How to Host a Family Dinner with Zoom

Welcome to 2020 and the Coronavirus that has forced most of us to practice social distancing…a term that I’m sure relatively few people ever used before a few weeks ago. Another term many of us probably have never heard before is Zoom. If you were born in the mid-60s, Zoom may bring up memories of a kid’s TV show called Zoom. But this is a new Zoom, and prior to a few weeks ago was probably being used for mostly online meetings, teleconferences and web-based training for businesses around the world.

Zoom is now zooming into everyday life as families, friends and co-workers are using the tool to “virtually” connect over the Internet through home computers and smart phones while practicing social distancing. There’s a plethora of other similar software companies offering Internet-based video conferencing. Zoom happens to be the most user-friendly and easy to set-up, and offers a free subscription for personal users. As you host bigger online events, there are subscription fees and additional benefits such as recording your meetings and such. For basic virtual family gatherings (and small businesses) the free version of Zoom is more than adequate. While many people have used Facetime on iPhones to “video chat” along with other apps such as WhatsApp for some time now, Zoom allows A LOT of people to “see” each other and chat at once.

On Sunday evening my extended family started a new…hopefully short-term…Sunday family dinner and chat using Zoom. While we all ate our prepared meals (or drank wine) virtually together, we talked over one another, made funny faces, changed our backgrounds to beach scenes (a feature of the Zoom app), cracked jokes, read stories, watched a dance performance, updated each other on our socially distant lives, and did what we could to feel connected as a family. Our most distant participant was my niece Stephanie who lives in Alaska with her family. My other niece Natalie was the closest, living only a couple miles away (which seems very far away these days)!

The biggest challenge of our first Zoom chat was getting my 84 year old mother into the session using her iPhone (she lives alone a few miles in the other direction from us). A couple of us tried to walk her through the process of downloading the app on her phone and then clicking the link, but initially to no avail. One of my twin daughters left the session and voila!  A few minutes later my mother’s glorious face (a little splotchy from crying because she couldn’t figure out how to join the session) appeared among all the other familiar faces of my family. We all cheered and welcomed her to the world of Zoom.

As we stared at each other, each in our own box (pun intended), it reminded me of the beginning of a Brady Bunch episode…I couldn’t help but chuckle at that thought.

The laughter that my family is very well known for continued for at least another hour…maybe more. Nobody kept track of how long we entertained each other, mostly with silly stuff. We didn’t really talk about the virus, politics or the economy, which was great in my book. We were just together for some quality time in this historical time doing what we do best…being positive, loving each other and talking really loudly all at once. The chaos was beautiful. The faces were beautiful. Even the beef stew I cooked in preparation for the big Zoom call was beautiful. Not everyone in our extended family could join…a few had legit excuses. A couple others couldn’t quite figure out how to get into the session. A couple others pushed the wrong button on their iPhones and got disconnected toward the very end.

What’s most important though, is that we continued a tradition of gathering as a family and appreciating time with one another…even if this gathering was without the usual hugs and kisses, it had everything else we cherish. And for this we’re very thankful. One of my brothers suggested that we continue family Zoom calls even when the virus doesn’t keep us physically distant…not a bad idea. After all, family time is everything.

Are you interested in hosting your own Sunday Zoom Dinner or hosting a party with friends? Kat Tenbarge with Business Insider wrote a great article, “How to throw a perfect Zoom party with your friends and family.”

Check out the article and the Zoom website to learn how to host your own virtual gathering and please email me at: to share your Zoom stories. I’d love to hear them!

Check out our website and Facebook page for lots more ideas on how to have a happier, healthier and wealthier life…whether you’re in retirement or just thinking about it.