Since we first began quarantining due to Covid-19, we’ve found creative ways to operate in the all-virtual world. From virtual yoga classes and virtual doctor's appointments to virtual apartment tours and virtual interviews, many of us haven’t missed a beat in the new normal.
In addition, we’ve found ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and coworkers. And one way that’s gained widespread popularity is the virtual happy hour. In fact, many employers now use the virtual happy hour to team build, help onboard new employees, and give employees much needed breaks.
So, if you’re looking to host one of these happy hours with your colleagues, here are six tips to help make it more engaging, enjoyable, and successful.
1. Limit the number of attendees
A virtual happy hour is a social activity, but unlike an in-person party, its success is partially dependent upon fewer people, not more. A virtual happy hour is much like a party where you talk individually to each guest face-to-face, so try to keep the guest list to a minimum. The scope of the happy hour changes as more and more guests are added, and the party can become unmanageable for those attending.
Twelve people is a good maximum number to engage with, as that number gives everyone an opportunity to speak, hear others speak, and see each other’s faces at once.
2. Send invites early and often
Once you set a definitive date and time, send the information along with meeting IDs to all guests a few weeks ahead of time. Follow up a week before and then once again on the day of the meeting. Friendly, timely reminders will allow your guests to change out of their t-shirts and sweatpants, set up their computers in appropriate locations, and pour themselves a glass of their favorite beverage.
It’s important to make sure to include an end time with the invitation. Closing a meeting can make some people feel awkward. Plan a definite end time, so no one needs to initiate uncomfortable good-byes.
3. Mind your setup
A variety of different devices can be used for a virtual happy hour, but to ensure that both you and your guests enjoy themselves, use a laptop or desktop, rather than a smartphone. A laptop will enable you to see all of your guests, and it won’t move around (unless you put a smartphone on a tripod), making other guests dizzy.
If you use a laptop, set it on a secure table and, if needed, on a stack of books to provide your guests with a face-to-face shot. No one wants to stare into your nostrils while carrying on a conversation. Also, make sure to test your sound and picture, and ensure that your computer and WiFi signal are strong enough to support a virtual meeting. You might want to have a short test meeting with a friend or colleague before your happy hour.
4. Mind the light and background
Also important is taking your surroundings into consideration before the meeting. Are your kids playing in the background? Are there numerous distractions around you? If your office is in your bedroom, make sure the bed is made and all the dirty clothes are picked up. If the kitchen table is your favorite place to work, clear off any counters that will be visible to your guests.
A virtual happy hour is usually held in the afternoon so make sure you have enough light in the room you plan to use. Open the drapes and turn on some lamps so your guests can see you clearly.
5. Keep it private
Virtual meeting hacks have become all too common during the global pandemic. So make sure to use the “private” setting for your happy hour to ensure it won't be hacked. Also, don’t share meeting details on public sites or post information on social media sites. Meeting ID numbers should never be shared with anyone outside of your group.
6. Set a harmonious tone
Hosting a virtual happy hour is not too different from hosting an in-person party. This means that no matter how well your guests know each other or what your purpose is for having the happy hour, take the time to plan.
If you want music during your party, choose background music that’s not too loud or uncomfortable for your guests. If you create a theme, notify your guests of it in your invitation; let your guests know ahead of time if this is a dress-up happy hour or just a casual get together. Also, purposefully choose discussion topics that all guests can participate in, avoiding addressing the usual taboo party subjects like politics and religion.
By approaching your Zoom happy hour in much the same way as you would an in-person party, you’ll ensure that your guests have a relaxing, fun meet-up. Going the extra mile to make your guests feel comfortable will create harmonious happy hours, leaving them asking for more.
Sam Radbil is the lead writer for ABODO Apartments, an online real estate and apartment marketplace with available apartments from college towns like Madison, Wisconsin, to major cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. ABODO's research, rent reports and writing have been featured nationally in Curbed, Forbes, Realtor.com, HousingWire, and more.