1. Pick Your Guest List
First and foremost, decide who you want to gather. Do you want to throw a happy hour for your team to foster culture and accountability? Or maybe a network of friends and colleagues. Local business owners and vendors. Perhaps you have a close-knit community of clients that would love to jump on a happy hour.
Pick your group and keep it relatively narrow! Virtual happy hours can be tricky when too many people log on. A good rule of thumb is 15-20 people. That makes it easier for people to engage and be heard. Anything beyond that starts to get a bit chaotic.
2. Delegate a Host
More than likely this will be you! However, if there is someone in your business that is better suited (or more available) to host the happy hour, that’s fine too. The role of the host is to send the invites, welcome guests to the call, keep the conversation moving, and anticipate/solve any problems that may arise.
3. Pick Your Platform
I’d be surprised if these are new tools to you at this point. Agents have been quickly pivoting their business to run virtually and are already well-versed in virtual meetings and showings.
Platforms to check out: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype
Pro Tip: We like Zoom because it allows you to easily view every attendee in “grid view.” If you prefer to use Google Hangouts and want the “grid view” option, check out this Google Chrome Extension.
4. Learn Your Platform’s Best Practices
Before hosting a happy hour, become familiar with the platform that you chose to avoid missteps. (For example; if the meeting host has a basic Zoom account, the meeting will automatically end after 45 minutes! You’ll want to upgrade your account to host a longer meeting.)
We recommend sharing some tips with your attendees either at the beginning of the happy hour or in the email invitation.
Tips to Include:
- Be aware of background noise (TV, barking dogs, etc.) and mute yourself if you have any. You can unmute yourself to talk!
- How to change your screen setting to “grid view”
- Let people know that they can hop off whenever they need to and that they can temporarily turn their camera off if they want to leave and come back.
- Point out the chat functionality. This is a great space for attendees to add links and photos of things that they reference in the conversation.
5. Set a Clear Start and End Time
Start time is obvious, but it’s also important to establish expectations for an end time. (We recommend 1 hour!) If everyone’s having a great time, more than likely they’ll hang out longer, however, it’s good to be respectful of people’s time. Having an end time also gives attendees a way to leave when they’re ready without feeling uncomfortable for jumping off “too soon.”
Good rule of thumb: It’s better to host a short and sweet happy hour and leave them wanting more.
6. Encourage Bringing a Drink (Alcoholic or Non!)
We love happy hour for a reason. It’s a more relaxed environment and everyone can let loose a bit. Having a drink takes the call out of “meeting” territory and gives people permission to relax and have fun. (I’d say we all need that right now.) For the non-drinkers, bring a fun sparkling water or mocktail!
Sharing a simple drink recipe or encouraging a particular type of drink can add some fun to the mix and spark organic conversation. Like recommending margaritas or bringing your favorite local beer.
7. Be Prepared with Questions (Even if you don’t use them)
As the host, it’s your job to guide the happy hour. This isn’t so necessary in person at a bar, however, virtual communication is new and unfamiliar to a lot of folks. It can take a bit more leverage to loosen people up and get them chatting.
Think of a simple question or prompt to use as an icebreaker to get people sharing. Even if it’s just, “What’s everyone drinking?” or, “Tell us about your work-from-home space.”
Stay engaged and alert and be ready to throw out another question if the conversation slows down and ventures into awkward silence territory.
8. [Optional] Choose a Cause
We’ve heard some fantastic stories from BoomTown clients hosting virtual happy hours and donating money to local restaurants and bartenders. It goes without saying that these small businesses are suffering (as many of us are) with the financial uncertainty of this crisis. This is a perfect opportunity to pool some resources from your happy hour attendees to support a cause that you care about.
9. [Optional] Choose an Activity/Theme
Zoom Happy Hours are quickly becoming the norm. Consider differentiating yourself by adding a twist to your event and choosing an activity or a theme.
You could have a local bartender join for the first 15 minutes to do a virtual cocktail class. [Pairs well with Tip 8!] Or invite a musician to kick things off with a short 2-3 song set. Maybe start the happy hour with fun trivia questions. A theme is a great way to give people the opportunity to dress up and be silly at a time when we’re all confined to small spaces with limited opportunities for fun. Maybe throw a “Halloween in May” or encourage everyone to come wearing their most extravagant hat.
Really your creativity is your toolbox here. We encourage you to #GoForIt and have fun with this idea.
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