How to Run a Zoom Dance Party
I’ve been hosting online dance parties up to 5 days a week since the Covid-19 lockdown began. In that time, I’ve been invited to DJ a number of private online functions. Here’s what I’ve learned about how best to kick out the jams with your pals, from the comfort of your own homes.
Why an Online Dance Party Works
These days, most folks are using the same online platforms for work as they do for leisure. As a result, online social gatherings sometimes adopt the same structure as online video work meetings; the host feels obligated to introduce everyone as they arrive, one person speaks at a time, and people end up spending most of their time just listening to what others have to say.
Adding a DJ to a social hangout provides an external focal point to a virtual gathering in the same way a hangout IRL works. Folks can chat, or they can tune out and just listen to the music. Much like a watch party, there isn’t the pressure to have someone constantly driving the conversation. Everyone can just be in the virtual room together, enjoying each others’ company. Everyone can just relax and enjoy the party.
Having shared music playing also gives people a common thing to talk about. “Ooh, I love this song!” – “Hey, this reminds me of Joey’s birthday party!” – “Remember when Gina sang this at karaoke?”
For the tech side of things, nothing special is required. In addition to needing a device for the video conference platform of your choice (Zoom, Skype, Meet, Houseparty, Shazzle, Blunit, whatever), guests should access the DJ entertainment through a separate channel. When I’m working as a DJ, I generally broadcast over Twitch, so I make sure all party guests have that web address so they can access it in a browser tab or from another device entirely. Often the video call will take place on a computer, while the music is streaming from a phone, plugged into a stereo or headphones. This way, each person can turn the music up as high as they like, and have completely independent control over any zoom conversations going on. Just make sure guests cranking the music remember to mute their microphones.
Tips for Party Success:
Make sure all your guests know beforehand that you’ve planned to make this a dance party. Nobody likes to show-up to an event only to learn that there was a theme they weren’t aware of. Get your guests excited to dance, encouraging them to set up their devices in a spot where they have room to move around with good speakers for the music!
Encourage everyone to select the viewing format where all guests are visible at once, with no one person taking full screen. This more naturally represents the good ol’ days of get-to-gethers in real life.
Keep it Short and Sweet
In the same way that at a party/wedding/bar/festival it is unlikely that someone would dance the whole time, don’t expect your party guests to party hard for hours on end. In my experience, an hour-long party is the sweet spot for online. Ten to fifteen minutes for everyone to arrive, say hi, then everyone mutes their mics, turn up the music, and get down. The old showbiz expression holds true: Leave them wanting more!
Encourage Dress Up
Dress for a party and encourage others to do the same! The bonus is that, unlike an in-person affair, guests don’t have to worry about wearing an outrageous costume in transit to the event! Plus, dressing to the nines demonstrates to everyone that you’ve come to party without saying a word.
Encourage Side Conversations
Give people the permission to text, chat, or even (gasp) phone other people at the party. Let gossip happen. Encourage your guests to connect in smaller groups using whichever channels they like, so that the party conversation isn’t solely monolithic in nature.
Above all, relax. It’s a party
Everyone wants their party to be the talk of the town. If things don’t turn out exactly how you thought they would, that’s ok. Maybe your guests would rather take the time to catch up with each other’s lives instead of busting a move. No matter what happens, allow the party to progress naturally. A little structure is ok, but, after all, the best parties are a little unpredictable.