Video-conferencing solutions like Zoom make virtual parties not only accessible, but easily manageable and enjoyable for all participants. As a free, high-quality, feature-rich tool, Zoom is a perfect tool to use for your virtual parties.
What is covered in this article
Don’t let me hold up your party — read on to learn how to plan, organize, and run your virtual party and you’ll be ready in no time! If this seems too advanced, see our Zoom quick start guide for how to download, sign up, and set up a meeting.
How to use Zoom for virtual parties and get-togethers
We shouldn’t be limited to partying in person! Celebrate across borders and time zones, enjoying company when meeting in person is difficult. We’ll teach you how to plan your party so you can set up your Zoom meeting.
Using Zoom in the era of COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a large impact on how we interact with each other while physically distancing. Many people have turned to new technologies and methods of enjoying each others’ company.
While these circumstances have pushed many of us to use this technology to connect with each other, these tools can help us connect regardless of social distancing. Travel, illness, other distancing factors keep us from enjoying some of these celebrations and entertainment.
How to plan a virtual party over Zoom
Planning and organizing a virtual party is slightly different than your typical party. You may have an idea of what you want to do and you may not have any idea where to start. We break down steps for how to set up a virtual party on an audio and video-conferencing meeting.
You don’t have to follow this specific order, but you’ll likely want to address each of these while planning and setting up your meeting. It’s a good idea to pick a final date and theme before you set up the meeting, so you don’t need to make changes to your scheduled meeting later.
Below are the steps for planning a virtual party using Zoom:
- Choose a theme for your party
- Pick a date and time for your meeting (this can be a tentative date based on invitees’ availability)
- Confirm availability with invitees (you can reevaluate your date and time based on people’s availability)
- Schedule and set up the meeting in Zoom
- Send out meeting invitations to potential attendees (include instructions for how to join the call as well, especially for new Zoom users)
- Test and troubleshoot 30 minutes before the meeting
- Sign on early (especially if you are using a waiting room)
- Start the meeting and welcome your guests as they join the call
9 tips for following Zoom party etiquette
Even if you like to party without rules, there are a few guidelines to follow that will make your virtual parties go smoother. The virtual format of your meeting brings with it some limitations, and these tips will help you navigate these barriers, making your meetings operate better. Following these ‘rules’ will even make your party more fun!
Below are some quick etiquette tips to follow during a virtual meeting:
1. Mute your mic when not talking and join the meeting with your mic muted
When your mic is unmuted, background noise will be picked up and heard by other participants. While this may not be a big deal, if multiple people do this, there can be a lot of background noise on the call. Zoom will also attempt to play one person’s audio at a time, trying to manage the call. So when unmuted, your microphone may block out someone speaking.
Keep your mic muted when you are not speaking, ensuring the conversation goes smoother for all meeting participants.
2. Always join the call with your video turned off
Parties are more fun when you can see each other, so in most cases, you’ll be sharing video. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to join any call with your video turned off. This will limit your impact on the network when you join, reducing the likelihood that you strain the meeting stream. Once you’ve joined, you can enable your video, causing less strain on the live stream at one time.
3. Always display participant names
Having participant names displayed during the meeting makes it easy for people that don’t know each other well to communicate effectively. Even if everyone on the meeting knows each other, having participant names displayed makes it easy to tell who is speaking. Normally, this can be confusing with multiple meeting participants, especially if participants are not displaying video.
This feature doesn’t ever hinder your meeting, and can only make it simpler for participants to interact. It’s always a good idea to display participant names during your virtual meeting.
4. Disable the Waiting Room feature
The Waiting Room feature funnels meeting attendees joining your meeting into a meeting room, where the host can screen and admit participants. For virtual parties, though, you likely know – and trust – who is invited and will be joining. For these meetings, you can disable the Waiting Room feature, letting participants join directly.
5. Use the Gallery View to see all meeting participants
(Image credit: Zoom Help Center)
The default meeting view (Active Speaker View) shows the active speaker’s video, so you can follow who is talking. However, you can’t view all participants at the same time, and it can feel like you aren’t all really together. To get the feel of an in-person gathering, you should switch to the Gallery View.
