What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Zoom happy hours and networking events? Let’s be honest. If it’s something like “boring” or “awkward,” you’re not necessarily off the mark.
Don’t get us wrong. The concept of virtual happy hours is a great one, especially in the midst of the current global pandemic. Keeping remote team members connected in a lighthearted and social way is important.
All we’re saying is that this awesome concept all too often falls flat in execution. But with these eight ideas, you can make your Zoom happy hour an unforgettable event.
1. Use Breakout Rooms
The first problem with the standard Zoom happy hour is that there’s no real structure to it.
Unlike in-person happy hours where people are able to talk naturally amongst themselves as they please, Zoom happy hours don’t exactly allow for that kind of socialization.
People just sign on and hope the conversation flows. And the bigger the group, the harder this can be.
If you want to create a bit of structure and give people the opportunity to chat in smaller groups, you can consider using Zoom’s breakout rooms feature which allows you to create “sub-Zooms” of participants within the ongoing meeting.
To do this, simply:
- Open your meeting
- Click Breakout Rooms
- Select the number of rooms you want to create and create them
- Click on the options button
From here, you can choose to either:
- Automatically shuffle people into different Breakout Rooms at preset intervals
- Allow participants to come and go as they please
- Close breakout rooms automatically after a predetermined time
Just make sure to check with your team before you go with this option to make sure that’s how they’d like to do it.
2. Create a Theme
It might seem like a simple thing (and it is), but having an established theme can set the tone for a more fun and more interesting Zoom happy hour.
You can consider themes like:
- Virtual Staycation: Pick a place on the map and “travel” there together by making cocktails that fit the destination
- Speakeasy: Take it back to the prohibition era with cocktails reminiscent of a time when getting together for a drink was an act of rebellion (check out this list of cocktails and recipes for inspiration)
- Taco Tuesday: Share your best taco recipes with your colleagues and have everyone mix up some margaritas
- Upscale: Considering many remote team members have probably been sitting at home working in their sweatpants the last little while, it might be nice to keep things classy with a bottle of wine or even some martinis
Make sure to give people advanced notice so they can plan accordingly for your theme.
3. Implement a Dress Code
Speaking of sitting at home and working in sweats, you can consider implementing a dress code for your happy hour. This can either be to accompany a theme or one you just pick out of the blue.
This could be anything, including:
- A certain colour of clothing
- Even getting everyone to put on their best denim on denim outfit (also known as the Canadian tuxedo).
4. Mix Up Your Zoom Backgrounds
As you may or may not know, Zoom allows you to have a ton of fun with your backgrounds.
So, rather than showing your home office (or wherever it is you’re working from), you can customize your background to be a bit more unique.
The options are endless, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, you could choose:
The office from The Office
The burning room from the popular “this is fine” meme
The bridge from the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek
Central Perk from the show Friends
But it doesn’t just stop with images. You can even make video backgrounds — like the guy who made a genius video background of himself accidentally walking in on his video call.
All you need to do to set this up is:
- Click your profile in the top right corner of your Zoom app
- Click Settings
- Click Virtual Background from the menu to the left
- Click the + icon next to where it says Choose Virtual Background
Pro tip: if you change your Zoom background to something funny, make sure to change it back before you get on your next business call — unless you’re happy with it still being there!
5. Play online games together
Another easy way to make your Zoom happy hour more interesting is to play some online games together.
Guess That Destination
For a simple and easy game, you can ask all of your teammates to select their favorite holiday destination — it can be anywhere in the world. Then, they can change their Zoom background to a photo of that place.
Together, you and your team can try to guess each person’s destination.
Two Truths and a Lie
Ever wondered how well you really know your teammates? With this game, you’ll find out.
The idea is that each person needs to come up with three statements about themselves — the more unique or outrageous, the better. The catch? One of them has to be a complete fabrication.
Each person will tell the group their three statements and it’ll be up to all of you to decide which is which.
Never Have I Ever (Quarantine Edition)
If you’re really looking to spice things up, Never Have I Ever is a ton of fun.
The premise is simple: each person picks something they’ve never done and announces it to the group — such as, “never have I ever gone bungee jumping.” Anyone in the group who has done it takes a sip of their drink. You’ll be amazed how much you can learn about your colleagues by watching who sips after each statement.
With this game, the statements can be as “mild” or as “spicy” as your group wants them to be. We’ll have to leave that decision at your discretion!
You really can’t go too far wrong with a word game, like Pictionary or Charades. They’re a good way to get everyone involved and engaged in your Zoom happy hour.
And there are a ton of tools online to make it easy, like this Word Generator that can pick words for you for nine different word games at varying degrees of difficulty.
6. Do Your Own Version of MTV Cribs
Remember that classic MTV show, Cribs? The one where celebrities would take you on a tour of their homes?
It went off the air in 2011 but you can revive it with your team by having each team member give a tour of their own homes on Zoom.
Just make sure to check with your colleagues first to make sure everyone is comfortable with the idea.
7. Zoom Karaoke
You might need a couple extra cocktails for this one, but if your team is up for it, you can turn your Zoom happy hour into a karaoke night and let everyone sing along to their favorite songs.
We’d recommend doing this using breakout rooms for different genres of music so that people can choose the type of music they like most. This also allows for the singing to be done in smaller groups, making it easier to manage and to make sure everyone gets their turn.
Ask each person to have on the music service of their choice, whether it’s Spotify, YouTube, Tidal, Apple Music, or any of the many others. Give each person a turn to pick a song for themselves (and the rest of the group) to sing.
8. Invest a Little Bit of Money Into a Special One
If you want to do something extra special for an upcoming Zoom happy hour and don’t mind investing a little bit of money into making it memorable, there are some awesome, outside-the-box things you can do.
Virtual Cooking Class
If your company is a group of foodies, you can consider hiring a chef to take you and your teammates through a virtual cooking class together.
You’ll need to decide in advance what will be cooked so that you can create a grocery list for your teammates. You can also subsidize your team’s grocery bill to make it even easier for everyone to participate.
Your team can share the experience of cooking together and can even share the meal together when all is said and done.
Just make sure to check with your group about any dietary restrictions they may have before picking what to cook. You can use a service like Survey Monkey to make a quick and easy email that you can send out to your colleagues to gather this information in one central place.
Virtual Paint Night
Tap into you and your team’s creative sides with a virtual paint night. Using a service like Yaymaker, you and your colleagues can easily get the paint and tools you need and then follow along with an instructor on screen.
Whether they elect to hang their painting on display in their home for everyone to see afterwards or to hide their artwork away is up to them!
There’s no doubt that getting your remote team together for Zoom happy hours is a great way to keep morale up and to maintain strong working relationships.
The only question is whether you’ll opt for a standard Zoom happy hour or do something to make it extra special and engaging.