The popularity of video conferencing software was never going to be a surprise to anyone, given how much the world’s economies have digitized — and platforms like Zoom became household names due to COVID-19.
Programs like Zoom have kept many organizations afloat during isolation and uncertain times, allowing business operations to continue, and have taken on another important role: facilitating social interaction. Here’s how you can use Zoom to host fun and memorable virtual events so friends and family can spend time with each other from the convenience of their own homes.
The Perfect Party Platform?
If you’ve ever been party to a Zoom conference, you probably know that it would be an excellent platform for social gatherings, not just work meetings.
- If everyone turns on their video and audio feeds, you can see and talk to each other in real time.
- The screen-sharing function allows everyone to be on the same page — figuratively and literally.
- Zoom events can be recorded. The captured footage can then be synced, edited, and forwarded.
- It’s easy to change the background so people see you in a field of flowers, underwater, or in front of any image — you are not stuck showing everyone your real (or messy) surroundings.
- Just like any party or get-together, Zoom meetings can be scheduled, and the meeting host can either control who gets to talk and when, or give other participants the ability to mute and unmute themselves whenever they want.
- Certain local zoos and animal sanctuaries makes their animals available to be on camera. For a donation, a koala can be part of the virtual gathering. Check with your local zoo as many of them across the country are now offering this service.
These features are not only extremely useful for business meetings but also make Zoom gatherings more interactive and versatile compared to the teleconferences used in the past.
Fun and Friendly Zoom Gatherings
As with every social event, the venue is important, but not as much as the people coming together and the host’s imagination and ingenuity. A good idea that is well executed can make for a super fun social gathering, with the same atmosphere as an in-person get-together. Consider the following ideas, which are all easily adaptable for whatever activities you want to organize via Zoom.
It is quite easy to create a virtual board game session. Remember what happens if a player is on the other side of the game board and can’t reach their game piece after rolling? It’s a simple matter of having someone else — who is physically closer to it — move the game piece for them. The same principle applies to playing a board game together over Zoom. Let’s use Monopoly to illustrate.
- One designated person — the host/person who owns the actual Monopoly game — will set up the board. They can maneuver the webcam to focus on the board (an external webcam would probably be best for this because you can move it around to capture different angles).
- Another designated person (or the host, if they are keen) can keep track of which players possess which properties with a simple spreadsheet. With all the properties listed in the first column, subsequent columns can be used to record current/new owner, whether there is a mortgage, how many houses/hotels have been built on the property — and, of course, how much rent is charged. Players should try to keep track on their ends too, either using the same spreadsheet or on their own.
- Everyone can be in charge of their own money, recording amounts and transactions on their own. Similarly, a designated person (even the host, if they are an overachiever!) can play “banker” to track how big the pot is for Free Parking, if it is the accumulated monies collected through Community Chest/Chance cards and the various taxes.
- Players can either use real dice on their end or a virtual dice-rolling program. The host can move the players’ game pieces around according to the dice throws.
Alternatively, if there is an online version of the board game you’d like to play, players can go to the appropriate site and play the game there. The Zoom gathering would be so that everyone can feel like they’re in the same room, enjoy reactions, and chat in real time.
Hold an epic lip-sync battle via Zoom! Once you figure out who wants to participate, how many rounds and prizes there are, and any other restrictions (“No metal music!” or “Only one Britney song per person allowed!”, for example), hosting a virtual lip-sync competition is a breeze.
- Coordinate with competitors the song they will lip-sync. Then, either download the songs to the computer from which you’ll be running the Zoom gathering or cue up the YouTube/streaming links.
- One default Zoom setting enlarges the screen of the “Active Speaker” so that everyone can concentrate on that person. When a performer is up, ask everyone to mute their audio feeds (bottom left-hand corner of your main screen). This way, the performer’s screen stays maximized, and everyone else’s is relocated as a thumbnail up top. Alternatively, you can mute participants yourself, by first clicking on the “Manage Participants” button in the taskbar, hovering your mouse over the person’s name, and then clicking “Mute” from the little pop-up.
- Play the song — go to “Screen Share”, then choose “Advanced” and then “Music or Computer Sound Only”, and enjoy the performance.
- If everyone gets to vote for a winner or rate a performance, they can do it in general chat or send a private message to you/the host. If you have a “panel” of judges, you can give them their own breakout room so they can “deliberate” in private.
Group Holiday/Event Greetings and Messages
The ability to record Zoom meetings provides a convenient way to create group messages — heartfelt well wishes for a retiring colleague, having the entire family singing “Happy Birthday”, or a compilation of greetings, for example.
- At the bottom of your screen, you should see a “Record” button. Click it to start recording the meeting and to pause recording.
- If you want to see all the participants, go to the top right-hand corner of the screen and click “Gallery View” — you will see up to 49 people on the same screen. If you have more than 49, you will have to use arrow keys to see the next group of people.
- If people are doing segments one at a time, mute everyone but the speaker — or have everyone but the speaker mute themselves — so the Active Speaker is displayed most prominently.
- When your session is finished, click “End” and then “End Meeting for All”. This will prompt Zoom to convert and save the recording as an MP4 (and an additional “Audio Only” track), which can then be uploaded to and edited using most video editing programs.
There Is Always Room to “Zoom”
When Zoom took the world by storm, it was still all about business meetings and networking. The program’s versatility and user-friendly interface have, however, allowed it to truly shine as a platform for socializing with family and friends. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that ingenuity with emerging technology can allow us to stay connected and up to date, wherever we are.
Whether you use Zoom or another video chat platform such as FaceTime, it’s important to stay connected. Social connectivity is critical to wellbeing.