The Gallery View displays a grid of meeting participants videos, so you can see all meeting participants at one time. You can then follow along with all participants, even those who aren’t talking. If you’re playing games on your call, you can also make sure that nobody else is cheating by keeping a watchful eye on them!
6. Eliminate distractions
Background noise and other distractions can interrupt you and others on the call. Find a quiet, isolated place with few distractions to set up your meeting station. If possible, close the door(s) to the room you’re in prior to starting the meeting, so that you have more privacy during the call. Clean up the clutter on your station, and turn off your phone alerts. Ultimately, you want to minimize any external distractions that could impact the meeting.
7. Set up a tidy or creative meeting background
While you may not need your background to be as professional as you would have it for work or a Zoom interview, you still want to tidy up your surrounding area. That includes determining where to set and point your camera to frame your shot properly. Be mindful of what other meeting participants might see on your video.
Zoom’s Virtual Background feature lets you get creative with your meeting background, choosing from different virtual backgrounds that will be displayed behind you during a meeting. This is a great way to hide a cluttered, messy background or create a talking point for the call. You can use available virtual backgrounds or download your own, giving you a virtually unlimited amount of customization options.
8. Test audio and video before joining the call
Before joining the call, you can test your speaker and microphone to make sure that it will function properly. This saves you having to troubleshoot your speaker and microphone after joining the call. Making sure everything is working beforehand ensures that you don’t interrupt the call with a technical problem.
9. Pay attention to who is talking
Just like an in-person conversation, you need to pay attention to behavioral cues and pay attention to when people want to jump in. This will help you avoid interrupting other users and will make your conversation – and party – go infinitely smoother.
On the Zoom meeting screen, in Active Speaker View, a box pops up showing the display name of the participant who is currently talking. This is extremely useful, as Zoom typically only plays sound clearly from one user at a single time. When multiple users talk, it gets muffled, or Zoom chooses the loudest mic and plays that audio. This results in some people being unheard, despite trying to chime in
Be aware of who is talking, and follow participants’ physical behavior using Gallery View. Participants can also use the hand-raising feature to let the meeting host and other attendees know when they would like to talk.
7 tips to use Zoom for a virtual party
As a host, there is more to running a virtual party than just showing up and enjoying your time. Below are some tips that are extremely useful for using a video-conferencing service as the meeting host. These will not only make your hosting duties easier, but also make the meeting better for your participants, too.
1. Provide invitees with instructions to join (and tips or guidelines)
When sending a meeting invitation, include a message with the meeting details and simple instructions on how to join the call. You can use the automatically generated invitation message, which has most of these details.
For the sake of attendees who may be new to using Zoom, we recommend adding additional instructions for how to join the meeting. Keep it basic and to the point, helping them get set up for the meeting. You can also give them tips and guidelines to follow on the call to make it go smoother. Let them know how you want them to use the hand-raising feature, and give them any other tips to help your meeting run well.
You can even send them a link to this article so they can learn for themselves how to be good participants, and as an example of good guidelines to follow.
2. Schedule meeting and send invitations ahead of time
Once you’ve planned out the meeting and have all the meeting details you need to create it, you can set up the meeting in Zoom. Schedule the meeting well in advance of when the party actually takes place, so that invitees can have it on their calendar. Even if you’ve checked availability, send out invitations after you’ve set up the meeting so that participants have it written down and can be reminded of it.
3. Use a unique meeting ID
Every Zoom meeting room has a unique meeting ID, which identifies the virtual meeting location. It is a way for users to find and access a meeting. For each virtual party you host, you should use an automatically-generated (and unique) meeting ID. This will ensure that users you’ve previously shared a recurring or personal meeting ID with cannot join the call unexpectedly.
Using a unique meeting ID also means it will be a one-time meeting, and only those that have been given access to this meeting can join. So make sure all of your participants know it so they won’t join a recurring meeting you’ve set up, or your Personal Meeting Room, by mistake!
