Remote happy hour:
What’s not to like?

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Virtual happy hours are taking over the world. But maybe you haven’t hosted one yet because you’re worried about getting it right. Realizing the stress and pressure we are all under during the pandemic, Territory’s team has put together a fool-proof, full-proof, happy hour kit to help you host a ‘get happy hour’ party for your team, family, or friends.

For hosting newcomers, here’s your simple 4-step to-do list to get started.

1. Select your video platform.

There are plenty to choose from: Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facebook, and Skype. We like Zoom because it’s user-friendly and it’s easy to send invitations to anyone. And using the “grid view,” Zoom also allows you to see all of the participants on the screen at the same time. The drawback to Zoom, though, is that the free version will only allow for a 40-minute group meeting. But one of your participants may have an enterprise account that allows unlimited time. Unlike Zoom, Google Hangouts limits the number of people you can see at once, so you may need to scroll to see who is there, but Google offers a plug-in that enables grid view. Select whichever platform your co-workers or friends are most familiar with or like best.

2. Set your date and time—and theme!

We suggest you plan for a one-hour event and start small. More than 6 people makes socializing a bit of a challenge. As your virtual socializing skills improve, gradually increase the number of invitees. Some platforms allow breakout rooms where people can socialize in small groups while still remaining part of the event. For now, keeping it small will be the simplest and fastest way to make your happy hour happen.

Most happy hours are about sharing a drink together. We’ve found that having a signature drink (each week a team member shares their signature beverage) is an excuse to express creativity and make the event more than just another video chat. Other themes include dressing up (pick a style or source of inspiration), favorite films, best shelter-in-place activities, recipes, etc. You can even share images (most platforms enable screen sharing) which can be another way to connect to those in attendance. What’s important is to remember that you’re creating fun. Remain open to ideas and spontaneity from your friends. To inspire you, we are sharing our small library of icons we use for our happy hours. And here’s a simple pre-party video of how to make Morasky’s “Go-to Old Fashioned” recipe, as well as the fancy Varo-Haub alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink recipes shown below.

One dash naughty, one dash nice—provide both cocktails and mocktails!

One dash naughty, one dash nice—provide both cocktails and mocktails!


And don’t think you have to hold your gathering at happy hour—or include drinking. As another path to share thoughts and concerns, we came together as a small group of friends and co-workers to have an open conversation about what we were seeing and feeling. Here are our thoughts and sketches captured in MURAL from that conversation. No formal outcome, just a chance to feel a common bond and share how we were all feeling.

3. Getting started

While you can simply have a laissez-faire show-up, we have found some helpful guardrails that ensure a better experience. Have an introduction. Help folks who are new set the picture to “grid view” so everyone can see each other. Consider having everyone mute when not talking. If you organized the happy hour, feel free to spark conversation and ensure everyone knows one another. Pulling together a list of questions you can refer to makes it easier for those of us who are not spontaneous conversationalists.

4. Designing the party’s experience

After you’ve gotten everyone “comfortably seated,” consider starting out by going around the table and letting each person talk about their last week, their family, their work, or whatever topic you think resonates.  We like the quick format giving each person the chance to share news or ask for some advice—or both! As with real-world happy hours, it’s probably best to keep the conversation light. While COVID-19 is bound to come up, it’s not hard to redirect too-heavy discussion into sharing tips and ideas on how to enjoy the time at home.

Too much structure can stifle a good time, try seeding a topic and see where it goes. As host, try to encourage listening and keep the group from having crosstalk, which hurts the ability to hear and share. If one person is dominating the conversation, ask someone who has been quiet what they think about the topic.

It’s that easy! Jump on this digital bandwagon as a fun way to reconnect, stay calm, and safely share some time with the ones that make you happy.

>Download the Territory Happy Hour icons

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

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