How To Host An Easy & Engaging Online Family Reunion

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Stay connected with your loved ones by hosting an online family reunion! The planning’s all done, and we’ve included tons of fantastic activities.

Between having to find jobs all over the US, or the world really, typical families today live an average of 200 miles from their grandparents, staying connected can be hard. That means that keeping in touch is paramount to maintaining relationships.

It’s hard enough to keep up with your own children and grandchildren, let alone your siblings and their families. As you go out further on that family tree limb, staying in touch with everyone is nearly impossible. When is the last time you talked with your cousin?

Hosting a online family reunion can bridge those gaps. They can help you follow along or be an active participant in more of your family’s fun. Nowadays, there’s only a few occasions that families gather together, usually weddings and funerals. You can change this without too much trouble or work.

In this article we’ll tell help you plan an easy and extremely rewarding family reunion online. There are three main ideas:

  • Why an Online Family Reunion is for you
  • How to Start a Family Reunion Facebook Group
  • What to do before, during, and after the family reunion

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Why Should I Have a Virtual Family Reunion?

  • Distance – so many family members live far away
  • Money – not everyone can afford to attend a live one
  • Preparation- to gather info for your in-person reunion

It seems like we are doing everything virtually nowadays. The necessity to come up with alternate ways to accomplish the things you want to do can be difficult sometimes, but at least holding an online family reunion will make everyone happy.

The last in-person family reunion I ran was tons of work. Work that I didn’t always feel appreciated for doing. There are always those family members that want, want, want, and yet they aren’t going to help plan, or do anything, and they’ll complain about the price as well as plenty of other things as well.

Distance

Understand that it can be hard for some people to plan on attending a reunion, especially one that is pretty far away. We held our last one over a three day weekend, but it still meant taking time off for those relatives that live multiple states away.

When people are coming from all over, you have to make it a convenient time, find places for everyone to stay, and feed them. It just adds to your list of things to do, and no matter what someone will be unhappy about it.

Money

Sure if you are retired or have plenty of paid leave and aren’t the low man on the totem pole, you might be able to get the time off. However, if you are traveling your costs will skyrocket as a participant. You not only have to pay for the reunion fees, but gas, hotels, maybe even airline tickets.

The biggest hurdles to holding any on-location reunion are time and money, so connecting with people online is more accessible for everyone regardless of job, money, or where they live.

Preparation

One of the best benefits of holding a virtual reunion is that it doesn’t have to be a one and done situation. Everyone is online, and it doesn’t cost any more money to be on the phone. So it’s easy to collect information in the form of photos, stories, addresses, and more.

One of my friends just held a video call reunion with 150 of her relatives from all over the world. What was their main goal other than to just see how everyone was doing? To plan for the full on, in person reunion they will hold next year.

Meanwhile they had collected email addresses, updated their birthday list and address list, and shared all kinds of photos that will be used in some activities next year.

How to Host a Virtual Family Reunion Info Graphic
4 Steps to a great virtual family reunion.

How to Prepare For Your Reunion

  • Start a Facebook Group
  • Determine the information you would like to gather
  • Plan some online activities before the meeting day
  • Collect email addresses and figure out when is the most convenient time to call
  • Put out some meeting protocols

Start a Private Facebook Group

Start your own group on Facebook. Make it “Private” so that no one outside the family can see any of your discussions or photos. It makes it a safe place to share, without worrying.

Why Would I start A Family Reunion Facebook Group?

There are a couple of good reasons to start a family group:

  1. A conversation is started. Even if you never take it further, you are communicating with your relatives on a more regular and simple basis.
  2. Some people feel intimidated about “talking” and sharing online. This will help them get used to contributing in a very safe environment. Hopefully, this will lessen their trepidation by the time you want to hold the family reunion call.
  3. Perhaps the most important reason is to start gathering information so that you can really get a lot more out of your reunion whether it is online or in person.

