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How to Host a Virtual Happy Hour

By now, you’re may be tired of friends and coworkers touting their most recent virtual happy hour. But if you’re looking to stay social while bars, restaurants, and other social dwellings are shuttered, it’s one of the best ways to do so amid the current bizarre climate we call present-day life. 

You may have to stay on or near your property, but that doesn’t mean you need to be out of touch. Here are some tips for making your virtual gathering as close to the real thing as possible:

Pick a Platform

There are a fair number of options here but we’ll stick to the best and easiest to use. Zoom is a fan favorite and beloved by working types as it allows for shared screens and the recording of calls. Skype was one of the first in the game and continues to be an alright bet, now with a group function that allows for up to fifty individual parties. Google Hangouts (select Hangouts Chat, not Hangouts Meet) is another good option, easy-to-use on either your computer or your mobile device.

zoom meeting
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Houseparty has become fairly popular as of late as well, especially among younger folks. It offers games and quizzes for the group, too, should you run out of things to talk about. You can go the Slack route as well, with a cap set on fifteen of your “team” members. And there’s always Facebook, which has a decent group platform but is, well, Facebook, and comes its own world of trolling, misinformation, etc.

Premix Your Drinks

If you’re mixing cocktails, make enough for seconds. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you throw one back in the company of all those other happy faces enjoying drinks. Having a second drink at the ready is a great way to avoid leaving the conversation to prep. Better still, try your hand at a large batch of some classic like a Negroni or Manhattan and just pull samples as needed. The flavors meld and hold up nicely over time, even in a large vessel.

Cede the Floor

If you’re new to virtual happy hour, you’ll quickly find out that there’s a small learning curve. The first few minutes are almost always a little awkward, with people talking over each other, trying to catch up amid little glitches and delays. Soon, though, you’ll find a rhythm and learn to cede the floor to others. In large groups especially (use the gallery function, people, it’s fun and like having a conversation in Brady Bunch-mode), you’ll be listening more than chatting, so be respectful and take in some good anecdotes from some old pals.

woman taking conference call
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Use Visuals

Take advantage of the fact that you’re working in the medium of video. Show off a self-cut hairdo, a freshly groomed beard, a sketch you drew while bored, or a batch of snacks you devised. Video also presents a fine opportunity to dress up your background. Use it as an excuse to start a fire, set up some tiki props, or display the best room in your dwelling. Go even further and set up a green screen background on which you can display photos that the group will appreciate.

Take it Outside

laptop on table outside
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You’re living in a wireless world, baby, so there’s no need to stay inside. Unfold your favorite camp chair and breathe in the spring season, weather providing. Show off the wildflowers in your immediate vicinity or chat up the garden you’re about to plant. If nothing else, just enjoy the fresh air and birdsong. Just remember to social distance if you’re near a sidewalk or thoroughfare of some kind. 

Toast Often

Clink your glass against the screen as often as possible. If you’re fortunate enough to be healthy and financially okay, you’ve plenty to be thankful for. Tell a friend something about them you’ve always loved and raise a glass. Talk about resolutions you may have for a post-public health crisis world. Make pacts to see parts of the world when all this is said and done. Hell, toast the fact that we’re all in this together, with Wi-Fi to see us through to the triumphant end. 

Have a Dance or Listening Party

woman listening on laptop
Eric Audras/Getty Images

After a drink or two, plug in the music. There are a variety of ways for everybody to enjoy the same tunes at the same time, regardless of your actual location. The simplest is just a live radio stream opened in a separate tab. Because the music is coming from a single online source, you don’t have to worry about syncing things up. Another, tech-ier version is AuxParty, which allows you to stream platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify simultaneously. It’s a great way to show off a new playlist of bangers or have a listening party with an old classic or just-released album from a favorite artist.

Share What You’re Drinking

Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon a great local brewery that’s making deliveries or a wonderful way to put green chartreuse to work. Share your findings. As bar supplies start to dwindle as the quarantine era stretches on, you’ll be thankful for the inspiration and creativity your cunning friends bring to the table, virtually at least. Settle on a theme for the following Friday’s gathering, like gin and tonic or Argentinian wine and see what your friends bring to the party.

Dress Up

You’d dress up if you were going out so why not for a virtual hang? Besides, your hygiene has almost certainly tanked lately. Pick yourself up, bathe, do your hair, and sport some of those spring clothes you’ve been meaning to show off. If we’re going to outlast the pandemic, it ought to be done in style (or, at least a good dress shirt as, depending on your camera angle, pants may still be optional).

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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