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How to Host a Virtual Happy Hour

Sadly, the coronavirus has put the kibosh on grabbing a cold one with coworkers after a long day at the office. What COVID-19 hasn’t quelled, however, is our need for human interaction (and alcohol!) Thankfully, technology makes it possible to practice social distancing without saying sayonara to your pals (or Sangria!) So, whether you’re planning Bellinis with your besties, mimosas with your Mommy and Me group, or just grabbing beers with the boys – keep reading for tips on how to host a virtual happy hour. Cheers!

Size Matters

If you’re looking for a more intimate affair, then consider inviting 10 people or less. If you’ve ever been on a company video chat with more than 10 employees, then you know that chaos quickly ensues. A smaller group means everyone can be heard and no one feels left out. If you just can’t whittle down the guest list, or you’re posting a public party invite on your social channels, be prepared to moderate. Be the hostess with the mostest by welcoming newcomers, making introductions, answering questions, and maintaining some semblance of decorum.

Dress for the Occasion

After eight weeks of working from home in quarantine, you may not remember which drawer holds your pants. You’re hosting an event, though, so make sure to look the part! Style your hair, apply some makeup, and throw on a fancy blouse – even if you’re just sipping wine with three friends. Show your guests that you’re excited to see them, and to have something to do. The simple act of getting ready will lift your spirits and put you in the partying mood.

Set the Mood

If you happen to have a bar in your house, then that’s where you set up your computer. Otherwise, find a spot where you can get comfortable without being bothered by kids and pets (neither of which are invited!) If you have a pool, patio, deck, backyard, or basement – any of those can be turned into the ideal spot – just be sure there’s enough light so others can see you. Keep the background noise to a minimum and don’t forget the corkscrew!

Pick a Theme

Just like an in-person party, you want to have a theme for food and drinks. Pick a name for your virtual bar, like Tanya’s Tiki Hut, and let everyone know what’s on the menu. If you’re serving a specific drink – like the Quarantini – be sure to include a shopping list so everyone can participate. Remember to add some mocktail options for people who don’t drink.

Get on the Grid

There are tons of free video conferencing platforms available for your virtual happy hour:

  • Skype
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts
  • GoToMeeting
  • RingCentral Video
  • Pexip
  • TeamViewer
  • ezTalks Meetings
  • Cisco Webex

Regardless of which service you pick, use the grid view to place everyone in equal-sized boxes. This makes it really easy to see facial expressions and gives the chat a more intimate vibe. Plus, people tend to talk over each other less when everyone is in view.

Listen Up

The point of this gathering is to make people feel less isolated. As the moderator, make sure you’re being a good listener and intervene if someone isn’t getting a chance to be heard.

 Lighten Up

Although it might be tempting to use this forum to vent about the new normal, try to keep the conversation light and fun. Your virtual happy hour should be an escape for your friends, with laughter as the final destination. If you’re at a loss for words, try using these conversation starters:

  • What are three things you’re grateful for now for that you weren’t before quarantine?
  • What’s something you’ve tried for the first time since lockdown began?
  • Which shows have you been binging?
  • What’s a work from home hack you’d like to share?
  • Who are you grateful you’re not quarantined with?
  • Tell us about your home workout routine.
  • What’s one new thing you’ve learned about your spouse/partner/child/parent since this began?

Plan the Next Party

If you’re using a free conferencing platform, chances are your happy hour came with a time limit. Before it ends, decide who will host the next event and when it will be held. Having something to look forward to gives your life structure and breeds happy anticipation. Don’t let physical distance keep you from enjoying an active social life!

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