Virtual Dinner Parties: How to Host Them (and How to Be a Good Guest, too)

Table of Contents

  1. Choose the Right Platform
  2. Plan Ahead
  3. Have a Theme and a Menu
  4. Keep the Conversation Alive
  5. Being a Good Guest

This has definitely been quite an eventful year, not to mention a year filled with changes and rather a large amount of drama. So it is no wonder, then, that we feel an increased need to kick back and relax, to unwind and socialize. 

In the age of social distancing, though, this can sometimes be quite challenging. These days however, thanks to technology, what used to be considered impossible has now become not only possible, but also something we can do on a regular basis.

Socializing now doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to be in the same place, same town or even the same time zone! The parameters have expanded to allow for us to connect with friends and family from all across the world. Throughout the ages and all across the world, food has always been a means of bringing people together.

A picture of a holiday dinner spread with two people serving food.

Today, despite all the social distancing directives, we can still have our big family meals over the holidays and on special occasions. No matter the distance, it is possible now to always keep your loved ones close, especially during the holiday season. Just because it is all done virtually, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be any less personal or special.

Our Wi-Fi connection has now become our big, long dinner table and our phone, tablet or laptop has become the new place setting. While it may seem a little impersonal to begin with (new things do take time to get used to), there are many ways to make it just as enjoyable and fun as a regular, old school get together. And, as with regular dinner parties, there are a few do’s and don’ts that will help to make it a great experience for all involved. 

Whether you are hosting a virtual dinner party, or attending one, there are some very useful tips to keep in mind to make sure that everything goes without a hitch (provided you have a strong internet connection) and everyone has a good time. 

Following are a few ways in which to ensure that you host a successful and fun virtual dinner party each and every single time, and that when attending a virtual dinner party you will be the perfect guest. 

Choose the Right Platform

It is important to make sure that when you invite your guests, everyone is ready to use the same video platform. Due to the fact that there are quite a few to choose from, try to pick one that is more popular and that can accommodate the amount of people you would like to host:

  • Skype – Skype is free and easy to download and you will be able to have a video conference with up to 50 people for four hours.
  • Zoom – Zoom is also easy and free to download and install. One of the best features of Zoom is that it will show everyone’s camera feed simultaneously. It is perhaps a better platform to use if you are thinking of having a large group.
  • Google Hangouts – Google Hangouts is another great platform to use since you don’t need a separate application to run this program; it can be accessed straight from your Google account and is also free.

It may be a good idea to find out from your prospective guests what their favorite platform is to use and then try to find a common ground that is acceptable to everyone. 

Plan Ahead

While spur of the moment can be fun at times, it is not the best policy for a virtual dinner party, especially since there is a lot more to take into account and plan for. Therefore it is best to send out tentative invites well ahead of the date you are planning for to find out when everyone is available.

A picture of a homemade present from a child to their Mom and Dad.

If your guest list is going to be quite substantial, be prepared for some invited guests not being able to make the date that you have set. When this happens, let them know that they will be on the guest list for the next virtual dinner and make a note to invite them the next time around. 

Once you have decided on the date and time, formal (or informal) invites can then be sent out to all the guests. Depending on the platform you are using, there may be a meeting password for guests to join. Be sure to add the password to the invite if there is a password. 

Have a Theme and Menu

Most dinner parties have a theme and, obviously, a menu. Normally, guests would just be informed of dress code and if they needed to bring anything along to the party. With a virtual dinner party, though, this is a little different.

For all your guests to be able to enjoy the evening, everyone will need to know what the theme for the party is…as well as the menu, since they will need to make more or less the same on their side. For instance, if the theme is Mexican, the guests will need to make sure they have the right groceries to make what’s on the menu, whether it is salsa, fajitas or tacos. 

A great idea is to send out a detailed description of the chosen theme, along with a menu (and even a grocery list, if you like) so that everybody can be prepared and have more or less the same food. With everyone on the same page for the menu, it will be a great discussion point during dinner as the guests share their cooking experiences!

When setting the menu and theme, keep in mind everyone’s likes and dislikes. Know your family and friends and what they will enjoy…or not enjoy. Endeavor not to be too strict with it and keep it fun. It’s important to keep in mind the dietary needs of your guests. Don’t put something on the menu that will clash with their dietary needs.

Whether you are hosting a games night, murder mystery party or just a casual family get together, there are plenty of awesome ideas out there to make sure that yours is the best and most epic dinner party ever! 

Keep Conversation Alive

When everyone has joined, let each person have a couple of minutes to introduce themselves (if there are those who don’t know everyone else in the group) and give a short update on how they have been. Once that is done, it would also be fun for each person to show their meal and describe shortly any challenges in making it. 

As with all dinner parties there needs to be a constant flow of entertaining and interesting conversation. One of the best ways to ensure that this is the case in your dinner party is to have a conversation mediator. This helps when the party is larger, especially to make sure that everyone has a chance to talk and that there aren’t guests who never get a word in.

A family having a toast while around the dinner table.

For family gatherings it is easier as conversation tends to flow naturally, but it is also useful to keep a few anecdotes on hand for when things get a little quiet, or when the conversation needs a bit of a lift. Ask pertinent questions and strive to keep the conversation as upbeat as possible. 

Another good point to remember is to steer clear of explosive topics that could end in the dinner party being a disaster instead of a success. It is acceptable to even send out a short list of taboo topics when you send out the invite. This way everybody will be on the same page and you can ensure that disaster is averted.

The Ultimate Guest

Having a successful dinner party isn’t always about being the perfect host. Sometimes, it is about being the perfect guest. There are a few things to remember when being a guest at a virtual dinner party. 

  • Always RSVP in a timely manner; don’t leave it till the last minute to reply to the invite. Your host will need time to plan, so don’t leave them hanging around waiting to find out whether you are attending or not.
  • Arrive on time; being late leaves a very poor impression and may be the reason you aren’t invited the next time around. However, don’t arrive too early, either.
  • Make sure that you aren’t replying to text messages or getting other calls during dinner. Disable the notifications on your device before you arrive so that all your attention will be devoted to your host and the others guests.
  • When you aren’t speaking, disable your microphone so that there is less background noise. To do this just tap on the little microphone at the bottom of the video screen when you want to mute yourself, and then when you want to talk again, you can just tap it again and it will be active. 

After Dinner Mint …

At the end of dinner, keep aside about twenty minutes or even half an hour to just sit back and enjoy each other’s company over a last glass of wine or coffee and after dinner mints. It’s the perfect way to wind down the evening and it will also bring the party to a successful close.

Toast to the future: may it be brighter and happier and more fulfilling than ever before!
 As always, if you’re needing more information about how to host or behave during a virtual dinner party, consider reaching out to HelpCloud Technicians for remote support.

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About the author

Photo of Erik Fullmer

Erik Fullmer

Erik was raised in many places but has long since called Utah home. Rooted in mountains, he spends a lot of time with his dogs in the mountains and in the winter he skis… a lot.

Erik is actively earning the necessary certifications and training to become a certified AMGA Ski Guide.

With over a decade of content writing experience, Erik finds passion when writing for the tech and outdoor recreation industries.