Whether you’re sheltered down at home for months or the isolated time is behind you, happy hours will always be some of our favorite social gatherings.
What we mean is that, by now, many of us are a few rounds in either hosting or attending virtual happy hours with friends or catching some morning coffee with a family member. What a relief it is to live in such a digital age, where even though we are quarantined, you are able to check in with others around the globe in the comfort of our living rooms.
When quarantined started a couple of months ago, virtual happy hours were not so popular. But now, it’s becoming so popular that you can have happy hours whenever you like. There is a new social ecosystem of online gatherings. When people have nowhere to be, it’s easy to start up a virtual dance party, skype session, webinar, and watch parties together.
Find your platform.
There are plenty of options out there for video conferencing and parties. Our favorite and most widely used one is Zoom. It’s become the number one video chat application and is fairly easy to use. The interface is familiar for many but it can be a little business-y for intimate evening hangouts.
Another good option and the easiest to use is House Party. It’s a phone or desktop app that sorts friends (and even strangers) into video chatrooms that cap off at eight. All you need to do is download the app and it connects you with your friends. It’s that simple.
The third option is Google Hangouts which can host up to 32 people but everyone has to have iOS.
Establish ground rules for a virtual happy hour
The best way to approach virtual happy hour is telling everyone that it’s informal and there is no specific agenda. A good rule of thumb is that everyone is required to use the video feature and participate. No lurkers at virtual happy hour!
Rather than a free-for-all with colleagues vying for talk time, it might be a good idea to organize a leader to run the happy hour. That person can give a short introduction and ask questions one by one. If you’ve ever experienced a virtual happy hour with 6 or more people, things can get a little hectic as too many people are trying to talk at once.
The emphasis should be on the social aspect as most questions shouldn’t be work-related. Have fun and reminisce about your past and childhood aspirations.
Pick the right time for a virtual happy hour
This one is important. Consider where attendees live. Time zones can really be an issue when scheduling. Most people work around 9-5 pm during the week so after hours are always best. If you don’t’ do it during the week, the next best time is earlier in the day on a Saturday or Sunday.
Lights, cameras, background.
It’s all about the lighting and angle before you go live on video. Make sure you have good lighting and look somewhat presentable in front of your friends. What most people do wrong is have so much lighting on their faces that they tend to look super pale. Try to use natural lighting instead of fluorescence as it can really overexposure your video camera. Sitting by a window or skylight is much better and will reveal natural colors. However, don’t sit where the sun is shining directly because it will be too harsh. Rule of thumb, diffuse your lighting as much as possible.
If you want to get creative, Zoom even has backgrounds that you can change. If you’re trying to set a mood and you don’t want to use one of the wild Zoom backgrounds, just keep it simple and clean. And if you can add a plant, well. Add that plant.
Follow dinner party rules.
On some level, a virtual hangout has to be like any other party. Remember, side conversations do not exist, everyone will hear you. So cap things off at a certain number of guests. Too many can be more of a headache than it’s worth. Send a calendar invite to people so they remember the virtual party. And at a certain point, let it end. Don’t make people make up quarantine excuses to leave the video chat. Set a certain amount of time to end the party just like you would at a dinner party.