Tips for a Successful Virtual Family Reunion

In Communication, Tips & Tricks by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
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The winter holiday season is here in a year undeniably like no other. In this year of unprecedented global pandemic, it is important that we learn to celebrate with safety in mind, which makes virtual gatherings a great option. Virtual seasonal events can still connect us with our loved ones and can even show us innovative ways to stay connected year-round. Here are some things to keep in mind when you plan your next virtual family reunion.

Plan Ahead

You won’t need to make sure you have enough place settings for a virtual gathering – but that doesn’t mean an online celebration doesn’t require a little planning. Most importantly, you’ll want everyone to be aware of what time your online gathering will be and how long it will last. For video conferencing via Zoom, this means ensuring everyone has a link to the meeting and knows when it will occur in their time zones. 

It can really help to have an agenda for your gathering ready – and it can be a good idea to share it with your loved ones, especially if you are trying to coordinate a shared meal or activity like an online game. Planning ahead will make sure everyone has the digital resources ready and the anticipated dinnertime set.

Make It Accessible

One excellent feature of online reunions is the new accessibility features they offer. Online gatherings make group interaction and participation more available to those with hearing challenges as well as for people with mobility concerns. During previous years, health and mobility issues may have kept loved ones from being able to travel or attend in-person celebrations. Advances in video meetings this year have made digital gatherings more viable than ever, and allowed loved ones to connect from afar regardless of their mobility.

For people with hearing loss, online gatherings have a whole host of tools to assist with comprehension. “Speaker View” in Zoom allows participants to see who is speaking for easier lip reading. Using headphones or streaming computer audio directly to hearing aids can further focus speech for easier comprehension. Perhaps the most revolutionary accessibility tool in video gatherings is live captioning. Options for live captioning of audio are now available for several platforms and provide ever-improving captioning while conversation is occurring. 

Adapt Your Traditions

The winter holidays are often accompanied by family traditions -from recipes passed down through generations to watching the latest hollywood blockbuster together. While most of these traditions were built around in-person gathering, most of them are surprisingly easy to take online. If your family traditions involve seasonal crafts, like making candles or decorations, set up a family craft workshop online meeting where different households can share their process. Invite loved ones with special knowledge of a recipe or technique to teach a holiday cooking class online to your loved ones.

Even more home-based traditions like decorating the house or playing a game with loved ones can move fluidly online. Arrange an online get-together where everyone can give tours of their holiday decor. In this season of gift giving, it can be a sweet event to coordinate opening presents as a video call.

Modern traditions can get an update as well. Going to the movies or playing a board game are excellent family activities. Even when you can’t engage in person, there are great online equivalents. The vibrant world of online games offers plenty of options for networked play with your friends and loved ones, from traditional games like Monopoly or Settlers of Catan to newer options like Dune or Codenames. Viewing parties can be held via a group chat or video call while coordinating a streaming film.

Take Time To Connect

However you approach your online gathering, the important thing is to connect with each other. Don’t feel rushed just because of the digital format – check in with those you care about. A virtual family reunion is a great way to counteract feelings of isolation that may arise while we avoid in-person events to look out for public health and our own families and communities’ health. Better hearing can help you get more out of online events.

 If you have concerns about the way you hear, we can help. Contact us today!