Video Tutorial for Creating a Family Group on Facebook

This video will help you make a private Facebook group for your family reunion.

Some Important Items To Keep In Mind When Creating Your Group

  • Only have one or two administrators
  • Make sure that you make rules and include no inviting outside people
  • No sharing any of this information, photos, etc. in other groups or pages

Collecting Email Addresses

After creating your group, you will want to invite all those family members that you are friends with in Facebook. However, this will not be everyone in the family, so for one of your first posts, enlist your family’s help in getting everyone on Facebook and joining the group.

Right away, one of your first posts should be about collecting email addresses, so that you can make sure that you will be able to invite everyone on your video call. Once you have their email, send them a quick welcome to the group via email so that you know the email works.

Invite All Family Members & Start Training Them

One of the main reasons that children aren’t intimidated with using anything new technology-wise is that they have grown up in a world where something not working is okay. For some reason, we of an older generation have this hang up about doing it wrong.

Just like with anything, the way to get over this fear is to use technology more and more. By creating a Facebook group for the family, some of your more reluctant relatives will get some practice.

It also is a way to find out who is having problems, and then, once identified, you can suggest having one of their children, grandchildren, or even neighbors come over and help them get started. With these relatives, it might also be a good idea to have a practice call prior to the real thing.

Determine the Types of Information You Want To Gather

Many times at a physical reunion, you ask relatives to bring in photos and recipes. With these you can add them to a reunion book, a dedicated cookbook or album, or just share them around. The great thing about your group is you can do all of this collecting ahead of time, and a little at a time, so it’s not such a daunting task.

Some Information to Gather:

  • Family Tree info such as full names and nicknames
  • Dates – births, marriages, and deaths
  • Major Accomplishments – ie. degrees, special awards, being on TV or in a parade
  • Occupations, military service, and talents
  • Personal timelines which can include where they lived, went to school, jobs they held, and other major life events

Pro Tip: Some people will respond quicker and with accurate info, and of course some will never respond. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple times during your collection period to get as many responses as possible.

Some Photos To Collect:

  • Multiple photos of each person throughout their lives, including individual and group photos
  • Pets, houses, cars, jobs, vacations, everyday life
  • Family heirlooms like bibles, books, paintings, handmade items, artwork
  • Letters, certificates, handwritten recipes
  • Then and now photos

Pro Tip: Photos are fun, so you want to collect as many as you can utilizing a variety of themes. Luckily, today most people love taking fun photos and you can really do a lot with them.

Plan Posts and Activities For Your Facebook Family Group

Depending on your goals, you might want to keep either an information checklist or spreadsheet of the posts you have made to your family group. As I mention in the video, you can plan out and schedule your posts so that (a) the conversation keeps going, and (b) you have given your family multiple times to respond.

Check Out This Video On How To Schedule Posts In Your Group

Make and Distribute Online Family Meeting Protocols

I don’t think my family is unique when it comes to someone is talking over someone else. If you walk into one of our family events, you need to be bold enough to make yourself heard. In person, this doesn’t create too many problems, but if you are hosting online, you don’t need people competing for talking time.

After you’ve run one or two meetings online, you’ll definitely have your own ideas on protocols, but here are a few we suggest to help you get started.

  • Don’t forget to use the chat board, you can contribute a lot that way.
  • Raise your hand if you want to speak.
  • Only speak when the host calls on you.
  • Hand signals for agreement is thumb up, and thumbs down for disagreement.
  • Silent clapping is always okay.
  • Waving is okay, too, but don’t speak when people enter or exit.
Computer with online family reunion activities.
Collecting recipes is one thing you can do beforehand.

Family Trivia – Information Gathering

The best way to find out trivia, interesting stories, and anecdotes on your family is to make posts that ask a question. The more time you have to sprinkle these throughout the time prior to your actual family reunion meeting day, the better.

