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4 ways to reimagine your virtual happy hours

  • Posted on July 23, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

Are your virtual happy hours starting to lose attendance or feel stale? After all, there are only so many filler questions like “so is anyone streaming anything good on Netflix?” before team members start to see decreasing returns on attendance. 

While the virtual happy hour quickly became an important tool to keep a small semblance of normalcy and help acclimate employees to be more comfortable videoconferencing, some may be looking for the next iteration and starting to re-introduce some shop-talk over a drink or two. Try adding a very simple agenda or framework, such as the below, to help keep things moving and bring back some excitement.  

1. Something to brag – just like elementary school, it’s a show-and-tell for the thing a teammate is most proud of recently. Whether it’s a kid's pinewood derby car, how they closed a contract, a custom code for home automation, or even just introducing that fuzzy cat that always sneaks into the frame at the most inopportune time.  It’s a chance to see someone get excited and act as a bit of an icebreaker to get others to open up as well. Try to keep these limited to no more than 5-10 minutes. 

2. Something to know - next, have someone on the team pre-plan and teach everyone else something they can do while on the call - origami, the latest drink recipe, how to floss dance, or a tip or trick on starting a SharePoint site. The most important thing is making sure it is something others can have available at the same time (sending materials/ingredients in advance is a plus). This one is also best kept to no more than 5-10 minutes. This activity also helps get the creative juices flowing and encouraging group participation (even if they're on mute).

3. Something to do - Many organizations try to make virtual happy hours and informal chats non-work related. This, in my humble opinion, can be a mistake. Brainstorming and crowdsourcing a problem or issue on a project or client can keep the camaraderie going. If your meeting is more than 6-8 people, consider splitting into separate meetings or breakout groups and report back findings after a set time. The important thing here is to provide some guide rails (not structure) and let participants go with it where they want to. 

4. Something to close - It's always good to end with a smile. After a group debrief of Something to Do (or as an alternative altogether), play a game of Pictionary, match an item/picture to a team member, or some other easy-to-play game remotely. Better yet, mail out a Lego kit or brain puzzle ahead of time and have participants race to who can get it completed first for a prize.
 
Using a semi-structured agenda such as this can switch things up and keep it fresh, and hopefully get your staff re-engaged. If you try this for a month or two, don't be discouraged if it starts to feel stale, it just means it's time to reinvent again. Eventually, you'll be able to make it fully around the horn and go back to the Hawaiian shirt themes and Tiger King talk again.

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