A video call is more than a conversation. It’s like being in the same room with a distant friend or family member, even though they’re miles away. Aside from a hug, you can recreate almost any interaction your situation demands.
You can share photos, music, and a virtual tour of that house you’re considering buying. You can virtually plan your wedding, send your kids on a virtual school field trip, attend a virtual book club, and bring together dozens of people for an online celebration.
A celebration like a virtual baby shower.
The online version of baby’s first welcome to the world seems to be increasingly popular (Shakira even hosted one a few years ago to benefit UNICEF). There are now even a few dedicated sites that’ll help you with the hosting duties and games, but with a good webcam, a free video calling platform, and a little imagination, you can gather all the mother-to-be’s friends and family together by yourself and create a 21st-century tradition of your own.
Virtual Baby Shower Basics
The best baby showers are all about the adults, of course. The tradition has its origins in ancient times when the celebration was reserved for after the delivery, but modern medicine has removed much of the fears around childbirth, so it’s evolved into a party, party, party.
With video calling, it’s a party that can include all of the expecting mother’s nearest and dearest no matter where life has taken them. Taking a baby shower online just means having a, hopefully lively, group video chat–no different from the group calls Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Zoom help you stage.
The key ingredients in this virtual shower are the webcams. Anyone with a smartphone can join a group video call, provided they’re signed up with Skype or the like, but those little screens diminish the impact of an online party. You’re better off with a laptop, desktop, or even tablet, paired with a webcam–most laptops come with a camera built-in, but they seldom have the polish of an external webcam.
The final technical step–there’s still some party planning to be done, of course–is to get all your guests access to the video conference–through an ID number or meeting room link, for instance–and agree on a time to meet up.
If that sounds like too much fuss, you can always get the help of some online baby shower professionals.
Online Baby Shower Services
There are several virtual baby shower services available to help you online, and you’ll find them easily with a Google search. WebBabyShower.com seems to be dominating this space, though we’ve heard that babyjellybeans.com can also be used to host a virtual shower. Both companies will build you a personalized website where friends and family can post pictures, messages, and videos. They’re like a secret Facebook page that can only be accessed by people who have the address–no one will find your site through a search engine. The idea is similar to the way The Knot lets you create a private wedding website with info on the big day and links to gift registries.
What’s more interesting is that both offer some good advice on how to host a live baby shower, how to keep everyone connected, and the sorts of games that work over a video call. They also provide printable keepsakes and the technology to create your own trivia contests and other personalized games.
What they don’t really touch on is the fact that you can arrange your baby shower any way you want to best accommodate the lady-of-the-hour and her guests.
Here are a few options:
Everyone Remote: With nobody sharing a location, everyone is going to need to call in and everyone is going to need a webcam. The first part is a matter of agreeing on a time and finding a video call platform that’ll let you add people to a call in progress–the aforementioned apps will do it, and Vidyo has a lock and knock feature that lets you control the flow of guests.
As for the webcams, they’ve become so cheap now you could probably afford to send your guests one in the mail–even the bargain end of the market will provide a strong 780p connection, which is technically still HD. Why not decorate these cams in a baby theme, to give your guests a little souvenir of the occasion?
A Mixed Real-World and Remote Party: This is the most likely version of a virtual baby shower you’re going to encounter. While the expectant mom and guests who live nearby can meet up, remote guests can join in via a video call. VC Daily has discussed using this technique to bring together remotely located colleagues at an office Christmas party, and it works just as well for a baby shower. You can place a central screen hosting the live group call in the middle of festivities, so all can chat in real time, or you can scatter tablets on walls and laptops on tables, so party-goers can engage one-on-one. If you go the one-central-conference-cam route, ideally you’ll want one with a big range of view and good mic and sound quality so that virtual guests can hear, see, and join in with the goings-on. Logitech’s MeetUp conference cam would be perfect for this setup, but you might have to borrow it from your friend with a small business.
Real-World Party with Remote Mom-to-Be: This is probably your break-in-case-of-emergency shower…or maybe it’s a surprise? Here you need only one connection on each end. The star of the show is on one end, the raucous well-wishes on the other. If you go this route, a webcam like the fish-eyed Meeting Owl will help fit everyone into a single frame.
Whichever setup works best, the key is making sure everyone enjoys themselves. For some, that’ll mean getting quiet time with the mother-to-be–you can use breakout rooms on many video call platforms to step into a virtual private space, like a DM on Twitter–while others will want to sing, dance, and play music. There are even several video apps that will let you share third-party media streams during a call, including Airtime, so you can all watch the same YouTube video or movie.
There’s probably even a way to digitally recreate the old chocolate-sauce-in-the-diaper trick.