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Virtual party etiquette: What to know about hosting and attending

Remember when you could pick up the phone and invite a group of friends over for cocktails, a home-cooked dinner, or a game night? Hopefully, we will get there again soon, but in the meantime, it seems that virtual events are the way to stay connected. 

We’ve all learned how to navigate the ‘new normal’ in the workplace, but did you know that you can adapt some of that same technology and use it in your social life? Whether you’re a technology geek or an online neophyte, anyone can host or attend a virtual party. But, as we take more and more gatherings online, it’s important to know the dos and don’ts!

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Technology tips for a virtual party

Although Zoom is the most commonly used virtual conferencing site, virtual events can occur through FaceTime, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and other services. When you decide to host a virtual party, be sure to email clear instructions to guests in advance of the event, detailing how the event will work, including the conference provider’s name and how to download the app if needed.

Since you don’t want to have any technical disruptions during the event, check the internet signal strength of the room you’re hosting the event in. WiFi boosters you can purchase can help put your mind at ease against service disruption. 

Lighting can make all the difference in how you’ll appear to your friends during the event. As a rule, make sure your lighting source is always in front of you, not behind you. Front lighting is the most flattering and will not create dark shadows beneath your eyes or around other parts of your face. Play around with lighting before the event to find the most flattering room and area in your home.

Ensure the camera on your computer, phone, or iPad is always positioned slightly higher than eye level to create the most flattering angle on your face, and be sure you have your computer microphone turned on and that it is not in muted mode. 

Most conference provider services offer an assortment of virtual backdrops. By asking your guests to use the same backdrop, it will help instill a feeling of everyone being together in one place, even if you’re not. Bonus: You won’t need to worry about showing a messy house to your friends!

Create a virtual party plan

To make your virtual party event enjoyable, try to provide some structure and direction to allow for interaction among the guests. Your virtual event could be the next best thing with proper planning, even when you are not all in the same room together. 

Create a schedule and do your best to stick with it. Scheduling the flow of the evening will help keep the party flow moving and keep your virtual guests engaged. 

  • Start the virtual party by asking each guest to introduce themselves to the group. You can liven things up by sharing something interesting you know about the guest to help others feel more connected to them. It’s another way to get people to interact with each other—the main goal of any social event, even virtual ones.
  • Avoid lulls in conversation by having a few group games or activities at your disposal should you need them. Trivia games are always fun and easy to manage in a virtual setting. 
  • Decide on the length of time for your virtual event and stick to it. If the party is a smash, you can always extend if the guests agree, but respect your guest’s time and wrap things up when you said you would.

Online party attendance etiquette for guests

Not everyone can or wants to be the virtual party organizer. If you get invited to be a guest at a virtual party, make sure you know what’s expected. Here are some tips to help make you feel at ease for your next event:

  • If you’re not comfortable with technology, ask a friend or even your kids or grandkids to help you get ready for the event—including making sure you have access to the accurate event conference provider. Understand how the camera and microphone functions work on your computer or other digital devices, and make sure you know how to troubleshoot minor technology glitches should they come up during the event. 
  • Set your digital device up before the start of the event, in a place with good lighting, and check that the camera and microphone are working properly. Be online at the specified time, so you don’t keep your host waiting and be ready to be talkative, upbeat, and friendly with your host and other guests.
  • Mute the ringer on your phone so you aren’t distracted by other calls or texts during the event and have a cocktail or other beverage handy, so you don’t need to walk away from the virtual party to get something to drink.
  • Lastly, have fun! You may find you actually enjoy meeting up digitally with friends near and far. 

Until we can all be together again, a virtual party truly is the next best thing. Whether you’re the organizer or a guest, getting prepared ahead of time and being fully present during the event will make the most of every minute you get to spend together online.

Kim Renta
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kim has written for Bloomingdales, Movado, and various e-commerce wine sites. When she's not writing about wine and…
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