This year, high school seniors all over the world are sadly missing out on a springtime tradition: prom. Often the social cornerstone of grade school, prom night has an important role in solidifying friendships, celebrating good times, and commemorating the end of the school year.

While covid-19 keeps us inside and prevents us from gathering this year, high schools and organizations can still host a virtual prom night. Last week, John Krasinski hosted a virtual prom on his weekly YouTube show, giving the class of 2020 a night of music, celebration, and good vibes during quarantine. TikTok is hosting a celebration #TikTokProm tomorrow.

Krasinski meets the Jonas Brothers

Some high schools have already jumped on the virtual prom trend, following Krasinski's lead. A high school in Aurora, Colorado announced that it will be hosting a virtual prom, and the local news station plans to broadcast the stream. Lodi High School in California has been advertising their upcoming prom on Twitter.

In these "unprecedented" times, so many events are going virtual for the first time; why not prom? Below, I'll explain how you can host your own virtual prom night and give some ideas for people planning a virtual prom.

Make and share invitations

Although you may have thrown out your 2020 prom planning, you can still keep your theme! Consider what fun or funny subjects your community would rally around. Then, use the same colors, fonts, and motifs on your videos and GIFs to give consistency to your Prom decorations, ads, posters, videos, and invitations.

Covid-19 has made paper invitations more difficult to distribute, but you can still design and send out digital prom invitations. The first step is to socialize the date and time of the virtual prom. Set a date and time, choose a medium (Zoom video call, Google Hangouts, or another large group option), and publish the digital invite on social media or send it out to your friends

To create the virtual prom invitations, use Kapwing's Studio to design can make your prom invitation serious or cheesy.

A more formal virtual prom invitation, designed on Kapwing

In the days leading up to the prom, make sure to advertise it on social media. Here are some ideas for getting the word out:

  • Create digital posters for Twitter and Instagram
  • Start a prom-focused TikTok account with dances or songs that may be performed at Prom.
  • Make up an Instagram challenge to encourage people attending to share their support. For example, you could allow people to enter a group raffle only if they share their support on social media.
  • Announce the challenges that will happen on prom night, like "Best Dressed" and "Best dancer"

  • Make up a hashtag to bring together everyone posting photos, memories, Tweets, and promotions related to your virtual prom. Check out posts with #LHSProm2020 on Twitter to get a great example from Lodi High School.
  • Share music from the community playlist or a custom mashup on social media
  • Ask couples to submit "date" photos that are photo collages of the two people together. You can also cutout solo photos to pretend that multiple people are together in the same place.
Custom background eraser in the Kapwing Studio can help you with custom cutouts for a quarantine couple prom photo

  • Advertise the prom queen and king candidates
  • Invite teachers or school administrators to share their old prom photos
  • Ask people to make corsages and boutonnieres from home and share photos on a community Instagram. You can also share unique remote "promposals" (students asking each other out to virtual prom)
Example virtual prom invite

Send out video invite and virtual background

In addition to sending a video call link, prom party planners can consider making and sharing out a themed Zoom virtual background for people who attend the prom. This will give everyone a sense of community and belonging, and will make the full grid of prom attendees less distracting. For example, you could use this slow sparkle background or a different on-theme image or video.

Zoom virtual background

For people who don't have balloons, sparkles, or streamers at home, a simple Zoom background can make their home environment fancier for virtual prom night. The Prom committee can also send custom invitations to student's homes or can send out instructions on how to make your own decorations.

For prom planner who want to go the extra mile can add their school's logo or other themed decorations as overlays on the Zoom background. Then, send it out with the invitation link so that everyone has a branded background.

Plan prom activities

Leading up to virtual prom, plan the agenda for the night. Here are some ideas you could put in to your virtual prom:

  • Community playlist: Nominate one person to DJ and play music off a crowd-sourced playlist.
  • Raffle: Create a virtual raffle with prizes. Pull a name out of a hat to decide who wins the goods. Prizes could be virtual, like a Netflix subscription, or physical, like a pack of toilet paper.
  • Learn a group dance: Before the prom, send out a dance that you'll plan to do as a group. For example, you could pick a popular TikTok dance like Renegade or the Toosie Slide. Then, play the song and have everyone at prom participate in the dance.

