Thanksgiving will be different this year. Our families and friends are staying away to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. If your family is like mine, we’ll be spending some time together virtually on a video call.
With a large family, group video calls are a great way to see all the smiling faces we usually see in the same room. This picture is from our call last weekend celebrating my mom’s 81st birthday. We had at least 17 people on the screen and about 28 people on the call!
I’m sharing are my lessons learned and top tips to help you make your Thanksgiving call more joyful and less frustrating.
Use a platform that can handle your group size. I use Google Meet because it’s free and we can be on the call for an hour. Users need a free Google account to login, so if you have Gmail, you’re set. The free version of Zoom limits you to 40 minutes if you have more than three participants. If you have a small family, you can do a group call via FaceTime or What’s App.
Communicate the meeting and send the link via email and text. Some people check one or the other, and others may miss both. You might have an old phone number or email address. If you’re not sure, call ahead and make sure everyone knows about the call. You don’t want to miss anyone.
Choose a moderator. The moderator will control the call, manage the agenda, make sure everyone gets a chance to speak, and watch the time so you wrap up before the call cuts off.
If you’re the moderator, join the call 30 minutes early. Work out your own bugs and be available for other people who are trying to get on the call.
Designate a tech helper. Someone familiar with the technology can help people troubleshoot if they can’t get on the call, don’t know how to unmute, etc. It’s helpful if this isn’t the same person as the moderator.
Ask someone to set up the technology for older parents or anyone unfamiliar with it. My brother went to my Dad’s and my nephew set things up for my mom.
Have a group text chat and tell people to use the text for troubleshooting. Texting is a faster way to communicate and several people can help one-on-one if this is your first group video call.
Cast the call to your TV. We used Chromecast and could see everyone on the TV instead of just a few on the laptop. Be sure to take a picture of your family!
Have an agenda. I know it’s not a meeting, but it is. Without an agenda, it’s like chaos of people meeting and greeting as families arrive, exchange hugs, and catch up. That will happen anyway as people join the call. 😊 After a while you want everyone to talk to the group.
Go around the “room” and have everyone share something. Just like we do before our Thanksgiving meal, each person will share one thing they are thankful for. This is always my favorite part of Thanksgiving.
“Popcorn” to choose the next person to speak. The moderator starts, then calls on the next person. That person calls on the next person and so on. Keep track to make sure everyone gets a turn.
Be patient. Be kind. Be loving. Be thankful.
I wish you a joyful Thanksgiving and wonderful holiday season!
How is your family connecting this year?