As an example, recently I asked my family what wildlife experiences they have had. On my post, I asked the question, told one short anecdote of my experiences, and posted a photo. To my surprise, more people responded than I had expected, and because of it I have a few more bits of personal info to use during a trivia night, part of a memory book, or even an in-person ice breaker for the future.

Here are ten more questions to ask. If you would like a list full of 20 more questions, click here.

What Kinds Of Questions Can I Ask To Collect Trivia?

Here are a few question cards I developed for you. You can click on the photo and download them all three pages.

Question cards for asking your family trivia questions before your family reunion.

More Activities to Do In Your Group Before Your Reunion

  • Family Crest Contest
  • Crazy Hat or Crazy Socks
  • Who Am I?
  • Family Digital Map
  • Collect recipes
  • Video Interviews
  • 30 Day Challenge
  • Family Tree Branches
  • 2 Truths and a Lie
  • Name Story/Meaning
  • Reenact a photo from past

Family Crest Designs

Who doesn’t love a family crest? One great way to get the artists, kids, and creatives involved is give them something to design. A family crest design takes in the unique qualities that your family possesses. If you would like a blank family crest to fill in, click here.

Crazy Hat or Socks

Do you remember those days in elementary school and you got to dress up in a crazy hat or wear crazy socks or wear your favorite football team jersey? Everyone loves them, so give your family members a chance to get creative and dress up.

Who Am I?

Using some of the great photos you’ve collected or you already have, start the game with you posting a photo of someone, and asking your family to see if they can figure out who it is. If they can’t, start giving hints. Once someone guesses correctly they can post the next photo.

Post Locations on a Google Map

Using some of the great photos you’ve collected or you already have, start the game with you posting a photo of someone, and asking your family to see if they can figure out who it is. If they can’t, start giving hints. Once someone guesses correctly they can post the next photo.

Watch This Tutorial For Making a Family Reunion Google Map

Collect Family Recipes

There’s nothing that brings family together better than food. Whether it’s Sunday dinner or a holiday meal, we remember times we’ve eaten with each other much more than other times.

Many family reunions collect recipes so that you can either make a dedicated cookbook, or use them to sprinkle between other photos and stories in a memory book.

Video Interviews

Many reunions include interviews past and present of various relatives. In person, it’s easy to go around and collect them, but it’s just as easy online, maybe easier.

Develop a list of interview questions, no more than 10. From there you can have someone in your relative’s household video and ask the questions of the interviewee. These can be posted in your group.

Branches of Your Family Tree

Family trees are difficult, especially with the many types of family constructs we have nowadays. No big deal, though. Just distribute a Family Branch for each family clan to fill out. When finished they can take a photo and paste it on the group. For a Family Tree Branch, click here.

2 Truths ands 1 Lie

This is a fun activity to do for many occasions, but what better way to find out about your individual relatives? You start or pick someone who has played the game before. Post a photo and three statements, two of which are true, and one of which is a believable lie. The person who guesses the lie first is next.

Photo Reenactments

Find an old photo of you and your siblings, your parents, your pet, whatever, and then reenact it. For example, you holding your daughter right after she was born, would be a great photo. Now you have your daughter crawl up on your lap and take another photo. It’s cute and funny, and people love them.

Family Photos – 30 Day Challenge

We have become a photo happy society, which I personally love. A 30 day photo challenge is a great way for you to have 30 days of posts complete ahead of time, as well as collect fantastic photos of your relatives.

What Is The Agenda For Your Reunion Video Call?

  • Set up call and practice
  • Welcome statement and introductions and remind them of your call protocols
  • Choose one major activity to do
  • Closing & Group Wave Goodbye

Set Up Your Video Call & Practice

In order to set up your reunion call, you must have an account that will host large meetings. One of the current favorites is Zoom, because it is free for up to 100 people and 40 minutes. It’s true that an in person reunion would last much longer than that, but 40 minutes of a phone call is quite a bit of time.