4. Silence other desktop notifications
Prior to joining the meeting, turn off or silence other notifications. This will ensure that other apps don’t impact your call, adding background noise or distracting you (and others) during the call. It could even mean the difference between losing and winning your party games, costing you bragging rights with your friends (and that would be embarrassing!).
You should also close other programs, especially programs that use a lot of network bandwidth and have background noise or alerts. As the meeting host, it’s even more important to silence notifications. You don’t want to get confused about which sounds and notifications are coming from Zoom and which are distractions coming from other programs.
5. Mute participants if needed to manage the call
Parties – even virtual ones – can get out of hand. Participants may leave their mic unmuted by mistake, and could speak unexpectedly or have noise in the background. This can interrupt the call.
As the host, you can mute and unmute participants on the call. Don’t be afraid to do this to attendees, as they often forget to mute and are unaware their audio is being picked up. Simply mute them, and let them know why when there is a break in the conversation. This is a great tool for ensuring the meeting runs smoothly limiting interruptions.
6. Set an end time
If you have a time where you absolutely have to stop the meeting, be sure to set an end time for it when you create it. And even if you don’t have a time limit, you should still set a meeting end time so participants have an idea of when the call will end… and when they can comfortably leave. Leaving a party can be awkward, and it’s no different online. It can also be hard to end a virtual call, so having a set end time based on your planned activity will help you close — or your participants respectfully leave — your meeting.
7. Introduce people and play with ice-breakers
Just as you would in person, you will want to introduce meeting participants. Despite display names, a small introduction will help participants get acquainted and foster engagement. If all participants are joining at the same time, that’s a great time to introduce people to each other and play a quick ice-breaker game to get everyone comfortable.
Below are some common ice-breakers that are just as effective on a virtual call as in person:
- Two truths and a lie: All participants list two truths and a lie, and the rest of the group has to guess which statement is the lie.
- Find 5 things in common: List common traits and interests to find 5 things everyone in the group has in common.
- Charades or Pictionary: Players draw or act out a randomly generated word, and other participants try to guess what they are drawing or acting out.
- Never have I ever: Participants list things they’ve never done, and participants that have done that thing need to raise their hand.
- Would you rather: Someone in the group proposes a “this vs. that” type of question, and participants choose one of the two options.
These are just a few suggestions; there are plenty of ice-breaker games that are well-suited for an online call. You’ll just need to find a way to make them work smoothly.
14 virtual party themes and ideas
To get the party started, we’ve compiled a list of some popular virtual party themes and ideas you can use below. Obviously, however, you can make a virtual party out of ‘virtually’ anything you’d like (pun intended). Get creative and find ways to do what you love over a video conference call!
Whether you just want to hang out together and socialize, have some cocktails, or play games, you can have a lot of fun celebrating your birthday online.
With the social distancing restrictions of COVID-19, many people who would typically celebrate birthdays in person are forced to take it online. While this has made online birthday parties extremely popular — if not downright necessary — there are other reasons to take your birthday celebration online. Connect with family and friends who live or are traveling abroad, and you can have anyone at your party regardless of where all of you are.
Almost any holiday you, your family, or your friends celebrate can be done over a virtual call. Just think of the holiday as your theme, and try to translate as much as you can to the virtual format. Create your own games and activities, doing virtual versions when you can. Decorate and celebrate your traditions, and share new traditions with friends and family whom you’d otherwise miss out on.
3. Game night
Game night is a great way to unwind and have fun with friends and family. Many games can be played over a video-conferencing call. For example, you can use a physical board game and have everyone follow along, moving everyone’s pieces on the board in a mutually-visible location.
Even better still: there are a number of virtual games available that can be played online, and you can have your Zoom meeting open at the same time! Jackbox is a great option, giving you the option to purchase bundles of games you want to play the most. We have an entire article on how to run a virtual game night using Zoom.
4. Trivia night
Play a game of trivia online on a video-conferencing call, whether it’s as individuals or teams. Design a game yourself, picking a theme and choosing questions. Figure out a way to display the scores and questions legibly to everyone during the game. Or use a pre-existing trivia game online.
