Connect for a chat or virtual party this Christmas 

Christmas is going to be a bit different for most of us this year – but even if we can’t meet up in person with our friends and family that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a good natter with those we love. Our top tips will help you to make Christmas special – you’ll just need the right technology and a bit of creativity.

 
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Best tech for a quick face-to-face chat

If you want to have a video catchup with one person or a small group on your smartphone then the quickest and easiest ways are FaceTime (for Apple products like iPhone – you can find a guide here) or WhatsApp.  And, apart from potential data charges if you’re not using WiFi, video calls – even international ones - are free.

WhatsApp is a fantastic way to keep in touch with groups of friends, family, neighbours or club members – at Christmas or all year around. Once you’ve set up a group you can quickly share messages, videos, photographs, files and links to websites – and if your group has less than eight people you can call them all at the same time by tapping the phone icon (for voice only calls) or camera icon (for video calls) at the top right of the screen. You can download WhatsApp here.

Why not try? Setting up a Christmas WhatsApp group for friends and family members – ask them to share festive pictures, TV and film suggestions, recipes, and jokes to spread a bit of seasonal cheer.

Zoom Christmas video

Best tech for a virtual party

Zoom has become the go-to video app for virtual meet up’s this year and that’s mainly because it is fairly intuitive to use, you can chat to lots of people at the same time and it’s free (for a 40-minute meeting anyway.)  You can download it here on your smartphone or device (although you may find it easier to navigate on a laptop or computer.) You’ll find helpful video guides on how to use it here

Other popular alternatives include, Google Hangouts and Skype. For more user support the University of the Third Age (U3A) offer tutorials or ask a tech-savvy friend or relative for advice.

Virtual party planning tips
If you’d like to plan a virtual Christmas get together, make sure you download your app of choice well in advance of when you want to use it and have a practice session with a friend.
 
Mastered the technology? It’s time to think about making your festive party fun… Don’t forget to add your ideas to your invite, so people know what to expect.

Virtual Christmas party ideas

Think of theme
What’s your party’s vibe? Sophisticated soiree? Fancy dress? And, while you’re at it, why not theme your backdrop too? Most video meet up apps will let you change your background, so you can host your party from Santa’s grotto if you want to.

Invite your guests to dress up!
Go glam and glitter, or elf ears and Santa hats - a dress code will help to make your party feel special.

Plan a game/activity
From Secret Santa (just takes a bit of prep!) to family friendly quizzes (again a bit of prep and a PowerPoint deck) and Karaoke, the only limit is your imagination. Traditional charades or ‘quick draw’ games where you ask people to guess for example, a Christmas film, from a rapid sketch – work well on video.

But if that all sounds way too complicated, just think of a few ice-breaker questions to get the conversation flowing – like, What’s your favourite Christmas movie? What’s the worst Christmas song? What’s the strangest present you’ve ever received?

Plan food and drink

Whether it’s coffee and mince pies, champagne and Christmas cake or cocktails and crisps, shared food and drink give a focus to your party – and allow you to raise a toast to each other too. Just let people know in advance, so they can get supplies in.

Share an ‘experience’

From live theatretoIt’s a Wonderful Life or the EastEnders Christmas special, video apps make it possible to make your viewing entertainment a shared experience – grab some popcorn and you can watch each other watching the same thing at the same time. Through Zoom/Skype/Hangouts it’s as simple as sharing your screen – but apps like Teleparty are specifically designed to be more interactive.

Share exercise

Similarly you can share an online exercise or yoga class with friends and family to work off the Quality Street, set joint fitness goals – or just for a bit of a giggle.

Share a story

Video apps are great for reading your favourite Christmas books and poems to grandchildren or young relatives and are perfect for a regular catch up.

Whatever you do, don’t let glitches get you down

Technology is brilliant, but it also goes wrong quite regularly – whether it’s human error (chatting away on mute, again!) or connection issues (frozen screen, again!). But it’s worth persevering, practising and learning, because when it goes right it’s (almost) as good as meeting up in person. But if it really isn’t working for you, pick up the phone for an old-reliable voice call – the most important thing is to reach out and keep in touch this Christmas.

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