Virtual party planning helps kids and families celebrate, even when they can't physically be together. Whether you've just moved across the country or are practicing social distancing, setting up a virtual party can be as fun and easy as hosting a typical party. From virtual birthdays to virtual family dinner parties, there's no limit to how you can virtually celebrate with friends and family.
How Does a Virtual Party Work?
At a virtual party, guests connect through video or text on their computers, tablets, phones, or Smart Displays.
- One person hosts the virtual party using some type of virtual meeting space and sends the link for that space to guests.
- Like a real party, virtual parties often have a start and stop time.
- Virtual parties will often be shorter than real parties and may include interactive activities.
Step One: Define Your Party Purpose
You can host almost any type of party in a virtual environment. Decide what the purpose of your virtual party is so you have an idea how many guests you might invite and whether they'll be mostly kids, adults, or a mix. Common virtual parties include:
- Virtual birthday party
- Virtual family dinner party
- Virtual holiday party like Easter or Christmas
- Virtual class party
- Virtual graduation party
Step Two: Choose a Virtual Party Venue
You may be familiar with one or two platforms for group video calls, but there are tons to choose from. Look for party hosting tools that fit your budget and the tools most of your guests will have access to.
Zoom is a video-conference tool that's often used for professional meetings. Users have the option of joining by phone or from a device. The basic version of Zoom is free, but group video calls are limited to 40 minutes. You can host up to 100 people with the free plan and even share your computer screens. Zoom is great for large parties, parties where you don't know what types of devices guests have, and parties where you want to share things like photos.
Skype is an audio and video call tool from Microsoft. You can use Skype on your phone, computer, Xbox, or Alexa. The basic version of Skype is free and allows calls of up to 50 people. Features like blurring your background or adding live subtitles can help all guests enjoy the party. This platform is great for parties of any size.
The popular social media platform Facebook offers two ways to host virtual parties. Facebook is free, but you have to create an account to use it. You can host a Facebook Live event where you are recording from your location live. Guests will be able to send emojis and chat through text, but you won't see them on live video. This is a great option for short, quick parties and younger kids. You can also create a Facebook Event where guests can interact through text or by posting videos and pictures.
Google Duo is a free video call program that's available for android and iOS devices. You use your Google account to sign in and it's connected to your phone number on that Google account so others can easily find you on Duo. With this program you can video chat with up to 8 people at once, leave video messages, and send video previews with the Knock Knock features so guests see you before the call starts. Google Duo is great for small parties like a kid's birthday where they invite a few friends.
FaceTime is an audio and video call tool just for Apple users. This tool allows you to video call up to 32 people at once, and there are fun effects you can use. If all your guests don't have an iOS or Mac device, they won't be able to attend. FaceTime is best for parties where you know everyone well enough to know they have an iOS device.
If you want to host a movie or viewing party, you can use Netflix Party. All guests will need a Netflix account to join the party, and Netflix is not free. If you have a Netflix account, the Party feature is free for Chrome browsers. Your personal Netflix party includes a group chat where guests can interact through text as they watch a movie or show together.
Step Three: Set Up the Virtual Party
After you've chosen a virtual party venue or platform, you'll need to learn how to set up your event there. Make sure you include important information like the party date and start and end times. In most cases, the host sets up the party then sends the information for accessing the party to guests. If there are options for you to add special messages, make sure you leave guests information on what will happen during the party and ways they can help make it special.
Step Four: Plan Virtual Activities
Just like a real party, you'll want to have activities planned. Virtual party games are even more important here because it's harder for guests to have individual conversations. Choose one big activity that spans the party or a couple small things you can all do at the same time.
- Eat cake together. Ask each guest to make or buy a specific type of cake so it seems like you're all eating pieces of the same cake.
- Open presents on camera. If guests send wrapped gifts in advance, kids can open them in front of the whole group.
- Have a dance party. Create a shareable playlist for guests and have everyone start it at the same time.
- Take a virtual tour together. Use your camera to show guests around a real location or follow a virtual tour together online.
- Paint a picture together. If everyone gets art supplies in advance, one person could teach the whole group how to paint the same picture.
- Do a scavenger hunt. Announce one item at a time and give guests a time limit to look for that item wherever they are.
- Play guessing games. Ask guests to put their answers in private messages or race to answer in the group chat.
Step Five: Invite Guests
The party space you choose and type of party will dictate how many guests you invite to the party. Smaller parties will be more successful because it will be easier for guests to interact without interrupting each other.
Virtual Ways to Invite Guests
While etiquette differs slightly for virtual parties, it's good to give guests at least a week's notice of the event. Some of the ways you can virtually invite guests include:
- Send an email invitation.
- Send text message or private message invitations.
- Let kids make video messages to guests.
- Invite each guest personally through a phone call or text chat.
- Send an event reminder about an hour before the party.
What to Include in a Virtual Party Invitation
Since virtual parties may be a new concept for some of your guests, make sure you include detailed information on how to attend the party. Try to include some fun birthday invitation wording too.
- Give the date, start time, and end time of the party.
- Add pictures, GIFs, memes, emoticons, or emojis that help show what the party is for.
- Include step-by-step instructions on accessing the party, including how to create an account in your party platform.
- Include a link to the party space, if possible.
- Share details about free platform tools guest might want to use during the party.
- Share some of the party agenda so guests how they're expected to interact.
- Share details on when and how guests can send gifts before or during the party.
- Give any special instructions for materials you might want guests to have on hand.
Step Six: Decorate Your Virtual Party Space
To make your virtual party feel like a real party, decorate your background. Take a look at what's visible to others from your camera and make that space look like a party.
- Set a theme or dress code so everyone looks festive.
- Ask guests to decorate their backgrounds in matching decor.
- Use balloon weights to create easy balloon displays behind you.
- Set up a special space like your dining room table or coffee table and couch just for the party.
- In some platforms, like Zoom, you can even add in fun pre-made virtual backgrounds.
- Use effects from your party space tool to change your looks.
- Test your camera to make sure your decorations are visible on the screen before the party starts.
Step Seven: Connect and Celebrate
It's party time, so connect to your event and have fun! Play some music as people enter the party and make sure everyone's there before you start the festivities. Start with some reminders about how to interact during the party, like waiting to be called on or commenting in chat when others are talking. There will be times when it gets loud and crazy, let it!
Throw yourself a victory party after your virtual party is finished. You've successfully connected with friends and family to celebrate a special occasion. Make notes on what worked and what didn't so your next virtual party will be even better.