Smart Speakers Offer a Stress-Free Soirée
Many before you have fallen to the stress of hosting the renowned holiday gathering, but you’re not worried. This year you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve: You’ve got your smart devices and you know how to use them. Your smart home and home security devices set the tone of your party and make the first impression on your guests. This guide will show you some ways to use your smart devices to make every part of the party process a breeze.
In this article
- Prepping the List and Ensuring Home Security
- In the Kitchen
- Setting the Holiday Vibe
- The Entertainment
- The Aftermath
Prepping the List and Ensuring Home Security
Home security cameras: Both bouncer and babysitter
The first point on everyone’s party list should be planning out their home security. With so many people passing through your home, you want to make sure you’re in charge and aware of everything. Your home security system and home automation setup will help you manage guest arrivals – and alert you to any potential party crashers– while creating a smooth-sailing party experience for all. Security cameras for both indoor and outdoor spaces are great for monitoring your home during all points of the party. These cameras serve as a way to both monitor the safety of your guests and protect your home against potential thieves or burglars.
Security cameras can also be used to keep an eye on the kids when they’re playing outside, or in a separate room
Beyond guarding your home against the unknown, nanny cams are a helpful tool for watching over children when you can’t keep both eyes on them. These cameras allow you to stay connected to your kids, even when you’re busy stringing everything together and keeping the party going. Place them in certain rooms or outdoor spaces designated for children during the party to ease your mind.
Smart doorbells: Greet the guest list
When you’re scrambling to put all the finishing touches together, pausing to open the door for every guest can be frustrating. Smart doorbells eliminate the need to stop what you’re doing and sprint to the door every time you hear a car door slam. They feature powerful cameras and motion sensors that allow you to access the real-time video of all your guests’ smiling faces as they approach your home.
Smart lock: Hands-free hosting
Using your doorbell in conjunction with a smart lock allows you to greet guests and unlock your door all from your smartphone, so you don’t have to worry about your hors d’oeuvres burning while you answer the doorbell. Many smart lock options are also compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, so you can unlock and lock your door with just your voice, which will certainly come in handy when you inevitably put your phone down between party prep tasks and forget where you left it. If you have installed a smart lock model that has a keypad, your guests can actually let themselves in as they arrive, using a temporary access code you created. Temporary codes allow entry to your home during a specific window of time. After that time has passed, the temporary code will no longer unlock your door.
Inviting guests and ordering supplies
With a big party on your calendar, you may find you don’t have the time to flip through your address book (or scroll through your contact list) and call everyone you know. Instead, you use your smart speaker’s hands-free calling feature to invite all your friends and family while you’re busy prepping, folding laundry, or setting aside party favors. Once you’ve got all the RSVPs, you shout to your voice assistant to start ordering supplies. You can easily create shopping lists with your assistant and even share them with anyone in your contacts.
Reviews.com found that Alexa offers the most seamless shopping experience, since it’s already connected directly to your Amazon account. With Alexa, you are able to place, track, or cancel orders on Amazon without a second thought! Alternatively, Google Assistant supports voice ordering with Walmart, which allows users to create entire shopping lists and check out just by talking. It’s also designed to check prices and availability for each item.
In the Kitchen
Recipes, conversions, and timers
Next on your list is food. Turn to your voice assistant and all of its infinite wisdom to find tasty recipes ideas that are sure to set your party apart from the rest. You can easily find recipes for large groups, cooking times, and even calorie counts (if you care about that sort of thing). Don’t worry if you don’t remember how many ounces are in three and a half cups, your assistant knows all the conversions no one remembers and can even double your recipe in a snap. Once your food is in the oven, you can set a handy timer and forget about worrying, your smart speaker will let you know when the timer is up. If you need to set another, don’t worry! Voice assistants allow you to easily create multiple times that you can name.
Setting your drink menu can sometimes be overwhelming. With so many options out there and the pressure to please every single guest, it’s understandable to not know where to start. Why not start with your voice assistant? If you need to decide what wine to serve, you can tell your assistant what you’re cooking and it will give you options of what pairs best with your menu. If you plan to opt for cocktails, not only can your voice assistant provide you with drink options, but it will list the ingredients and tell you the steps of making the drink.
