Tips for hosting a virtual happy hour while social distancing

If you’re missing friends and coworkers while social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, you may want to try a virtual happy hour.

In-person social gatherings are out, but you can still get the gang together online. Having a glass of wine together through video chat, or maybe a cup of tea if you’re staying away from booze, can help you feel less isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Just follow these suggestions for a successful, virtual, after-work get-together.


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Pick a platform and a time

First thing to do is choose how your group will video chat with each other. Popular options include FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Houseparty and Google Hangouts.

Then make sure everyone knows what time to connect. Best part about virtual happy hour is it doesn’t have to be during the traditional 5 to 7 p.m. time frame.


Play games

You might not be able to play Jenga together, or any of those other hands-on games found at local bars, but there are still ways to start a little friendly competition.

One suggestion is to offer to organize Quizzo and come up with trivia questions to ask your friends. 

Another option is to try a party game by Jackbox Games. The Chicago-based company recently published a handy guide to playing remotely with friends.

You can also ask friends to vote anonymously in a poll on funny, dumb questions like, “Who’s most likely to win the lottery but lose the ticket?” and then laugh about the results together online.


Choose a signature drink

If your friends like cocktails and have access to ingredients, suggest everyone make a specific alcoholic beverage to enjoy while chatting. You could also ask everyone to make their own version of a Quarantini, whatever that may be, and then share their recipes.

For those who are more into beer, maybe invite everyone to drink a brew from a local brewery.

You don’t all have to drink the same thing during happy hour, or even drink something alcoholic, but sticking to a theme can help make your crew feel more connected while sipping remotely.


Collaborate on a playlist

If you were all together at your favorite bar, you’d all be listening to the same soundtrack. To replicate the experience of being out for happy hour, make a Spotify playlist that you can stream during your virtual hangout.

By setting the playlist to collaborative, your friends will be able to add, delete and reorder the tracks, ensuring everyone gets a say.


Cook together

Anyone in your group a really good cook? Ask them if they’ll host a short cooking demo for everyone to follow along.

Another suggestion is to play your own version of Food Network’s “Chopped.” Make a list of four ingredients all participants need to buy from the grocery store and use in a dish. You can cook together virtually and then show what you’ve made. The downside is you won’t be able to taste each other’s food, but you can vote on presentation and creativity.

And if that’s all too complicated, make plans for everyone to get a takeout pizza kit from a local business to make and eat while chatting online.


Have prepared topics to discuss

People may be feeling stressed over coronavirus concerns and while that’s totally reasonable, if you’d like to steer the conversation away from heavy discussions on COVID-19, then come prepared with a few talking points. 

You could start a convo on books to read, or ask for at-home workout suggestions, or talk about what’s worth watching on Netflix (“Tiger King” offers lots to discuss – and even Gritty’s seen the show).


This article was updated on March 27, 2020, after it was originally published.

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