Cheryl Parson: Virtual holiday can be fun

By Cheryl Parson - Better Business Bureau

COVID-19 cases are growing at an alarming rate, and we are urged to protect each other by avoiding human contact. Governors and mayors are setting curfews and limits on how many can gather. As a result, we are learning new ways to keep in touch with friends and family to celebrate holidays and special occasions. Video chat platforms have proliferated, allowing us to at least see and interact with loved ones virtually.

Having a virtual holiday party is never going to be as good as the real thing, but if you can achieve a portion of the love and warmth of the real thing, it will make the forced distancing between loved ones and friends a bit closer.

Here are some fun tips and ideas to make your virtual party a success.

First, choose a platform for your virtual party. These platforms are fairly easy to use and set up. A few of the free options to investigate are:

• Microsoft Teams allows 24-hour long calls with up to 300 participants. Only the host needs a Teams account; guests can join the meeting from any device without installing the Teams app.

• Zoom allows free meetings of up to 100 people for 40 minutes. (The company raised the time limit to 24 hours for Thanksgiving Day. At this time, it is not clear if they will do that for Christmas as well.)

• Google Meet allows meetings up to 24 hours in length and supports 100 participants and requires a Google account to host or join.

• Facebook Messenger allows unlimited session length with up to 50 users but requires the Messenger app or desktop client and a Messenger/Facebook account to host or join.

• FaceTime allows unlimited session length for up to 32 participants, but the required app is only available on iOS, Mac or iPad devices.

Whatever choice you make, be sure everyone is comfortable with using it, so you don’t risk leaving anyone out of the celebration.

Next, schedule your event. Choose a date and time for your virtual party, then text or email invitations.

Once you have done that, we recommend creating a party itinerary or agenda to guide your guests through what is planned.

Suggest your guests decorate and dress for the season, making their backgrounds festive. Encourage guests to wear fun hats or clothing, such as reindeer antlers or ugly Christmas sweaters.

Keep your party interesting by including activities you can do together online. Be sure to make guests aware by sending the party itinerary. We’ve gathered a few ideas you may like:

• Watch a Christmas movie together. Technology allows us to stream a movie so we can see it anytime we want. Instruct your guests to all log in at the same time. There are many great holiday movies to choose from.

• Have a virtual family dinner. Start with an early call to share the meal preparation as if you were actually together. Schedule a second call at mealtime to show off your final dishes and to enjoy them together.

• Virtual Christmas Scavenger Hunt. It’s really easy. Create and send everyone a list of Christmas or household items the other players have to find. Assign a leader. Give the players 60 seconds to find each item. The first one to bring your item to the screen gets three points. Anyone else who brings the item within the 60 seconds gets one point.

• How about an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest? This could virtually (yes, pun intended!) be the Christmas party game ever. The uglier they are, the better. Everyone will vote to decide whose is the worst!

By Cheryl Parson

Better Business Bureau

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at

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