Alexa kitchen hacks
|Skill Name||Verbal Cue||What it Does|
|Instant Pot Alexa Skill||"Alexa, ask Instant Pot for..."||Asks Instant Pot for pressure-cooker friendly recipes|
|Ingredient Sub||"Alexa, Ask Ingredient Sub what I can use instead of..."||Provides potential substitutions for the item you name|
|Wine Pairing||"Alexa, ask Wine Pairing which wine goes with..."||Tells you the perfect vino to pair with any dish|
|Allrecipes||"Alexa, search Allrecipes for..."||Suggests dishes you can make with foods on hand and talks you through recipes step-by-step|
|(Built-in capability)||"Alexa, add to my grocery list"||Adds the item you name to your grocery list. Just open up your Alexa app and view your lists to retrieve your entries|
|(Built-in capability)||"Alexa, how many..."||Tells you how many of X are in Y measurement|
|(Built-in capability)||"Alexa, start a timer..."||Sets a food timer. Note that Alexa can handle multiple timers at a time, great for when youre cooking a whole meal|
|Epicurious Smart Kitchen Timer||"Alexa, ask Epicurious..."||Tells you how long to cook a particular food (a roast, coffee cake, etc.)|
|Easy Cocktail||"Alexa, ask Easy Cocktail..."||Tells you how to make any drink you may ask|
Google Assistant kitchen hacks
|Skill Name||Verbal Cue||What it Does|
|Wine Guide||"OK Google, ask Wine Guide what goes with..."||Recommends wine pairings for every meal|
|Cocktail Bartender||"OK Google, ask Cocktail Bartender for a cocktail suggestion..."||Provides recipes, suggestions, and tips for making the best cocktails|
|(Built-in capability)||"OK Google, find me a recipe for..."||Finds a step-by-step recipe from one of Googles supported partners (Allrecipes, foodnetwork, simplyrecipes, etc.)|
|(Built-in capability)||"OK Google, how many cups are in..."||Tells you how many of X are in Y measurement|
|(Built-in capability)||"OK Google, save this recipe..."||Saves recipes to your Google app|
|(Built-in capability)||"OK Google, set a timer for..."||Sets a timer. Note that Google easily pauses, names, and cancels timers|
|Info about Food||"OK Google, ask Info about Food how many..."||Tells you nutritional information about food (how many calories, sodium, etc.)|
Voice assistant announcements
For houses with multiple smart speakers, the announcement skill can really come in handy when throwing a party. Your voice assistant functions as a one-way intercom that’s great for broadcasting when dinner is ready. The best part is, there’s no setup required. Both Google and Alexa share this function, but Alexa records your voice and plays it back for guests. Google’s announcement feature is limited to the assistant’s voice.
|Alexa||"Alexa, Drop In"|
|Set up the Drop In capability for all Echo devices you'd like to use before your party. Say “Alexa, Drop In on (name of Echo device)” to connect and have a two-way conversation. You can call between devices in your home, just specify by name.
Alternatively, you can use the broadcast feature to announce to all the speakers in your home with the message you record.
|Google Assistant||“OK Google, broadcast...”||Google will respond with “What’s the message?” The next thing you say will be recorded and then played back for your family to hear.|
Setting the Holiday Vibe
When all your guests have arrived and your party is in full swing, the last thing you want to do is worry about is skipping songs and playing endless guest requests. Instead, turn on your thoughtfully-curated holiday playlist and grant guests access so they can add all their favorites all night long. In addition to playing everyone’s favorite songs, your voice assistant has a number of features that give your party an edge. With the ability to play across multiple speakers, you are able to alter the bass and treble of the audio output without ever touching your phone. And it only takes a simple command to replay a song or find similar artists. As guest conversations cycle through and laughter ensues, it may seem like there is a little too much going on. That’s okay! You can always adjust the volume of the music from anywhere in your home.
Alexa supports Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, and a number of other streaming services. The only requirement is that you link your streaming account through the app and enable each service on their individual skills page. Then say “Alexa, play some music” to stream music from either your phone or computer. With Google Assistant, you can link any streaming services you’d like to use. And then ask Google to play music by saying a song name, album, artist, or even a genre. You can also indicate what streaming service you’d like Google to play in the command. To choose a default music service, simply set it in the Google Assistant settings through the app.
Designed to screw into your existing sockets, smart lights are fairly affordable and loaded with cool features. Smart lights work on their own platform, but can also be integrated into your smart home system for maximum convenience and functionality. Smart lights offer more than just turning on and off the lights of your home. When connected to your voice assistant, you can manipulate the brightness, color temperature and the hue of the lights with just the sound of your voice. For even more holiday fun, you can bring the fire inside with the dancing flame feature that subtly changes color and flickers as a fire would. Another fun trick that’s great for parties is syncing the music playing to your smart lights. The changes of color as the songs rise and fall will surely get every guest in the holiday spirit!
