In previous years, your family members may have traveled from far-flung places in order to get together for the annual year-end reunion. After extensive travel, it is a pleasure to get together for a meal, to catch up with one another, and to have some holiday cheer.
This year will likely be different for most families. Virtual meetings will be replacing big family reunions, and some will even be separated from their immediate family members. Although space divides us, that doesn’t mean that we have to skip the opportunity for a reunion altogether.
Virtual platforms for video conferencing make it possible to connect in many of the same ways we did in the past. Some things might be lost in translation if we don’t devote effort to planning and execution, so be sure to consider the following tips to make your virtual family reunion a success.
Set the Scene
When you are planning your virtual family reunion, it is important that each member sets up the right scene in their home. Choosing a place nearby the Wi-Fi router can be helpful in many cases, avoiding that unstable connection that can cause delays or broken signals.
Ample lighting is a must, because seeing the nuances of facial expressions and mouth movements can make it easier to understand what others are saying, even on a subconscious level.
Getting a good audio setup goes a long way, as well. Some people prefer to use headphones with a built-in microphone to isolate background noise. If more than one person will be sitting in on the meeting, some external computer speakers can help raise the volume to a sufficient level.
You might even want to investigate some festive backgrounds for the videoconference interface if you have that capability. You could always make a homemade banner and hang it behind you!
Consider Each Participant
Although your youngest family members might want to play a virtual game together, be sure to consider each member of the family when you make your plan. Some people might feel less comfortable with the interface than others. When so many people found their work and school lives pushed into the virtual realm, others have not needed to use videoconferencing as much.
If you have family members who are less familiar with the medium, be sure to consider their needs when you are planning the event. You might want to set up a practice session a few days before the big event to make sure they are clear about all the features that will be needed. The anxiety about missing out on the family party due to a mistake with the interface can turn the virtual family reunion into a cause for stress rather than enjoyment.
After getting the setting in place for the event, you can take a walk through the different features, particularly the all-important “mute” function. Remind your family members to mute audio when they are not speaking in order to limit background noise that interferes with our ability to hear one another.
Make It Fun!
Once you have all the elements in place, remember to make the event as fun as possible for all involved. In addition to the conversation, you can play a game together, enjoy your holiday meals at the same time, or break into smaller groups if you like. When planning the fun activities, though, make sure to consider those people in your family with hearing loss.
Although in-person conversations can pose a challenge for those with hearing loss, as well, the video conference setting affords its own unique challenges. When the time comes, make sure that your loved one with hearing loss is able to see clearly, assisting with facial observation, and can hear as well as possible.
Real-time captioning is available on some interfaces, so inquire into this potential assistive technology to make it more fun for those with hearing loss. Of course, the only durable solution for someone with hearing loss is to seek treatment with a hearing health provider, so you might also encourage your loved one—before or after the family gathering—to schedule a hearing test. Hearing aids can assist with virtual family reunions, but their benefits extend into the future of a return to in-person gatherings, as well!