  • Superlatives or prom queen/king: Have everyone in the group vote on superlatives or vote for prom "royalty," then announce the winners during your virtual prom.
  • Hula hoop competition: Have a virtual hula competition to see who can keep the hoop spinning the longest.

  • Slow dance: Choose a cheesy prom dane song to give everyone the chance to sway together on camera.
  • School spirit: Show your loyalty to your school with a group chant, fight song, or tradition. Some traditions are impossible to keep alive during quarantine, but others can go on! Be creative about how you can modify long-standing traditions to make them work virtually.
  • Sing-a-long: Pick a popular song and belt out the words! Mic muted, of course. Virtual prom gives everyone a chance to sing the same words in their loudest voice together.

  • Performance Art: Ask some students - a band, dance crew, slam poet, comedian, or singer - to perform for everyone at Prom. Visual artists - like videographers and painters - can also show off their latest work during one section of virtual prom.
  • Hire a performer: Bring in outside performers to perform live during virtual prom. This gives people an exclusive highlight to tune in for.

  • Toasts: Invite community to give short shoutouts to other people as live "toasts."
  • Make a baby photo slideshow: Ask community members to share photos of themselves as toddlers and compile them into a video montage with music. Play the video slideshow during your virtual prom.

To keep people on track, you may want to share a prom bingo or scavenger hunt board, a list of things to do while the virtual prom is going on. The items can be social, like "Text your crush" or "Tell someone that you appreciate their friendship" or "Share a favorite memory from high school on Instagram." They could also be introspective tasks, like "Write a letter to your future self." This activity list ensures that people won't get bored or drop off while the virtual prom is happening and encourages people to talk to each other, just like prom IRL.

Commemorate with prom photos

Leading up to the day of prom (or during the event itself), ask friend groups, sports teams, clubs, and student organizations to submit collages of themselves in their semi-formal prom outfit. Although you can't stand next to each other in person, you can crop the photos and position them one next to another. This way, you'll have the memories of prom forever!

With Kapwing, everyone can upload and format their own picture in the collage collaboratively in real time. Just use the "Share" button in the editor to circulate the URL. Everyone can upload their photo and arrange it next to their friends' pictures.

Then, use the "Crop" button to cut out the full body and position them one next to the other. Kapwing works with images and videos, so you could ask everyone to send videos of themselves dancing, posing, or spinning.

You can make date photos, putting two people side by side, for the virtual prom. People can pretend to put on corsages and boutonnieres with side by side photos or even give each other a virtual kiss!

People living with their parents at home can still take those memorable photos with their moms and dads. Encourage people to share their photos with the prom hashtag to create a lively community feel.

Host your Prom night live

An hour before the Prom start time, ensure that everyone who will be speaking or performing knows the agenda and has their technology (mic and speaker) set up. Also encourage them to look sharp with a dress or tie.

Nominate a student - maybe the class president or another charismatic MCs - to lead the virtual prom. Then it's time to go Live! Start the Zoom on time. Tune in to watch the MC invite in the acts or performances, introduce people, call out students in the crowd, lead activities, and lead your virtual prom from start to finish. It's important to keep a high tempo to keep people engaged. Just like an actual prom night, some things won't work out because of technical difficulties or other unexpected challenges, but just go with the flow.

Most importantly, remember to have fun! Prom is a time for people to get dressed up, dance, come together, share appreciation, and create memories. It may be a bit stressful to host a prom without the energy of a large crowd, but your attendees know and appreciate that you're doing your best.

Afterwards, be sure to share the highlights of your Zoom video recording on YouTube and social media. Clip out the best moments and post the whole recording on webinar.

I hope that this article gets you started with hosting a virtual prom! Although we're all at home, covid-19 hasn't' stopped our desire to get together and celebrate the past. A virtual prom can be a great distraction and opportunity to party amidst an otherwise grim and lonely quarantine.