Your workday is winding down – calls, emails, meetings, all complete. The only item remaining on your calendar is Happy Hour.
What a relief.
Your mind begins to relax as you look forward to sipping on your favorite drink and socializing with friends, teammates or other practitioners in your field.
But it’s no longer at a bar, or hosted in the office. Like everything else in our new normal, happy hour has moved to be remote as well.
Happy hour has long been a staple of our weekly routine. We look forward to being social, winding down, connecting with friends, networking or simply having an excuse to experience a new place.
Social distancing certainly makes some of this challenging, but not impossible. In fact, maintaining our connection with one another is more important now, than ever before. And for people experiencing ‘meeting fatigue,’ a virtual happy hour could be a great way to add a different energy to meetings with both internal and external people. This is a great solution for professionals to continue to foster their relationships without delaying important conversations or strategic decisions. This forum creates an open opportunity to discuss things like project goals, business updates, team collaboration, industry best practices and sales initiatives, just to name a few. In fact, you may find these gatherings to be even more productive as people strike a balance between the professional and social aspects and become more comfortable with our new normal.
Here’s how you can host a successful virtual happy hour:
Decide on a theme
Be aware that a virtual happy hour may not feel natural to everyone. Therefore, the goal is to make your attendees feel as comfortable as possible. A theme, such as Tropical Vacations for example, encourages people to be creative and increases inclusivity. Be sure to think of a theme prior to hosting and include it in your calendar invite so people can make theme-based drinks, dress up, change their video chat background, or even participate in a theme-based icebreaker if they so choose. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to speak, share their thoughts and build connections with others. The faster attendees begin to feel comfortable, the longer you can maximize the time that everyone is together.
Create a loose agenda
This step is particularly important for virtual happy hours where the goal is to network or build momentum on a professional level. Creating a lose agenda for the group allows the host to set expectations and facilitate meaningful interactions. When sharing an agenda during a virtual happy hour, it’s important to keep it simple. Do not include more than 3 items, build in time for spontaneous breakouts, and keep it conversational. This type of agenda is meant to help guide the conversation, not control it.
As happy hour comes to an end, it is a best practice for the host to share a summary of outstanding items or next steps based on the agenda and conversations topics that followed. This helps to ensure that everyone is clear on the path forward, eliminates any ambiguity and encourages future collaboration.
Keep it small
Reflect on a large, in-person gathering you’ve attended in the past. It’s no surprise that people organically begin to break off into small groups so they can more easily connect with others through deeper conversations. A virtual happy hour is no different. Although you may be tempted to invite as many people as possible, keep your happy hour intimate with no more than 10-15 attendees. Otherwise, you risk creating a chaotic atmosphere where some people are talking over one another and competing for airtime, while others, may feel overwhelmed and don’t have an opportunity to participate in the conversation. In these situations, nobody wins.
Virtual happy hours are a part of our new reality. Keep these four tips in mind as you host your own or even as you attend as a guest to ensure a fun, successful and productive experience with friends, teammates or other practitioners in your field.
Remember, all happy hours should be fun! Take advantage of this time to laugh and connect on a personal level with others. We are all social beings that crave connections, so don’t be afraid to take charge and plan recurring virtual happy hours that may include new themes, icebreakers, music, or even pets – be creative!