Six Tips for a Successful Virtual Thanksgiving

Celebrating turkey day remotely? A few associations have offered ways to transition the festivities to an online setting.

Like everything else in 2020, this Thanksgiving won’t be a normal one—at least for the 24 percent of Americans who plan to make it a virtual gathering, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). As families go virtual, they’ll need to prepare for turkey day in new ways: How do you accommodate the communication needs of all family members? How do you keep traditions alive in an online setting?

Consider the following tips from associations so that your virtual Thanksgiving goes off without a hitch. And keep them in mind for other virtual gatherings you have planned, whether a workplace happy hour or holiday party.

Set Clear Expectations

ASHA recommends that all participants agree to certain parameters before Thanksgiving Day so that they’re on the same page. Determine what time you’ll start and how long you’ll stay online together to avoid any conflict that could arise from misunderstanding the event format.

For a festive touch, you could create and send a printable event program that details when to join, when everyone will eat, and what time to sign off.

Hold a Test Meeting

To work out technical hiccups, AARP suggests staging a run-through of the gathering so that participants know exactly what to do.

Videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom allow you to hold test meetings so you can make sure mics and speakers are functioning, apps are installed properly, and that all participants know how to join. This will give less tech-savvy family members peace of mind going into Thanksgiving.

Keep Traditions Alive

Instead of abandoning family traditions, make small adjustments so they can fit into a virtual gathering. For example, do you usually go around the table asking what each person is thankful for? Since this could be tricky on a video call with a lot of participants, ASHA recommends getting those responses ahead of time and reading them aloud.

Do you have a favorite board game you play after eating? There are plenty of virtual options out there, and Zoom’s whiteboard feature is ideal for games like Pictionary.

Accommodate All Communication Needs

Consider how you can make your meeting accessible for all participants. ASHA suggests turning on closed captioning for those who are hard of hearing. Join the meeting on your largest screen—such as a laptop instead of a smartphone—so that visually impaired family members can more easily see who’s talking and pick up on visual cues. The organization also says to keep in mind that online meetings can be tedious or overstimulating for those who have autism, ADHD, or a speech or language disorder.

Add Digital Decor

To get more into the holiday spirit, the National Turkey Federation suggests having fun with virtual backgrounds. NTF offers its custom Thanksgiving-themed backgrounds, which depict users on a Thanksgiving plate or alongside puns like “Feast Mode.”

Get Creative With Food Options

This year is the perfect time to put a spin on Thanksgiving dishes, as everyone will be cooking their own meals. NTF suggests challenging your loved ones to create an original turkey dish. Then, during the call, you could go around and ask each participant to share their unique recipe. Since a whole turkey might be too much for smaller groups, NTF recommends smaller offerings, such as turkey breast roulade or Instant Pot turkey breast.

(gmast3r/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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