This time of year usually involves family get togethers, celebrating holidays, or simply enjoying time off with others. However, more people will be gathering virtually as we continue to adjust and navigate the pandemic. Having virtual gatherings can be a great substitute and effective way to spend quality time with family and friends. It is important to think about the best ways to make these gatherings accessible, engaging, and fun for everyone! There are several tips you can practice to have a successful virtual reunion including the following:
A useful way to make sure that everyone is prepared and on the same page is to establish and communicate expectations. This includes the specific platform everyone should be using, start and end time, any games that are part of the festivities, a brief agenda that outlines the order of activities, the people who will be present etc. This kind of pre-planning allows people to know what to expect, how to best prepare, and supports everyone being comfortable!
Run Practice Meeting
There are numerous virtual platforms that you can use so it is critical to identify (and communicate) the one you will be using. People should download the platform in advance and familiarize themselves with the technology and settings. A helpful way to do this is to run a practice meeting where people can test the different functions and get acquainted with the technology. Some platforms actually allow you to run test meetings which is a great way to help family members who are less tech-savvy!
Just because your family gathering is taking place online doesn’t mean you have to abandon family traditions! Get festive by incorporating games and engaging activities that include everyone. There are countless virtual options for board games, Pictionary, and other activities that can be easily accessed online. Do some research in advance to find options that you think would work well for your family. If there are specific traditions that your family practices, think about how you can do so virtually.
Meet Communication Needs
Virtual platforms have allowed people to stay connected throughout the year. They are designed to facilitate easy conversation but it is important to remember that people have different communication needs. If you have family members who have hearing loss, visual impairments, autism or other medical/behavioral conditions; online meetings can present unique challenges. There are ways that you can create an accessible environment including:
- Use Video: visibility is an important part of communication so the speaker should clearly appear on the screen. Being able to read nonverbal communication (facial expressions, body language) is a helpful strategy that people (especially with hearing loss) use to follow conversations. Participants should make sure that their space and face is well lit.
- Reduce Noise: hosting a gathering online with multiple people can mean a lot of noise! Background noise can be distracting and can make it challenging to hear and participate in the conversation. To reduce noise and avoid a chaotic conversation, people should use the mute button. This is a great way to focus the attention on the person who is speaking which maximizes hearing.
- Avoid Multitasking: reducing distractions as much as possible is a helpful way to create an accessible meeting. This can be challenging to do with numerous people but encourage others to focus on the specific activity you all are engaging. It may be helpful to turn off the television, music, avoid texting etc.
Online gatherings require you to make adjustments and stretch your imagination! You can be creative and apply festive touches that can help the time feel special. A few ideas include:
- Food: are there specific foods or meals your family typically enjoys? Can you incorporate a menu? People can prepare the same foods in advance so everyone can share the same (or similar) meal together!
- Theme: having a theme can make the gathering feel more festive. Ugly sweater is a popular theme that adds humor and lightness to any event!
- Backgrounds: you can explore digital backgrounds that virtual platforms have. Applying a background can be a fun way to change things up.
Take a Hearing Test
The best way to stay connected with loved ones is by maintaining your hearing health! If you have noticed changes in your hearing, contact us today. We provide comprehensive hearing health services, from hearing tests to hearing fitting.