As we settle into social distancing, we are shifting our mindset from learning how to use Zoom as a makeshift substitute to how we can leverage virtual parties’ hidden benefits. Of course, we can’t wait until we can gather in person again but, in the meantime, here are a few surprising advantages to throwing parties online.

1. More people can participate

In the past week and a half, I’ve attended a birthday party, a Shabbat dinner, a dance party, a book club meeting, and a yoga class with my friends, all virtually. While gathering in person for each of these occasions is meaningful and irreplaceable, I’ve found myself also feeling very grateful for the opportunity for people from all across the country to participate together. In each, many people participated who would not have been able to participate if it had been an in-person gathering.

The same goes for phonebank parties and fundraisers. Sister District MA-RI had 14 callers at their weekly standing phonebank party, which is now virtual—this was more callers than they typically see in person. And Sister District CA-Peninsula had over 60 people RSVP for a fundraiser they held via Zoom, and raised over $4,000!

A virtual event is a shorter and more flexible time commitment—people can come and go as they please—and this may be more attractive to a broader set of volunteers. You could also coordinate with other teams and affiliates that have been “sistered” with the same candidates and throw a party from coast to coast!

2. Host more events

We love in-person events, but they are a ton of work because of all the logistics, from food to parking to decorations. Zoom events definitely take work, especially if you jazz them up a little, but they are generally a much lighter lift. In this move to virtual and perhaps a little extra capacity, consider implementing weekly phonebank or postcard parties that might not have been attainable if they needed to be in person. Sister District MA-RI found that having regular standing parties was helpful for volunteers because they always knew when they could drop in—this should be even more effective with virtual events.

3. A more peaceful environment for making calls

With virtual phonebank parties, everyone leaves their video on but turns their sound off. This means that you can make calls without the distraction of other callers’ conversations. This is especially helpful for people who need less active environments to maintain focus, for people who are hard of hearing, and for introverts. Sister District Chicago reported that this was a great advantage, and you can still have that sense of community because you can see others making calls. Everyone had some good laughs seeing people who were engrossed in lively conversations

4. Fewer distractions = more calls

With fewer distractions and reduced options for leisurely snack and drink breaks, we can be more efficient. In terms of phonebanking, let’s say this results in an average of 3 minutes per dial to 1.5 minutes per dial. That’s like doubling the number of volunteers! Virtual phonebanks can both increase the number of calls per volunteers and increase the number of volunteers themselves – a double win. This allows us to give an even bigger boost to our candidates’ field operations.

5. Chat to celebrate, ask questions, and break the ice

Zoom’s chat function makes it easy to express support, ask a question, or offer an insight without interrupting a speaker or causing a distraction for others. At your virtual phonebank, ask callers to celebrate successes by describing them in the chat. At any type of virtual event, designate a leader to monitor the chat and answer any questions. It’s best for this to be someone other than the speaker because it’s hard to multitask. If you have a larger group and don’t have time to go around and do an icebreaker with everyone, you can also conduct an icebreaker via the chat—the speaker will share the prompt, then ask participants to enter their answers into the chat. Everyone will be able to see the stream of answers coming in.

6. Use breakout rooms for easy troubleshooting and networking

At in-person phonebanks, the host may have to provide 1:1 assistance to a caller to help them get started with the technology, which may be a little distracting to other callers. In a virtual phonebank, you can take advantage of breakout rooms for 1:1 troubleshooting and support, away from the rest of the group, then rejoin when the issue is resolved.

Breakout rooms are also great for creating smaller groups out of a larger group. Think of this like creating small clusters of people at a house party. By creating these smaller groups, more people will have a chance to talk and to connect with each other. This can be great for introverts who may be a little shy about approaching a group in person. To get the conversation going, you can provide a prompt, even something as simple as, “what brought you here tonight?” or “what’s the first thing you’re going to do when social distancing rules are lifted?”

7. Expand your reach with recordings

Zoom allows you to record your events, which allows you to force multiply the impact of your event. When you request a link from Sister District, you’ll have the option to have it automatically record, so you won’t even have to remember to hit the record button. After the event, we’ll send you the link, then you can distribute it to others to watch on their own time. When you distribute, consider including written notes and a few timestamps of key points in the conversation so people can skip straight to what they’re interested in. (Note that recordings are only of the “main” room, not any breakout rooms.)

Have you encountered any surprising advantages of virtual parties that we haven’t covered here? Please let us know! We’ll add to this blog post as we continue to discover them.