We have an entire article on how to run a virtual trivia night using Zoom.
5. Baby showers
You can celebrate a baby shower much like you would normally, except over a Zoom call. Play party games with each other, do a gender reveal, and many more of the things you would typically do at a baby shower.
6. Stag and doe
Stag and does are all about celebrating your upcoming wedding with your friends and family (and, in some cases, fundraising to help with the costs). Often filled with games and conversation, a stag and doe can easily be done over an online call. You can even use the breakout room feature for specific games, helping you manage all participants.
You can still sell tickets, run games that offer prizes, and encourage people to donate as they typically would. Depending on how you want to do it, you can distribute tickets prior to the stag and doe, during it, or both. Just make sure you have a way to keep track of how many have been sold and used!
7. Dinner night
You can have a romantic, intimate dinner with a partner or a fun, group dinner party with friends and family. It might seem awkward to eat on camera, but depending on your audio-video setup, it may not be much different than sitting together. You can even enjoy a nice meal together with friends or family who live far away, allowing you to stay in touch or catch up on things.
8. Have drinks and appetizers on the deck or balcony
You don’t just have to do dinner in. You can take your gathering outside to the deck or balcony, bringing your device with you and sharing appetizers, drinks, and conversation. For family and friends that do not live within your region, you can easily meet up and have more than just a boring phone call. Enjoy the outdoors together, even when you can’t be together.
9. Wine or beer tasting
Rather than go to a winery or brewery, order a few different drinks and have a wine and beer tasting over a virtual call. You can share a list of wines/beers to try so participants can get all the drinks for the tasting. Hop on the call together, and then try the drinks out at the same time. Then share your thoughts and opinions on what was best!
10. Movie night
People love going to see a movie together, so why not do that online? Watch a movie together over Zoom call so you can share in the experience and see each others’ reactions . You will likely want to remain muted, so as not to disrupt the picture, but you can use Zoom chat to comment on the film and otherwise interact without interrupting the movie.
You can also use Netflix Party, which syncs up your viewing experience so all parties are watching the movie at the same point. You can pause and resume in unison, and can interact via the in-app chat.
11. Live sports events
Many people love watching sports and following their favorite teams. Many people also enjoy sharing this experience with their friends, family, and their team’s wider fan base. So why not try watching live sporting events on a Zoom call? You can even use the chat and polls to engage with each other, from commenting on the action to placing bets (gentleman’s or otherwise) on what will happen.
Be sure to mute when not talking, so as not to disrupt the sound. Also try to watch on the same channel, if possible, so that you are synced up and watching plays happen at the same time. Some channels can have a minor delay or slightly different commercial timing, and a major play could be ruined by your friends reacting before you!
Believe it or not, even karaoke can be done online over a video conference call. You may not sound as crisp over a Zoom call as you do in-person or on stage, but you can still sing and/or perform through a Zoom meeting if you have a high-quality audio and video setup.
Below are a number of karaoke sites and apps that can help you play karaoke with friends and family:
13. Work out
While not all of us consider working out a party, many of us love having a workout partner to help us stick to our routine and stay motivated. This is especially common in athletic activities that are typically done in groups in-person, such as aerobics or yoga. So try joining a Zoom call together and running a virtual workout routine. Your friends may not be able to ‘spot’ you while lifting, but at least they can emotionally support you and motivate you to do that extra push-up or hold that yoga pose a little longer.
14. Craft session and show and tell
Craft with friends over a video conference call, building together and sharing techniques as you go. Have one person run a guided session, or learn together on the go. The best part is that you can do a show and tell when you’re done. If your art needs time to sit and dry, you can always schedule a follow-up meeting just for show and tell.
This is a great party activity for kids, but make sure to keep your devices away from crafting materials that kids may spill on them!
Now that you’ve got ideas and know how to set up your Zoom virtual party, you can get started using Zoom. For help, check out how to use Zoom, helping you learn your way around basic meeting controls To help you manage your meetings, learn the available host controls and features.