The year 2020 has upended our ideas of what is “normal,” and the holiday season is shaping up to be as out-of-the-ordinary as the rest of the year has been. Many families are gearing up to gather together via video conferencing, which is sure to present a new set of challenges for all involved. Be that as it may, by keeping a few things in mind, you can still set the stage for a joyous and memorable celebration with your loved ones.
Get Everyone On the Same Page
Schedules become more complicated when video conferencing enters the picture. It seems both easier to connect than traveling in person, and yet harder to get everyone in the same place at the same time. Unexpected delays might have people straggling into the virtual conference room, but you can reduce the likelihood of this by telling everyone early and often what the schedule of events is going to be. With some members of your family needing to commit to more than one gathering, it will be important to establish a firm schedule and stick to it as closely as possible. That includes not only the start times but the end times of events.
Consider drawing up a printable event program that outlines when online events are going to occur and what will happen during them. You might have different meetings that include some or all of your family members ranging from eating a meal together, to cocktails, to playing an online board game together. If there will be any important ceremonies that you consider especially important, make it clear in the schedule. By providing this early, any conflicts that come up can be ironed out in advance and save you a lot of heartache once the festivities begin.
Have a Test Meeting
While some of your family members might be more tech-savvy than others, by holding an advance meeting you can ensure that everyone will be familiar enough with their devices and your chosen platform to come together without a hitch. A quick meeting will let you touch base and find out whether anyone has problems with lighting, microphones or internet. Be sure to hold the test meeting far enough in advance that people can track down any new equipment or devices they might discover they need.
Rather than setting them aside this year, try to adapt your traditions for the video conference. Keep in mind that having many people talking at once can be more hectic over technology than in person, so if your traditions involve speeches from everyone, request that these be written out in advance and designate one person to read them all.
Ask your loved ones whether there are any traditions they’re particularly interested in adapting, or if they have any ideas about how to modify them for video conferencing. You might be surprised what they come up with!
Do you like to watch a film together after dinner? You can each cue up the film on separate devices and stay on your conference while watching it. Do you play board games? Find the online version of your favorite. Zoom’s whiteboard function is great for Pictionary!
Consider Everyone’s Communication Needs
When we gather in person, people find ample ways to get what they need in the gathering space. Over video conferences, we’re somewhat more tied to the technology. Do you have loved ones with hearing loss? Making sure they’re connected with their hearing aids via Bluetooth or have some other way to amplify the sound can be crucial to their participation. Similarly, making sure everyone else is well-lit will make it more possible for them to read lips.
Loved ones with autism, ADHD, or other speech-language disorders can be overstimulated by video conferencing, or find it tedious. It’s a good idea to check with them or their guardians in advance to see if they have ideas about how much of the celebration they’d like to participate in. If possible, try to schedule something they’ll especially enjoy for the time they’re in the conference.
Give Communication Gifts In Advance
Rather than waiting until after the holiday to present your loved one with a communication-oriented gift, send it in advance so they’re ready for the festivities! Some ideas include:
- Webcam lighting kits. A single light that clips onto a laptop screen or mounts on a desktop to brighten their face and immediate surroundings. This can significantly improve the quality of video conferences!
- Hearing aid supplies. Batteries or accessories that keep hearing aids functioning well and make them more useful will be much-appreciated.
- Phones and accessories. Bluetooth-capable phones or amplified phones, for when they’re not wearing their hearing aids, can keep the conversation flowing.
Have a wonderful holiday season, and remember to take care of your hearing health!