I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve been more socially active in the past several weeks than in the previous six years, since I started having kids. Let’s face it: the hassle of getting someone to mind your kids, checking in on them while you’re out and, if said night out includes drinks, having to get up and parent the morning after, is not something most parents enjoy. At some point, through the years, my husband and I started preferring Friday nights in as opposed to Friday nights out.

With everyone we know in quarantine, it suddenly feels like we’re back in the game. All of our friends are staying in at the weekend and this situation has resulted in some really great Zoom gatherings. I should say that Zoom will never replace real-time, face to face interaction, but for these times it’s a close second. If we have to stay in, we might as well attempt to enjoy ourselves.

Zooming

If you’re not familiar with Zoom, it’s a platform that many businesses and individuals use to have remote meetings. If you have access to a Zoom account, you can share a link with anyone and invite them to a Zoom meeting. If you don’t have a Zoom account, you can still download the Zoom app on to your phone ot tablet.

There have been some criticisms of Zoom and how easily meetings can be accessed by other people. I don’t regularly use Zoom for business, so I haven’t worried about these issues very much.

Tips and tricks

After several weeks of using Zoom, I’ve picked up a few tips that might make your gathering more fun:

1. Don’t expect the chat to go on forever

There’s only so much virtual meeting most people can take. In many instances, my friends have had other Zoom, Instagram or WhatsApp meetings with other groups of friends after meeting with me, so scheduling things to last an hour makes sense. It allows for people who are running late to show up, and enables others to leave when they wish.

2. Schedule in some structured fun

This could include trivia, fancy dress, bake-offs and a great many other things. I don’t do this all the time – sometimes, the group just wants to chat – but I have noticed that if one person is in charge of how the gathering goes; there are fewer awkward silences and fewer people talking at the same time.

3. Have specified kid-friendly Zoom times

I’m sure your kids are all angels, but mine are a nightmare when I’m trying to hear what friends and family are trying to say on Zoom. Make sure those in your party really want to engage and chat with your kids before you bring them on. Especially younger kids – once they see themselves on the screen they’re going to want to act silly. This is cute, but it’s not great for making conversation.

4. Virtual card games

When my husband and I do this, we connect our laptop to the television for Zoom and use our phones for the game (you can also do both on your phone, but I find this easier). Find an online card game site, like playingcards.io, which provides several different virtual card games like Crazy Eights or Cards Against Humanity – you simply start a game with your phone and send the invite link to the others in your Zoom party. It’s a great way to spend a Friday night.

5. Real games

Games like Pictionary and Charades, are possible via Zoom party, while others can be played virtually. This includes Bingo, Scattergories, random trivia and virtual Family Feud.