Zoom Thanksgiving: 10 tips for hosting a virtual Thanksgiving on Zoom

Many households are opting to host Thanksgiving on Zoom amid COVID-19. Here 10 tips to consider when hosting a virtual Zoom Thanksgiving celebration.

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Image: iStock/drazenzigic

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many families are forgoing the traditional Thanksgiving Day celebrations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Instead of large indoor family gatherings, many people are carving out plans for virtual Zoom Thanksgiving celebrations this year. To assist, Zoom recently announced that it would lift its 40-minute meeting time limit for Thanksgiving Day gatherings. That said, there is a moderate learning curve to consider as individuals plan their virtual holiday celebrations. From how-to video conferencing tutorials to festive Thanksgiving Zoom backgrounds, here are some ideas to keep in mind when hosting Thanksgiving on Zoom.

SEE: Zoom 101: A guidebook for beginners and business pros (TechRepublic Premium)

Practice makes perfect

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, millions of telecommuters participate in round the clock Zoom meetings as part of the standard virtual workday. However, not everyone uses video conferencing on a regular basis and may be unfamiliar with the platform. Less tech-savvy family members may also need assistance using Zoom initially. With this in mind, it could be a good idea to have a practice Zoom session with some Thanksgiving attendees in advance. A bulleted list of step-by-step instructions distributed in advance could also provide a helpful failsafe for the live gathering.

Mind the mute button

During a multiperson video call, attendees are bringing all of the caroming cacophonies of their home into the shared Zoom room. Background noises such as televisions, dogs barking, kitchen timers, and more can easily transform a standard video call into a less than ideal sensory experience. With this in mind, the mute button is the one Zoom feature every virtual meeting attended should familiarize themselves with. A best practice is to always keep the mute on until a person chooses to chime in. This requires a more hands-on approach to communication, but the increased audio quality will be a net positive for Zoom Thanksgiving celebrations.

Use a Zoom background

Virtual backgrounds are a popular addition to video conference calls allowing participants to add a little personality to a typical Zoom meeting. In lieu of the atmosphere of an in-person holiday gathering, themed Thanksgiving Zoom backgrounds could help add a welcome dose of lighthearted cheer to the occasion.

SEE: 7 best Zoom games for some virtual face time during the coronavirus pandemic (TechRepublic)

Cook together

Establishing the virtual meeting place is just one of the key logistics to consider. The next will of course be deciding on an agreed time and format. In some households, meal prep and the act of cooking together in the same kitchen is a traditional part of Thanksgiving. Setting up a laptop in the kitchen as households cook together could be an enjoyable virtual meeting place for some.

SEE: Thanksgiving side dishes: Each state has a favorite, and some might surprise you (CNET)

Feast as a family

The Thanksgiving dinner itself and the act of eating together is the culminating holiday tradition for many households. With this in mind, some may consider attempting to dine together at the same virtual table. Although not everyone may be as inclined to eat on screen for various reasons. Simply having a drink as a group could also create a similar atmosphere without the slight awkwardness inherent in digital dining.

Watch live sporting events

There will also be numerous live sporting events on Thanksgiving Day. Simply keeping a Zoom room open for some virtual facetime during the day's games could create a more casual holiday atmosphere. This allows friends and family to catch up during intermission, react to the gameplay in real time, and enjoy one another's company with a more laid back feel than say a virtual Thanksgiving dinner.

Play Zoom games

Zoom games have been a popular pastime for many during the coronavirus pandemic. These digital competitions allow multiple households to come together to enjoy a wide variety of games and activities. While not all games translate as easily to the virtual format, there are numerous options to choose from. To assist, we've also created a list of the best Zoom games to help boil down the options this Thanksgiving.

SEE: Photos: Thanksgiving Zoom backgrounds to boost the virtual festivities from afar (TechRepublic)

Keep up the traditions

Many friends and families have their own unique Thanksgiving Day traditions. Some of these traditions have been passed down over the course of generations and others may be somewhat newer additions. It may take a little bit of creativity, but with a little ingenuity it might be possible to salvage those traditions in a virtual format. Remember, these staple customs had to start somewhere and perhaps this Zoom Thanksgiving is an opportunity to start a new tradition.

Share the recipes in advance

It's important to remember that this year may be some individuals first attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. As a result, it could be a smart idea to share traditional family recipes in advance and make sure the kitchen is stocked with the basic utensils and all necessary ingredients.

Roll with the punches

Last but not least, it's important to remember that there's a good chance that a Zoom Thanksgiving celebration probably won't go off without a hitch. With multiple attendees and varying degrees of computer literacy there are bound to be hiccups during the celebration. That said, some of the best advice for a Thanksgiving on Zoom may be simply taking a deep breath and enjoying the gathering for what it is. Forgo the itinerary, embrace the digital snafus, and take time to savor the holiday.

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