Spice Up Your Virtual Happy Hour

You've been "meeting" for after-work drinks for months—and things might be getting a bit stale. Some tips to spice up your virtual team building.

Your team has been working from home for several months now and those virtual happy hours are getting a little stale. You’ve got the process down pat: You send out the invites, welcome people into the room, pose an interesting question to get the conversation started and hope for the best!

Unfortunately, it appears we will be meeting this way for the forseeable future, so it’s time to mix it up!  Here are some ideas to add a little spice/energy/pizzazz to your virtual team building events:

Theme Ideas

• Rotate the Host. You do not need to host the happy hour all the time!  Rotate the role among the team and ask them to “design” the happy hour to include some of the following elements.

Theme. Create a theme for the hour.  Choose an era/decade (e.g. Prohibition, the Swinging Sixties, or the Disco Decade), a popular TV show (e.g. Tiger King, The Office, or Game of Thrones), or vacation location (Hawaii, France, Ireland).  For example, for a Hawaiian theme, play Hawaiian music, have team members can wear a Hawaiian shirt, and drink a Blue Hawaiian cocktail.

Bar. Pick an inspiring name of the “virtual bar” the team will be attending.  “Sean’s Irish Bar” could inspire people to bring an Irish beverage, wear Irish green, decorate with shamrocks etc.

Beverages.

  • Special of the Day. In advance, share the cocktail recipe for the “drink special” so people can get supplies and drink along if they want to. (Make sure the ingredients are easy for most people to access!).
  • BYOB. Ask everyone to create a drink that’s related to the happy hour theme, a specific color, or uses a common ingredient that is easily accessible.
  • Tastings. Tell them what bottles to buy – or have a tasting box delivered to their door.
  • Drizly. Send the beverages – beer, wine, liquor, and mixers – to their door!

• Care Package. Send a box of items related to the theme (e.g. a fake flower lei, or a leprechaun hat), snacks, branded items (beverage glasses), drink mixers (Maui mai tai mix), pre-made cocktails in a pouch, or send them all the ingredients (margarita in a box).

• Music. Play upbeat music as people arrive.  Prior to the event, create a playlist of everyone’s favorite songs and let them guess who selected the song playing!

• Dress Up. Ask everyone to wear a specific color, a Hawaiian shirt, their favorite sports team colors or jersey.

Engagement Ideas

• Temperature Check. Ask everyone to share in the chat box the one word on how they are feeling. Display the answers into a word cloud for all to see!  (If you do this periodically, it’s fun to see the shift in the clouds!).

• Conversation Prompts. To keep the conversation moving, the host should prepare specific interesting questions to prompt the conversation.

• The Word. Pick a commonly used word (e.g. “pivot”) or a strange word (“marsupial”) that whenever said, everyone needs to raise their glass and take a drink.  You’d be amazed at how creative people can be when they want to take a drink!

• Whiteboard. Ship everyone a small dry erase board and marker or extra large stickie notes to write down the answers to their questions then flash their board to the team all at once or one at a time.

• I3 Kick off. Start the happy hour with something interesting, intriguing or informative.  Perhaps a magic trick?  A piece of trivia about the company.  A little known fact.

• Scavenger Hunt. Ask the team to search for something in their home that is a specific color, the closest picture in a tabletop frame, their favorite shoe, their favorite snack food out of their pantry, etc.).  Take a quickie break to get the item and then show it on camera.

• Time Capsule. Ask the team to bring one item that they would want to put into a “Covid19” time capsule.  You can collect the items to be opened at a later date.

• Breakout Rooms. Especially for groups of ten or more people, send the team to random breakout rooms for 5-10 minutes to chat about anything or give them a topic/question to talk about.  If people want to stay in the breakout rooms to keep the conversation going they can stay.  Or, return to the main room.

Show & Tell. Remember grade school when you were asked to bring in your most treasured possession and share it with the class?  Ask each team member to bring in (or wear) something significant and then have each person share the item and explain the significance.

• Group Photo. Take a screenshot of everyone together and post where appropriate.

Games

• Talent Show. Ask everyone to come prepared to display a “talent” they have.  (People do get creative with this one!)

• Play Trivia. Trivia games are easy to do – especially when tied to the theme.  Just google the topic + “trivia” and you’ll get lots of ideas.

• Game Show. Emulate a popular game show such as Jeopardy, Family Feud, or To Tell the Truth.

• Contests. Give a prize (gift cards are easy to do) to the person with the best virtual background, best decorations, most creative cocktail, cutest pet, best shoes, best hat funniest scavenged item, etc.

Bring in the Fun

Expertise. Invite a virtual mixologist to share tips, tricks and trivia from the bartending world.

Tasting. Hire a sommelier for a virtual wine tasting or a beer and cheese virtual tasting.

Production. Led by some of the best professional musicians, SongDivsion provides a real-time combination of music trivia, an opportunity to share team positive energy and co-create an original song that captures the team ethos at that moment.

Lastly, make sure you end on time. A happy hour is meant to be happy and last just one hour. While these ideas will spice up your time together, it is better to have your team disappointed that it didn’t go longer than dread to return to the next one!

Kristin Arnold
Kristin Arnold, MBA, CSP, CPF | Master, is one of North America’s most accomplished professional meeting facilitators and leading authority on moderating panel discussions. A consummate author, speaker and trainer, she is on a crusade to make all events in the workplace more engaging, interactive and collaborative. One of the first women to graduate from the US Coast Guard Academy and the only woman stationed onboard a Coast Guard buoy tender, Kristin learned firsthand how to build high performance teams, engage others in the workplace and get the job done. An award-winning author, She is also a past president of the US National Speakers Association (2010-2011).