Rob Dolin's Blog

Thoughts on technology, politics, non-profits, and their intersections; and food

Tips for a Virtual Thanksgiving

Below are tips for organizing a virtual Thanksgiving based on my experience setting-up virtual holiday meals (Passover) at the beginning of COVID.  Wishing you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving.

Use Zoom – There are a number of apps that provide video chat, but Zoom seems to be the gold standard for multi-person video conferencing.  Zoom has apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android and in my experience, it is both easier to get working and has higher audio+video quality than Microsoft Teams which I also use extensively since it is required by Seattle Public Schools.  Apple Facetime is also a consideration, but I don’t recommend it for a group because it only works on Apple products and it’s not well optimized for more than two people.  Download Zoom from: https://zoom.us

Choose a Memorable Meeting ID – Pick a meeting ID that will be memorable for your loved ones who may not be active Zoom users.  We chose the home land line number of my parents which they and all of their children (now adults) know by heart. 

No Password, but Admin Approved – To make joining easy on my parents who are in their 70’s and another family member who lives alone and is not very tech-savvy, we set-up the meeting without a password.  I strongly recommend this as it’s easy to tell or TXT a 10-digit meeting ID to people but harder to ask them to dig-up a hyperlink with a longer password.  To protect against potentially unwanted guests, you as the meeting Host can set-up your Zoom meeting so the Host admits people.  (This is the default setting.)  You’ll get pop-up notifications in your meeting and can go to the Participants tab to see if anyone is waiting to be admitted. 

Laptop or iPad for the group screen – I recommend a laptop or iPad with the ability to set-up “gallery” view and setting this in a place of honor at your table with a good view of most of the table.  We have a round table and piled some books on a chair so the laptop was at an appropriate height.  This was also like having all of the virtual guests at the table.  If you only have a mobile device, I recommend a simple holder or tripod.

Additional Screens for Kids – If you have younger kids who will want to see grandma and grandpa, consider providing them with a mobile phone or laptop (with audio NOT connected.)  All three of our kids love to talk to Bubbie, Zayde, Nana, or Papa and giving them each their own screen lets them see the action and lets grandparents see the grandkids.  To prevent echo, only one device in the room is connected to audio. 

Pick a Date that Works for You: Normally the festive Passover Seder is held on the 1st and 2nd nights of Passover.  We did a Seder on the 3rd night with some of our close friends we normally get together with as it was the time that worked well for everyone.  Being together (virtually) is what matters, not the specific date. 

Plan a Test / Dry Run – Connect 1:1 with loved ones who may not be active Zoom users and talk them through setting-up.  We did a Facetime call with my in-laws to coach them through installing the Zoom app and joining a meeting.

Thank you again for reading and I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving—

–Rob

Filed under: Personal, Step-by-step, Technology

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