sort of Virtual Reality twist, which is perfect if you’re planning to set a theme for your party.
If you’re all Zoom’d out from your business meetings, there are a few cooler options available.
House Party, as the name suggests, is a perfect choice for hosting intimate parties (video chat rooms have a max of eight attendees). It’s available as both a phone and desktop app too, so it should be accessible to pretty much everyone with an internet connection.
FaceTime can also host up to 32 attendees in a video conference call, but that’s dependent on everyone at the party having a device with the most current iOS. Even Google Hangouts would be more than adequate if it’s an informal Netflix and Chill-style get-together.
Set some ground rules
Even though you’ll all be hanging out virtually, just like any other party a virtual party needs to have some sort of etiquette. It’s best to treat it like a dinner party, set a maximum amount of attendees, fix a start and end time (you’d be amazed how quickly time can pass online), and encourage the conversation to flow between the whole group – side conversations can be really alienating.
Keep things organised by sending out iCal invites, paperless post, or posting links to your virtual chat room in WhatsApp/Messenger groups. Some platforms allow you to password protect your “room”, so make sure to inform your guests if you’ll be using that feature, and if you’re going for a theme for your party remember to tell people in your invites.
Even if you haven’t chosen a specific theme for your party – except for “any hour’s happy hour!” – some well chosen party games can keep the laughter flowing and the atmosphere buzzing. The always epic Cards Against Humanity is now available to play via a mobile app, good ol’ Scrabble and Yahtzee are available online, and it’s even possible to compete in online poker tournaments without having to bet a single penny thanks to play money games.
Food and drink ideas
Up until this point it’s best to keep things as organised as possible, but when it comes to food and drink it’s more about what people actually have to hand rather than creating some impressive dishes.
If you’re planning a party for a more formal occasion, such as a birthday, wedding anniversary, or any other major life event then encourage everyone to eat simple food that won’t get in the way of precious chat time. For more chilled hangouts, nibbles like Pringles and Celebrations are absolutely fine. And if you’re planning Champagne Tuesdays (or Sundays, Fridays, Every Days) be sure to let your guests know when you send out their virtual invitations.