Wherever you are in the world, you’ve probably been spending a whole lot more time at home than usual, and likely just socializing with the people you live with instead of a range friends and family. Though the situation is starting to change, and folks are able to get out a little more, with most bars and restaurants closed or operating at reduced capacity, great places to get together for a happy hour may be few and far between.
So let’s go virtual!
Getting a group together with video conferencing is simple and fun, and might even end up becoming a part of your social routine once life gets back to whatever is going to be the new normal. Here are a handful of tips to get you started hosting your first virtual happy hour.
1) Start by picking your guests.
One of the beautiful things about having happy hour virtually is that you don’t actually have to be in the same city, or even the same state! You can even cross time zones, but more than three gets to be complicated. Keep the number of invitees relatively small. With five or six everyone can participate in the conversation without talking over each other. More than that and the whole thing can be joyful, but also chaotic. Everyone needs some sort of device with a camera – a computer (desktop, laptop or tablet) or phone, but your guests won’t need much in the way of technical smarts in order to join in.
2) Next pick your platform.
There are lots of options but no one-size-fits-all choice. Zoom has gotten a ton of buzz lately, works well and has some fun features (like virtual backgrounds) that can add to the party atmosphere. The downside is that unless you have access to a paid account (the cheapest runs around $15/month) you are limited to just 40 minutes.
Skype is also free and has no time limits, making it an attractive option. However, it requires downloading a special extension if you or one of your guests uses either Chrome or Firefox browsers.
Most of the other popular free platforms require that you and your guests have some basics in common such as using an Apple device (for FaceTime) or having a gmail account (for Google Hangout). Whichever you choose, as host you’ll need to spend a little time researching how to get set things up and may need to coach your guests a bit if this is their first time in a video meeting.
3) Choose a time.
This is generally not something that you need to put too much thinking into unless some of your guests live in another time zone. If you are partying cross country, 4 or 4:30 p.m. on the West Coast and 7 or 7:30 p.m. on the East Coast seems like a workable compromise, falling more or less in the typical happy-hour-time-zone without being too early or too late.
4) Theme party!
Picking a theme beyond “hey, let’s get together!” isn’t strictly necessary, but can make the whole experience a little more fun and spark some conversation. Suggest something simple like everyone picking their favorite local cider and sharing what they like about it. Get a little more creative by having all your guests wear a funny hat or other headgear that suggests something about who they are or where they went on their last vacation. You get the idea.
And then there’s music. Music is, or course, also optional, but putting on a little in the background will add to the party atmosphere, and might even tie into your theme, if you’ve got one. You may need to experiment with sound levels. You want it just loud enough for everyone to hear it without getting in the way of conversation, just like a happy hour happening in person.
5) Ready the cider.
Whether or not all of your guests are in the same area, they can get their hands on cider, shipped directly to their doorstep or with a no-contact, curbside pickup. The simplest way to go about picking the cider is through a style, profile or theme. Have everyone grab a berry cider, or a single varietal or even as generic as “dry canned cider” for the happy hour. You can led a discussion on what you’re smelling, tasting, feeling and enjoying.
Now all that’s left to do is to send out some happy hour invites, then let the party begin!