• John Lim

MF 317 : Tips for a virtual Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving

Today, I look at some of the video conferencing options for hosting a virtual Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving event. More at www.bemovingforward.com.

Moving Forward is also available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and now Amazon Music.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday this week, episode 317 will air on Monday, November 23rd.

Tools for hosting a virtual Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is here. Doesn’t quite feel like it. Then again, nothing quite feels the same this year. Thanksgiving 2020 is going to be low key for me. Thankfully, I’ve been spending most of this year with my dad since March. We’re in the “same bubble” so to speak, which means we’re in the same household and able to spend the holiday together. However, we won’t be able to invite extended family or friends, as we often do, to make the holiday more festive.

The bigger impact will be on Friendsgiving, a tradition I’ve been a part of for the last five years or so. Since 2015, I’ve gotten together with friends, mostly from b-school, around this time of year to celebrate friendship and the holidays. The first one was a very small group and each year, it has blossomed with more people, both familiar and new, to join in the fun.

This year, we’re not doing an in-person Friendsgiving and have opted to attempt our first virtual one. As I shared two weeks ago, I’ve been doing a lot of virtual courses and networking, and last spring, I did a few virtual happy hours. However, this will be the first larger scale social event using virtual tech.

Below are some of the options for hosting a virtual Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, with some pros, cons, and considerations.

Zoom

Zoom has become of the poster child for video conferencing this year. It’s become the standard bearer for virtual meetings, online classrooms and happy hours.

Zoom has both a web version and an app, which you can download for your computer or mobile device. The platform has both a free and premium version with prices that range depending on need. Capacity is up to 100 participants, which is more than adequate for even the largest holiday celebrations.

Zoom is also a great option for connecting with people overseas, subject to certain limitations. The free plan normally has a time limit of 40 minutes per session. However, it will be lifting this restriction during the Thanksgiving holiday. If you’re already used to Zoom and use it on the regular, it may be a good option for your virtual holiday get together.

Skype

Skype has been in the video and audio chat game for a long time. It’s what I use for podcast and video cast interviews and many use it for work purposes. So, it may not immediately spring to mind as you think about planning a virtual “holiday get together,” however, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a Zoom alternative.

Skype is available on the web and has a robust app for computers and mobile devices. You can host up to 50 participants and its video chat quality is superb, being that it’s owned and supported by Microsoft. The downside to Skype is that you need a Skype account to participate. Setting up an account is quick and free but you may find that many of your participants spin their wheels trying to look up their old Skype usernames and passwords that they created 10 years ago.

Facebook Video Chat

Facebook has been investing a lot into its video conferencing capabilities with its acquisitions of WhatsApp and via its messaging platform. Recently, Facebook upgraded it’s video conferencing capabilities to allow up to 50 participants. You can also pre-schedule these meetings with options to feature it on your stories and even stream live on your or your page’s feed if you so choose.

This year, we opted to use Facebook for Friendsgiving since it was the platform that the majority of us are on. Further, the few of us who are not on Facebook can join via a link as Facebook video conferencing doesn’t require an account.

I scheduled an online Facebook event, created the video conference room, and populated the URL in the event with the link.

To spruce it up, I created a header graphic using Canva and disguised the messy URL with bit.ly, which I talked about last week. This way, I could send it out via text message in addition to posting it on the FB event.

The downside to Facebook is not everyone is a fan of the platform. Facebook is also more restricted in other countries, compared to other platforms. However, if you’re planning a holiday event, in which most of your participants are on Facebook, it may be a quick, user-friendly option.

There are many more virtual conference and video platforms out there, both free and premium, so you may want to do some research to find the right one for you. Today, I just scratched the surface with some of the more common ones.

Whatever your plans are this year, I hope you all stay safe and have an enjoyable holiday.

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