With everyone cooped up in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, staying in is the new going out. But being stuck at home doesn’t necessarily mean being alone.
All over social media, people are posting screenshots of video conferences with friends, family members or co-workers gathering for a virtual happy hour.
But before you jump in to hosting one of your own, there are some things to keep in mind to make one of these happy hours successful.
Settle on the software you’re using
From FaceTime to Skype, Google Hangout and Zoom, there are a variety of video conference platforms available. Ahead of your happy hour, decide on which one works best for your group and make sure everyone has access to it.
Think about the guest list
Just like an in-person gathering, think about getting the right group of people together. YouTuber Natalie Lynch, who has regularly held virtual happy hours with fans, told the New York Times that she recommends keeping gatherings small.
"Too many people in a Google Hangout and it just becomes chaos," Lynch told the Times. "More than eight to 10 people and conversations can't really happen without leaving people outside looking in."
Consider your location
When setting up your phone or computer, consider where in your home has the best lighting. Also think about somewhere that won’t have too much background noise.
“Backyard patios, kitchen tables and front porches can be suitable places to convene as well, as long as there is a stable surface to rest your laptop or device on,” the Times recommends.
Come up with conversation starters
Stress and anxiety around coronavirus is high right now, so it’s likely any gathering will want to discuss the news of the day. However, experts recommend having some other conversation starters on hand. Also think about keeping the conversation light.
Jenny Wang, a licensed psychologist, told the Times she recommends having a list of questions in place that have to do with how people are coping, how working from home is going and how people are finding connection amid the new normal.
“If we can accept the uncertainty of tomorrow and embrace the ability to live in the now, I think this helps us live well despite chaotic and uncertain times,” Wang said.
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Have some structure in place
While in-person happy hours may be less rigid, experts recommend giving your virtual happy hours a bit more structure. In an article for Inc., technology writer Minda Zetlin recommends keeping your virtual gathering to an hour, tops.
"Limiting your encounter to an hour, at least the first time you do it, will make the whole thing less intimidating," she writes. "Besides, you don't want to keep going until people are bored and checking their email. It's much better to end when people are eager for more."
After your successful gathering, make plans for the next one to give everyone something to look forward to.