It may still be some time before all of our favorite bars, pubs or clubs open up to the public, and for us social butterflies and professional drinkers, isolation is starting to take its toll. However, thanks to great apps like Zoom, drinking alone doesn’t have to be quite as sad as it sounds.
But just as there are effectively norms to going out and having a good time, there are also some basic things you need to know and get right if you want to have a successful digital happy hour. First up we’ll look at the basics you need to get right if you’re hosting the evening, and secondly, we’ll look at ground rules for the guests.
Be a good host
Starting a Zoom happy hour for you and your friends is much like hosting a dinner party. People need to know when to show up, and you need to be home to host them. So, translating that to the digital space, send out scheduled invitations and make sure you’re online and ready to host at least a few minutes before guests are scheduled to log in.
Thankfully, you don’t have to cook and prepare drinks for everyone, but otherwise, you should make an effort to be a decent host. If anyone doesn’t know each other, provide a period of time for introductions, or make them yourself. Have an idea for a loose itinerary, like a trivia night, or karaoke. My wife and I have had a couple of great nights playing movie trivia and Pictionary with our friends.
If necessary, interject in the conversation so you can include those who may seem like they’re being crowded out by the louder members. Some people need an in to start talking, while others can easily talk for 20 minutes at a time. It’s pretty much your job as host to make everyone feel the night was worthwhile.
On that note, don’t invite too many people. I’ve been keeping my own happy hours to three people maximum, but you can go up to as many as 8 and keep everyone involved. Anything above that and people start to feel left out.
Finally, make sure you set your Zoom meeting to be private. It’s unlikely to happen, but some public meetings have been known to be gatecrashed by unwelcome guests. You don’t want your good times ruined by an attention seeker hoping to turn your happy hour into a nudist party.
Be a good guest
Speaking of choice of clothing, or lack thereof, a Zoom happy hour is the perfect excuse to get out those nice clothes that haven’t seen the light of day since March. Dress up a bit, and you’ll not only feel better for it, but give the happy hour an element of class.
Make sure you are also on time for this happy hour. Unlike a casual group invitation to hit the town, everyone is literally sitting and waiting for you to show up. Arriving late is just bad manners.
And don’t bring an uninvited guest with you. That means, don’t share the Zoom link with someone else unless the host gives their approval, and be mindful of others in your household who might be crashing your party, or on the flip side, you might be crashing yours. The first time I attempted a Zoom happy hour, I received fair feedback from my wife that I was ignoring the family sitting just on the opposite side of the room.
Also, just like with a work meeting, be familiar with your mute button. Should you need to speak to someone else in the house with you, or make noises that might disturb your happy hour friends, the mute button is your best friend.
And just as with a night at the bar or a dinner party, keep your focus on the other guests as much as possible. The worst kind of party goer is the kind that always finds excuses to stare at their phone, and that’s doubly the case if you’re all supposed to be drinking and enjoying each other’s company on a Zoom call.
Finally, know when to end it. Maybe you’re all having the time of your lives and can go on for several hours. In more likelihood, people will get tired of staring at their screens after just a couple of hours, and perhaps should get back to their families. Keep the feeling of the Zoom happy hour special by feeling the mood of the room and end it at just the right time.