Local Treasures with Pia: Virtual Holidays

We can probably all agree that we are headed into the holiday season under very unusual circumstances. As COVID numbers grow, the usual schedule of Thanksgiving and holiday events shrinks. It’s tough on those of us who are serial entertainers and love few things more than to cook for our friends and family.

But the holidays aren’t doomed, they will just be Zoomed.

Most of my family lives overseas so I have 30 years of experience trying to use technology across eight time zones to stay in touch. Sometimes it’s worked great, other times not so much, so here are some tips and tricks to make your next online family meeting a lot more engaging.

Pick a common, free and user-friendly platform like Zoom or Skype. That makes troubleshooting easy even if you are on opposite sides of the country. Facebook has also added a video call feature to its Messenger and a video chatroom function that may be another good option.

Pick someone to host the meeting. That person is responsible for keeping track of who’s signing on and, just in case, also responsible for kicking people out who don’t belong in your meeting. If you get on a regular schedule you can take turns being the organizer.

Set a time and announce it via email or text. This is especially important if there are many different time zones involved. If someone in your group is a little technologically challenged, have a one-on-one meeting with them before the big gathering, so they are familiar with the technology and know what to expect.

Now to the fun part: there are lots of holiday things you can do via Zoom, just agree on the theme of the meeting in advance.

Remember that meeting virtually makes it possible for people who usually can’t travel to be at your party. Extend an invitation to Uncle Bert and Cousin Adele in Florida, or Alaska, or Germany – you may be surprised by how much fun it is to reconnect.


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