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It seems like everything in 2020 has to be done differently than before, and our holiday gatherings are no exception. Many families will be getting together via video conferencing this year, and while it may take a little extra planning and careful coordination, by keeping a few things in mind you can be sure to have a holiday season to remember.
Make Clear Plans
While it might be tempting to have an “open forum” for online video conferencing, this can be fatiguing or impossibly confusing. It’s better to set clear expectations for when you and your loved ones will be gathering, with specific times for the beginning and end of the video conference.
It may be helpful to create a printable schedule of events. This would be one “sheet” on which any and all video conferences will be listed with clear beginnings and endings and what types of activities you plan for each one, so those who join can be prepared. Are you going to share a meal together, have drinks, or play a board game? Everyone will need to know so they can set up their video conferencing equipment appropriately in their space and have the right accoutrement on hand. Use clip art and a festive background for an artful touch!
Test Everything Out
While some members of your inner circle may be old-hand at using video conferencing technology, others may have never used it before. Once your celebrations begin, you want to be reasonably sure that everyone will be able to join without much trouble, so things can move along smoothly and according to schedule. Have everyone test their equipment beforehand to make sure they’ll be able to connect when the celebration begins.
This testing should include concerns about their internet connection, the camera, microphone and speakers on the device they’re using, and whether the lighting is appropriate in their space. If someone needs to add more lights, move some around, or stage themself in a different location in the home, that should be worked out in advance.
Make Sure All Communication Needs Are Met
Those with hearing loss may have Bluetooth- or telecoil-enabled hearing aids that, when integrated with their video conferencing device, can be a real help to them. Similarly, if others on the call are well lit and appropriately close to their cameras, it will make it easier to read lips. Webcam lighting kits can be really useful for making sure no one is lost in the darkness.
If you have loved ones with autism or ADHD, they might not be inclined to stay on the conference for its entire duration. Talk to them in advance and agree on a time when they’ll be present, and try to plan things for that time that they’ll enjoy.
While it may seem like traditions need to go out the window this year, you may be able to make them work with a little adjustment. Do you and your loved ones typically watch a movie together after dinner? You can do what while video conferencing, depending on the strength of everyone’s internet connection. Do you like board games? There’s an online version of most any board game in existence. (Zoom’s whiteboard function is great for Pictionary!)
Think about your traditions and how they can be adapted for this season. Get your loved ones involved, too. They may have insight into how to modify a tradition, or they might even think of one you’ve forgotten!
Give Communications Gifts In Advance
If you’re planning to give a gift that aids a loved one in communication, get it to them in advance of your celebrations! Anything that makes video conferencing more pleasant will be appreciated not just during your holiday together but through the duration of the pandemic and any time in the future they want to communicate long distance. Here are a few ideas the hearing-impaired people in your life might appreciate:
- Hearing aid supplies like batteries, cleaning supplies or accessories. Keeping hearing aids in shape and getting helpful accessories will be appreciated well into the new year.
- Phones and phone accessories. Bluetooth-equipped phones or amplified phones, for when they’re not wearing their hearing aids, will keep conversation accessible at all times.
- Webcam lighting kits. A single photo-quality lamp that sets on a desk or clips to the screen of a laptop, this will ensure they’re brightly lit and video-conference ready with any device.