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How to Throw an Online Party in the Age of COVID-19

Jon Fesmire | September 29, 2020 @ 9:00 AM

We hope everyone’s doing well with sheltering in place! If you’re getting stir crazy, we understand that, but there’s no reason to hold an in-person party and risk COVID-19 infection. If you need to spend time with friends or even throw a party, the Internet has you covered.

We’ve already written about remaining social during the COVID-19 pandemic and encourage you to check out the suggestions there. It may even give you some party ideas. However, throwing a party during this time requires going into more depth, and that’s just what we’ll do here.

Decide on a Time Frame

A good amount of time for an online party is one to two hours, depending on how much you have to share and how many people are participating. If, after the time is up, people still want to hang around, you can allow for it to go into overtime.

Have a Theme

This isn’t always necessary but is fun. Your child may want a specific theme for their birthday party. In that case, you could email all the guests Zoom backgrounds to pick from based on the theme, or mail packages of party favors to the other children about a week in advance. If it’s a Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas party, you can pick activities related to the season. For example, on Halloween, everyone can wear their costumes and use spooky backgrounds. For Christmas, you can exchange gift cards or everyone can mail each other presents in enough time to open them together over video.

Send a Nice Invitation

Facebook is probably the best place to invite everyone to your online party. Most people are on the platform, and all you have to do is create an event and invite them. They can easily RSVP on the site, too. Plus, you can add images and turn your group into a sort of online card.

Activities for Everyone

At in-person parties, you’ll often have events that everyone participates in, and times when people break off into groups for more personal conversations. Breakout groups are possible in the various video conference programs, including Zoom and Google Meet. For Skype, you would need to create a separate call. However, people from the main call you can text people in other groups when a new major event is scheduled.

Provide a Schedule

An easy way to do this is with a Google Doc file which you can then share with participants. You can schedule a time for announcements, games, and the grand finale. This is a great way to do it and fits with any theme. During the announcements phase, people get to catch up and share their news. Extend this a bit and you can have time for show and tell, allowing people to show something cool they got or created since everyone last saw each other. When the time comes where you would normally play an in-person game, instead you can play an online game. We’ll cover that in more detail next.

During the grand finale phase, you can open presents, have the guest sing happy birthday and your child (or you!) blow out the candles on the cake, or announce the winners of a Halloween costume contest. This is an excellent way to make the party memorable.

Play an Online Game

People have been playing online games for decades now and there are many options. Some games integrate with the video platform. For example, Jackbox Games has dozens of titles that integrate into Google Meet. There are sites where you can play Cards Against Humanity, Bingo, and Charades. Some games you’ll have to play in another browser window, but guests at the party can all log into the same game. You can even use breakout rooms to create teams.

If you’ve never played an MMORPG like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars, you can play them together as well, so long as everyone has an account. Just keep the video conference going in the background and play the game on top of it. To make sure the game runs smoothly, consider having everyone turn off their video cameras.

Don’t expect your first party to go perfectly. There’s a learning curve for everything. As long as people enjoy themselves your party is a success. You can pat yourself on the back, knowing you created a wonderful social occasion for friends and loved ones.

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