As the night goes on and the oven door swings to and fro, things might start to get a little toasty with so many people in your home. Smart thermostats make adjustments in temperature by monitoring your home’s activity, but you can also schedule times for heating or the air conditioning to come on, and control the thermostat via smartphone app from any room in the house. And, if your thermostat is compatible with your smart speakers, you can call out to your voice assistant to turn down the heat.
When you’d like to step out of the spotlight, hand the floor over to your smart speaker. Your voice assistant is also great for entertaining guests with some lightly corny, but still very fun games. From Jeopardy! to trivia showdown, your guests will envy your ability to think of everything and throw such a fun party. Both your Google Assistant and Alexa have an array of fun games to play!
- Heads Up!: The perfect game for groups, Alexa gives players clues about the answer card she is “holding.” Alexa sets 90 seconds on the clock and players guess as many cards as they can.
- Categories Game: Similar to Scattergories, the Categories game for Alexa is a fast-paced word game. Alexa calls out a letter and then contestants have to come up with words that begin with that letter for each category.
- Would You Rather for Family: Equipped with hilarious family friendly prompts, players choose between two provided scenarios. There are no winners and losers in this game, Alexa tells you the percentage of people who agree with your decision.
- Trivial Pursuit Tap: This fast-paced trivia race allows you to test players’ knowledge with three Jeopardy categories. It supports two to four Echo buttons for additional fun!
- Song Quiz: In this game, Alexa will play a fragment of a song and contestants guess either the song title or artist. Call out both for bonus points! The songs included range from the 1960s to the latest top 40 hits.
- Mad Libs: This game allows players to create a funny story by filling in the blanks Google provides without knowing how they will fit into the story. Google asks for nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs.
- Truth Or Dare Challenge: Keep your party interesting with Google’s Truth Or Dare game. Google will prompt players with various truth and dare scenarios.
- Akinator: Similar to 20 questions, players think of a real or fictional character and Akinator tries to name the character by asking questions.
- Trivia: Google Assistant supports a number of themed trivia games. Everything from Harry Potter to Friends is available!
- Ding Dong Coconut: This memory game requires players to associate words with sounds. New associations are provided each round and players see how long they can last.
For the little guests
Keeping children entertained and out of your hair when you’re hosting a party is essential, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. Understandably, children lose interest in adult conversation and want to do kid things. With so many things to tend to, you can’t always worry about how to perfectly entertain all the children too. Smart speakers can swoop in and save the day with a number of fun games and facts. While kids can play any of the games mentioned above, both Google Assistant and Alexa have games specifically designed for children.
Alexa offers a wide array of games and tricks your children can take advantage of. The Magic Door, a choose your own adventure story comes with interactive sounds, choices, characters and more. Children will tell Alexa what decisions to make as they solve riddles and help cool magical creatures along the way. Another fun option from Alexa is Superhero Trivia. This game will test their knowledge of all their favorite Marvel superheroes and provide plenty of cool facts too.
Google Assistant also offers numerous games and tricks your children can utilize during the party. Animal Trivia asks children questions based on animals and their characteristics. Google also has its own interactive tale that kids love. Strangest Day Ever is full of unexpected twists and silly situations that come from the choices children make!
Riding sharing to combat drunk driving
When hosting a holiday party, how your guests get home has to be on your radar. During the holiday season, there is a dramatic increase in binge drinking, drunk driving accidents, and DUI offenses. A study conducted by Scramsystems.com found that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, two to three times more people die in alcohol-related car accidents than the rest of the year and 25,000 people will be injured in drunk driving accidents. If your guest chooses to drive under the influence and that decision results in injury or damage to their vehicle, they can choose to sue you, the party-host, for damages.
Thankfully, it takes only a moment to request an Uber or Lyft ride for each of your guests with your smart speaker, though there is some setup to do before Alexa is ready to call an Uber or Lyft to your home. To start, you must enable the skill for your chosen ride-sharing app located in the “Skills & Games” setting. Next, you can log into your Uber or Lyft account to verify your identity. Make sure you allow the app to receive access to your location and all bank information is up to date.
When the party is finally over, you can kick off your shoes, relax and watch as your automated vacuum does all the cleanup. Designed to flawlessly navigate the topography of your home, robot vacuums pick up the slack, especially when you’re all tuckered out from hosting the best party ever. Easy to use from the app on your phone, some smart vacuum models are also compatible with voice assistants.
Whether you have every smart device or just a few, maximizing their potential to throw a party can ease some of the stress you may feel. Voice assistance can help you manage every step of the process and even wow your guests along the way. With your smart devices prepped and ready to help, you never have to lose focus on what’s really important during the holidays.