One of my favorite things during a holiday family reunion is to have a long dinner followed by a board game. Though we don’t get to see one another often enough, each December we assemble for our feast, complete with traditional favorites, some new elements, and always finished with dessert and coffee. Afterward we select a game to play together, and it’s remarkable how this annual event brings out our true natures!
Unfortunately, this year we won’t be assembling in person for the epic meal, but the idea has come up to have a virtual “dinner” together. Although we won’t be eating all the same dishes, technology has made it possible to coordinate our plans, schedule a meal, broadcast ourselves through videoconferencing, and even play a virtual game together afterward.
This option doesn’t come close to the feeling of warming a house together, but many of our favorite elements can be captured through screens, microphones, and speakers. Looking forward to these virtual family reunions, there are a few tips that will make it a better experience for all involved, including those who have hearing loss or communication challenges.
Coordinate Your Efforts
When you plan this meeting, take into consideration the desires of all involved, as much as possible. If some of your family members would prefer a call on speaker phone rather than video, perhaps you can coordinate technology to make that possible. You might also want to set some expectations about the length and nature of the call.
If you are attempting a long dinner with a game afterward, make sure that everyone is either on board or knows that it’s okay to pop in and out to say hello. One of the crucial elements of this planning phase is to make sure that everyone has the right technology available.
Most of these platforms are available for free, so it should be as simple as downloading the program and creating an account. With all the right tools in hand, you can make specific plans for where, when, and how to have your virtual event.
Take a Trial Run
Many of your family members may be well acquainted with the videoconference setting, particularly those whose jobs are now remote. However, others might feel uncomfortable with the interface. If you have family members who are new to videoconferencing or who could use some assistance getting set up, why not plan a trial call a couple days before the group event? This low-pressure setting can be an opportunity to check out the features available and to get the right settings of light and sound to make the conversation as good as possible on the big day. For some people with weaker wireless Internet connections, sitting closer to the router can be helpful, and proper lighting is an important way to make sure expressions and mouths are visible, particularly for those who have hearing loss.
Maximize Communication Potential
When you enter the virtual family reunion, a few tips will make it possible to have the most enjoyable conversation for all involved. As mentioned, good lighting is key to being able to see and respond to facial expressions, and reading lips can be helpful for those who are hard of hearing. Some platforms offer real-time captioning, which can be incredibly helpful for those with hearing loss.
Even with limited correctness, this service can fill in the gaps when the conversation audio is disturbed. One of the best practices you can put in place for your virtual family gathering is to establish a way to talk one person at a time. When two people talk at once, these platforms tend to drop out the audio, and these gaps can be incredibly difficult for a person with hearing loss.
If you establish, formally or informally, a way to gesture before you speak, the flow will be easier to follow. Finally, you might want to use some of the unique features, such as the virtual whiteboard or breakout rooms to help you with group conversations, small-group chats, or even games.
Of course, accommodation strategies can only go so far, and the only durable solution for hearing loss is to seek professional treatment. Encourage your loved ones to schedule hearing tests to make future communication better for all involved! For comprehensive hearing health services, contact us today!