Host your own cyber celebration
Connect with friends and family remotely while practicing physical distancing
In a time when physical distancing is society’s best defense against COVID-19, suddenly the planned and impromptu gatherings with friends and family we once took for granted are on hold.
But just because we can’t be together in person doesn’t mean we can’t be together.
SAIT Hospitality Management Instructor Alita Brown is a an expert in entertaining (you may remember her tips for hosting Thanksgiving). She’s using this time to reimagine what it means to host a special event, weaving together the foundations of entertaining with technological considerations.
“The learning curve has been extremely steep,” she says.
Brown hosted family members for her very first “digital Sunday supper” last week and learned firsthand how to pull off a fun online event.
As we approach Easter, consider Brown’s tips for hosting your own online dinner party:
Up to seven days before the event
Choose your tech
- Confirm the video calling channel you want to use — Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Houseparty are popular choices.
- Consider how many people you’re inviting. For example, Houseparty allows up to eight people in a video call, Google Hangouts allows 10 and Zoom allows 100.
Invite your guests
- Ensure guests have access to the app or software.
- Send out a link in advance to ensure their device is compatible.
- Don’t assume everyone will be experienced or comfortable with the tech — help them through it as much as you can.
- You may wish to send along some tips for those unfamiliar with video calling:
- Don’t talk all at once or hold multiple conversations simultaneously.
- Mute the microphone when you’re not speaking to reduce noise.
- Turn on your cameras.
- Be patient — video calling is great, but it won’t be the same as real-time conversation.
- Consider setting a start and end time — you may end earlier than you think.
- Will you play games after everyone eats?
- Set your dinner menu and pick up everything you need — including themed additions such as Mini Eggs and Easter lilies — during your planned grocery run.
- Do any baking ahead of time.
- Not up for cooking? Consider ordering in from a local restaurant that has moved to a delivery format. (Check out this handy list created by SAIT Hospitality and Tourism Instructor Madeleine MacDonald!)
- Make sure you have wine, beer or spirits on hand — many liquor stores, breweries and distilleries deliver.
One day before the event
Set the dining room
- The couch can wait — make your event special by preparing a space for eating.
- Use themed décor, a fun table cloth and an underlay cloth to prevent spills from ruining your table.
- Dress each place setting with a name card (a fun project for the kids), water glass, wine or beer glass, polished cutlery and side plates.
- Leave room in the center of the table for your device.
Optimize the lighting
- Check the lighting in the room around the same time the dinner is planned. Can your faces be seen clearly on your device?
- If outside lighting fills the space, try different positions around the table to avoid a high contrast image.
- Consider bringing in another lamp to help with illumination.
Day of the event
It’s show time!
- Resend guests the link to join the video call well in advance of the meal.
- Finish all food prep 15 minutes before dinner starts.
- Ensure the pets have been walked, fed and watered so you won’t be interrupted.
- Pour yourself a refreshing beverage.
- Plate the food, sit down and enjoy time with your loved ones!
In a world where seemingly everything is changing, one thing holds steady in Brown’s household.
“Those who cook and prep aren’t responsible for washing dishes.”