Smart Home

Sneaky-good tech ideas to spice up your 2019 holiday party

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These tech-inspired tips will help you host an awesome party.


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This story is part of Holiday Survival Guide 2019, featuring tips on the best ways to manage the holiday season.

Hosting a holiday party — be it for Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve — is exciting and fun, but it’s also a Herculean effort that’s rewarded by good planning. You’ve got the decorations to think about, the food, the playlist and of course, the entertainment. You’ll also have guests with a mix of personalities and you’ll want to make sure you have something for everyone, even gamers and those who need to escape for a little quiet time before rejoining the festivities.

We have some holiday party ideas that can help make the day go smoother, from building a playlist to using smart home devices to your advantage by setting the mood with lights, music and games. We also give you tips for setting up your own easy photo booth so that you and your close ones will always have the memories to hold onto. 

Read on for ideas that’ll liven up your get-together this holiday season.

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Use your smart home devices to your advantage when hosting a party.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Create your own photo booth

Everybody loves posing in a photo booth, and setting up your own is easy. In fact, you probably already have many of the supplies you need. Make sure you select an area with good lighting, and bring in area lamps to add more balance. Take some test shots to make sure you’ve worked out all the shadows. For an extra twist, you could place a smart lightbulb in a lamp so your guests can change the colors. 

If you’ve got an extra phone, tablet or camera lying around (preferably one that takes good photos), mount it on a tripod and set a timer for taking pics. You can also use an Amazon Echo Show ($170 at Amazon) and let Alexa take the photos by saying “Alexa, take a picture.” If you’re using a phone or tablet, consider downloading a photo booth app, like Mini Photobooth for iPhone or Photobooth Mini for Android.

Your backdrop can be something as simple as festive wrapping paper or a colorful blanket. For props, grab some old Halloween costumes out of the closet, like hats, glasses and wigs. If you don’t have any props, you can buy a cheap kit from Amazon

And since your guests will want a copy of their photos, have a printer set up with photo paper or let them send the pics to their phones.

Make sure your holiday lighting is perfect

No party is complete without the right lighting, so consider investing in a few smart bulbs, like Philips Hue bulbs or the cheaper Lifx Plus to add some color and pizzazz. You can then use a smart home speaker like your Amazon Echo or Google Home to control the light colors to make your house more festive. 

For example, if you’re hosting a Christmas party, you can set the light colors to green and red throughout your home. You can also create Alexa or Google routines so that your lights kick on at a certain time. For instance, if you’re hosting a New Year’s party, a neat routine is to have your lights blink or change colors when the ball drops at midnight.

You can control the lights using the smart speaker or through the app.

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Control your smart lights through the app or your smart speaker.


Josh Miller/CNET

Pair your smart speakers so everyone can listen to your playlist

You already know playing the right music is a must, but you also need to make sure it can be heard throughout the house. Pairing multiple smart home speakers you already own is a free and easy way to create surround sound or help the music travel to every room where your guests have roamed.

You’ll also need an awesome playlist to listen to. You can find preselected radio stations on Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play Music and more. However, you can also create your own playlist on most of the music streaming services if you have certain songs you want to have in the rotation.

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Pair multiple speakers so that you’ll have surround sound throughout your house.


Angela Lang/CNET

Get the best decorations

When you’re hosting a party, decorations are always essential. In the dark of winter, anything that lights up a room will add sparkle and warmth to the gathering. Reusable LED light-up balloons are a fun, eye-catching addition, or flashing LED balloons that you can blow up yourself

To go along with the light-up theme, pick up some inexpensive glow sticks for your guests to wear. LED batons are an especially fun nod to Star Wars lightsabers.

If you’ve got an extra-dark hallway, you can string up white fairy lights with photo clips, creating a stunning LED wall. Then, you can clip the pictures from the photo booth onto the wall so everyone can see. 

You could also drape the fairy lights around a banister or an outdoor railing. It’ll look classy and it’s something you can leave up year-round if you like. You can have these little white light strands shipped to you from Amazon, Etsy, Target, Party America and other shops to save you the hassle of making a trip to the store.

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Change your light colors to look more festive.


CNET

Make it a karaoke dance party

Liven up your soiree by bringing out the karaoke machine to sing your favorite songs. You can look up karaoke songs on YouTube or download a karaoke app on your phone, like Smule. Make it feel like you’re in the ’70s by turning on LED disco lights that sweep the room. 

You could also pick up a karaoke microphone that does it all, where you can record, sing and listen to the song being played. Most will connect to your phone using Bluetooth or a cable connection.

Project holiday videos onto an empty wall

If you’ve got a projector, you can display holiday music videos or a clip of a lit-up fireplace on a wall in the background (if you don’t have a projector, you can rent one, too). Then, later on, you can show your favorite holiday movies.

Of course, you can use your TV as well, but a wall projector can liven up the room without making the film the main event. It also gives guests something extra to talk about if conversation stalls.

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Project a holiday movie onto the wall.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Make a gaming room

Nothing keeps the party going like playing a fun game with your friends. Fortunately, Amazon Echo and Google Home devices have tons of games you can play at your party, to break up any awkward small talk. 

Some of the best multiplayer games are Jeopardy, Escape the Room, The Wayne Investigation, Heads Up! and Never Have I Ever. You can set the smart speaker up in a separate room for those who are interested in playing.

If you’ve got a Wii, Xbox, PlayStation or even a VR headset, set them up in a room for your friends and family to enjoy. Have fun games available, like Just Dance, Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Super Mario Party.

Don’t have a video game console? Just use your phone to play Jackbox games. They’re also available to play on Apple TV ($169 at Walmart), Fire TV ($35 at Amazon), Microsoft Windows, MacOS and more. And if you’re playing a mobile game, you can cast it to a larger screen so that more people can watch or join in.

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A VR headset is sure to keep guests entertained at your party.


James Martin/CNET

Create a holiday scavenger hunt

Create a list of items for your guests to find, either in the neighborhood or around the house. Objects on the list can be a party hat, candy canes, a party noisemaker and so on. 

If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas, download a scavenger hunt app (like Seedling Scavenger Bingo) or check out Pinterest for items that other people have posted. Once the objects are found, the participants should take a picture with the item for proof. Make your prize options something that everyone will like — for example, a giant box of caramel corn, movie tickets, a Bluetooth speaker or a bottle of wine.

Video call absent family and friends

Unfortunately, not everyone can make it to holiday parties, especially if they live far away. You can still help them feel like part of the event by dialing them in to talk to other guests. 

If you’ve got an Amazon Echo Show, let them drop-in at any time to see what everyone’s up to and interact with those around. 

Or, you can set up a tablet or laptop and open a Skype window, Apple FaceTime call or any other video conferencing service for them to call in for an hour and say hello.

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Absent friends and family can still be a part of your get-together.


Chris Monroe/CNET

Other items you should have on hand

Need more holiday planning tips? Check out these three Amazon Echo tips you need to know for the holidays, four scams you need to avoid this holiday shopping season and six Amazon Prime benefits you need to use for holiday shopping.

https://www.cnet.com/


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