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Zoom party ideas to make virtual parties feel fresh again

Zoom fatigue setting in? Here are five tips to make your video calls with friends and family more fun.
Zoom party ideas
Here's how to make it feel more like a party and less like (yet another) meeting.Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/TODAY illustration
/ Source: TMRW

It's almost a year into the pandemic and we’re still thankful for the technology that helps us stay in touch with friends and family while staying safe and socially distant — but Zoom fatigue is also very real.

Hopping onto a virtual call with friends felt fun and fresh at the beginning, but these days it can feel so stale and overdone that canceling Zoom plans is the new canceling in-real-life plans.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Here are some Zoom party ideas to make it a lively affair that won’t make your guests want to leave the meeting (or feel like they're at one). Below, see five things to keep in mind when planning your next event, whether it’s a casual group brunch, virtual birthday party or even a fancy special occasion.

1. Plan the party around a specific group activity

Online cocktail party
Instead of just having a standard Zoom happy hour with friends, invite a mixologist to join and teach everyone how to make the cocktails you'll drink. Getty Images

Gone are the days when a simple Zoom chat invitation sounds enticing. Instead, try group activities, and the more creative the better. Seri Kertzner, owner of Little Miss Party in New York City, said one of the biggest virtual party trends she’s seeing right now is bringing in a special guest, like a mixologist or magician, to participate with the guests.

Game nights are also big. Some people are even having PowerPoint parties where attendees come up with creative presentations on topics of their choice, usually resulting in lots of laughter.

Other popular themes include wine or craft beer tastings, murder mystery parties, group classes like painting or yoga, and even karaoke (if you’re feeling brave, of course).

2. Send out physical favors beforehand

Perhaps the best way to ensure robust attendance to your Zoom party is by sending out some physical goodies to guests before the party. “It 100% gets your guests so excited to receive something in advance,” Kertzner told TMRW.

For example, if you’re having a cocktail night with a mixologist, you could send everyone a cocktail shaker, stir sticks, cute cups, straws and cocktail napkins, she suggested.

Other ideas include a basket of ingredients for a cooking class, microwavable popcorn for movie night or party hats and poppers for a birthday party. Kertzner’s company has jumped on this trend, offering a line of party-in-a-box products that feature decor, balloons and tableware for Zoom hosts to send to their guests.

3. Get creative with the aesthetic details

Zoom Backgrounds
Washi tape can turn your boring white wall into a fabulous and colorful Zoom background.Little Miss Party Planner

In real-life parties, it's all about wearing the perfect outfit. These days, it’s more about having the perfect background. “Anything that you can affix to your wall is perfect,” Kertzner said. “We love using non-damaging Command hooks for banners, streamers and balloons because there is no limit to what you can do and create on the wall behind you.”

Looking to DIY? Washi tape can turn your boring white wall into a colorful design, paper cut-outs taped behind you can really bring home your party’s theme and balloons can add an extra pop of festiveness.

Of course, there are tons of virtual background options as well. You can find ones already made online or you can create your own. Some fun ideas include a scene inside your favorite restaurant, a beautifully displayed cake table or a crowded dance floor.

Group participation can also make the party more fun. Before the event, encourage guests to get creative with their backgrounds or send them some ideas from which they can choose. One bride even created printable decorations for her guests to download before her virtual wedding. “The biggest surprise for me was how much guests embraced it,” Elisa Benson told TMRW. “People hung up the decorations in their home. One family friend printed a giant banner. We saw paper flowers pinned to dog collars.”

You may also want to have a dress code that goes with theme ('80s attire, for example) or just a simple suggestion: “Wear your most festive party hat!” and see what people come up with.

4. Make bigger parties feel more intimate

If you’re hosting a big event, say a wedding or birthday party with lots of guests, try Zoom’s breakout rooms functionality to create a sort of “cocktail hour” feel. Benson did this for her virtual wedding with the help of the team at Wedfuly. “This meant they manually sorted our guests into specific rooms according to a list we gave them, where we'd arranged the names into ‘tables’ just like you would do for an in-person wedding,” she explained, adding there were 300 attendees total. She and her groom, Peter Gaston, would pop into the different breakout rooms to catch up with people more intimately.

“We heard so much feedback from guests about this — some of the rooms were, like, a drunken ruckus of friends and others ended up being a motley crew of strangers,” she said. “I felt like it replicated the experience of a real-life cocktail hour, where you're reunited with your besties but also taking a random loner guest under your wing and also chatting up someone's uncle who you've never met.”

5. Add a dance party

Peter and Elisa's Wedding
Elisa Benson and Peter Gaston dance at their virtual wedding reception. Laura June Kirsch /

Dance parties on Zoom aren’t necessarily a new trend, but there are some things you can do to make them better for the virtual experience. Whether it’s for a birthday party, wedding or even a much-needed happy hour with friends, music and dancing can really bring life to your event — as long as you do it right.

Benson and Gaston learned from their DJ Julie Potash Slavin, aka DJ Hesta Prynn, that the secret to Zoom dance parties is that you have to be campier and sillier to make it work. “Having a real DJ like Julie was so worth it, because she could turn a playlist of songs that was two hours and get through the jams in 30 minutes,” Gaston said.

Also, keeping it short is definitely key. “We kept it to 30 minutes total, which is about as long as you’d want to dance around in front of your computer screen,” he added.

The bottom line? Partying in person will happen again, but in the meantime, allow yourself to fully embrace the virtual fun. “Seeing all of our friends and family celebrating from their living rooms, all decorated for the occasion, with their kids twirling around, was moving in a way I didn't expect,” Benson said. “The magic of technology!”