Once you have a calling program, I would suggest calling a few people, like your kids, to practice on before the big day.

Pro Tip: Remember before you hold the call, you will need to have valid email addresses for all participants.

Welcome Statement and Introductions

After your initial welcome to participants, quickly remind them of the protocols you sent out and tell them you will call on them to introduce themselves. This alleviates everyone trying to talk at once. Each person does not have to talk. One main member can talk for the family during this time. It’s up to you and your timing.

Conduct Your Activity & Wave Goodbye

The purpose of your reunion might be just to chat. That’s okay. We need that nowadays. However, I’ve found that having a theme, a purpose, or a main event usually helps things along so that there is no dead time.

However, 40 minutes can go pretty quick, so think about this as you plan your activity. Perhaps your “reunion” is not done in only one sitting but 2 or 3. The first meeting can be chatting. The second could be something like Charades, and the final one can be planning for an in-person meeting.

Doing this online provides so many opportunities to do things your way, without the hassle of having to do it all at once.

Saying goodbye could take some time, so one of the best ways to do it is for you to close and tell everyone to wave goodbye.

Pro Tip: Taking screen shots during the reunion is a good way to add to your photo collection. Some great times to take photos is during the wave goodbye.

Tried and True Activities To Do During Your Online Reunion

  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Charades
  • Pictionary
  • Talent Show
  • Comedy Night
  • Karaoke
  • Family Trivia Contest
  • Family “Scatter”-gories

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are great for getting small family clans all involved in the activity, because the “speaker” can just sit while the others scour the house for the items.

You should have the list ready beforehand, and it’s also a good idea to have cards made with the items, so you can read it and show it at the same time. Make sure to set a time limit so that finding an item doesn’t go on too long.

Also, if you want to make the game competitive and have a winner, have someone else keep the points. You have enough to do.

Charades

When you are playing charades at home, you can make it up as you go. However, if you are going to do it as a reunion activity, let the family members know ahead of time to come up with their topics and maybe even practice. It’s also a good idea if the group can do it together, it doesn’t have to be only one person giving the clues. To make sure that no one can hear them, have them mute their mic for their turn.

Pictionary

Pictionary is another fun game to play online. Each team should have a person who is drawing as well as a person holding the camera so everyone can see the picture. Again, if they are muted, it goes a lot easier.

Talent Show

A talent show is one of the easiest activities for you to set up. Just have time slots for which the relatives must sign up ahead of time, so that the show keeps going. If more people want to join in than are slots, just do it during two calls instead of one.

Comedy Night

A comedy night is especially fun with a family full of kids. Everyone likes to tell jokes! You make up the rules, but really one joke per person will keep the conversation going and everyone involved.

Karaoke

What’s fun about Karaoke is that there are plenty of songs with lyrics on Youtube, and you can send out a list ahead of time for people to set up and sing along with you.

Trivia Night

Always a fun game, you can do any kind of trivia and just play in family groups, or you can use all that information you’ve gathered and ask trivia questions about your relatives. If the question is about them, they’re sure to get that one right!

“Scatter”-gories

The caller, usually the host, has a list of categories and when the category is mentioned the family members come up with words or items that match the category.

For example, you call “boys clothes” and Joe’s family goes and gets a t-shirt and a pair of tennis shoes to show while writing “helmet,” “jean,” and “bow tie” down. Depending on how competitive you want to be you can assign 2 points for an item, and 1 point for a word. Joe’s family would have received 7 points.

At the end of the timed round (3 minutes), you add up the points and move to the next category. The overall winners have the most points.

Child playing a game with family during a reunion.
It’s easy, fun, and so rewarding.

Conclusion

I’m sure your online family reunion will be a success. With our plan, getting your family reunion Facebook group started, and tons of ideas of activities to do before and during your reunion, you’ll be looking forward to the next one! Happy connecting!

Corinne
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How To Host Online Family Reunion - A Step by Step Guide

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