We’re entering the holiday season, and having meals together is one way we cement our family and community bonds. If you can’t be together in person, join each other virtually! Here’s a step-by-step guide to hosting a great virtual Thanksgiving, or any kind of group meal online.
Decide how to connect
There’s a cornucopia of platforms and methods for connecting on the internet: Facebook or Instagram Chat, Facetime, Google Meet, Skype, and Zoom are the most used. Whichever method you choose, make sure everyone has the right hardware and software available.
Once you’ve decided on a platform, set the mood by inviting everyone with flair! Whether it’s a fun email or an evite, get everyone excited by making your dinner announcement special.
Be sure to include these key details:
- Event time
- Joining information: Links to the event, dial-in information and access codes
- What to expect
If you’re playing games that will require access to a website, collecting household objects ahead of time, or making a centerpiece for a competition, say so!
This is the perfect opportunity to set expectations about timing up-front. Provide a start and end time, and let guests know that if everyone is ready to sign off early or wants to play one more game, that’s okay.
Have a show-and-tell about the food you’ve prepared. What’s your favorite dish? Why did you pick the one you made? This can often bring up family memories of prior Thanksgivings together, and the traditions that made them special.
Toast with a signature cocktail
It’s fun to send out a signature drink recipe, so everyone can feel connected from afar. If you choose to make a toast, consider sending a prompt in advance. Ask guests to reflect on what they’ve learned in 2020, or, there’s always the Thanksgiving standby “What are you thankful for?” which may feel especially poignant this year.
If you want to get really creative, we recommend a centerpiece competition. Anyone who wants to take part can create something ahead of time, then show it off and explain the meanings behind their choices.
Story by sentence
This game is good for mixed age groups with kids. Have one person begin telling a story. After they’ve spoken a sentence or written it in the chat, another person continues the story with their own sentence. Keep going until someone says “The End.” Go alphabetically by first name.
Rose, thorn and bud
This game and conversation starter is especially good for Thanksgiving. Each person takes a turn telling about their roses (things they’re grateful for or what makes them happy at the moment), thorns (a disappointment or a difficult moment from the day), and buds (something they’re looking forward to or hope to do). Keep it to simple words/phrases instead of a long explanation.
Just because you aren’t in the room together doesn’t mean you can’t take a family photo! Get everyone to pose, do something fun and funny, and make a memory to share for many years to come, just by taking a screenshot. This is also a great way to end the gathering on a high note.
Opening and closing the circle
Don’t forget about beginnings and endings. When everyone’s sitting in front of their individual screens, it can be hard to figure out how to settle into a rhythm, and even harder to know when to sign off. Try choosing ways to start and end your virtual dinner so the beginning and end are clear.
For example, you might start with everyone doing a show-and-tell of their food, or the centerpiece competition. To wrap up, you could ask, “What’s one thing you’re looking forward to the next time we do this together?”
Remember: A typical family dinner is only about 20 minutes long, so you don’t have to spend hours online together — unless you really want to. When you set up your virtual dinner, keep it to 60 minutes or less, and try to make expectations clear during the event. “Now that we’ve all had dessert, how about we take our family photo and then sign off?” This ensures everyone has a good time. And that’s something to be grateful for!
Kimball Starr Interior Design is thankful for all her clients and friends in the San Francisco Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. Contact her today for a socially-distanced in-person or remote consultation to create a memorable dining space.