Have you tried scheduling a Virtual Happy Hour with your team? I have been to a lot of Zoom Happy Hours over the last few months, all types and sizes. If they are done properly, it will be a fun and refreshing moment in time that strengthens relationships.
There are a few “rules” I think are important. Feel free to modify or even break these down depending on your situation.
- Insist that everyone uses their video.
- The Happy Hour should be exactly one hour. It is better to end with everyone wanting more. One hour on video seems to be a perfect time. If you have an open-ended social, it can be awkward for people to leave.
- Someone needs to host and facilitate. It does not need to be overly structured. Simply have a host to be sure everyone is heard and be prepared with a few activities or questions to stimulate conversation.
- If you have more than six people, you will want to use breakout rooms. A twenty-person conversation is exhausting, extroverts will dominate, and people will talk over each other. Be sure to split people into smaller groups of 2-6, which mimics exactly what would happen if you had a true Happy Hour.
- If the Happy Hour is optional, recognize that not everyone will show up. Do not take it personally, not everyone enjoys social times like this.
Here is an example of how I structured a Virtual Happy Hour for a cohort of 20 people who were a part of an extended leadership program.
1. Getting Ready for the Happy Hour
An invitation with a Zoom link was sent out with a Happy Hour from 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm on a workday. Everyone was invited to join, bring their beverage of choice, and wear a hat. Check out Hats Off for full instructions and examples of this online activity.
The hosts logged in 5 minutes early to greet people as they arrived. I was the designated facilitator because I was the host of the Zoom account and could manage the breakout rooms. The other hosts were made co-hosts so they could allow people into the meeting as they joined.
2. Getting Started
We had about 5 people show up early or right on time. Fifteen minutes into the Happy Hour, we had about 12 of the 20 people in the cohort plus the 3 hosts and myself. A total of 16 people.
As people joined, we had only our cameras on (no shared screens) and we used Gallery View so everyone could see everyone. There was a lot of informal chit chat as we welcomed people. The energy increased as more people joined.
About 8 minutes into the Virtual Happy Hour, I asked if anyone wanted to share why they wore their hat (about 3/5 the people on the call were wearing hats). Several people shared a story about their hat. We did not ask everyone to share because it was a large group and not all wore them.
4. First Breakout Session
I split them into four breakout rooms with 3-4 people in each. I gave them a conversation starter question and told them they could talk about anything. They had 10 minutes in the breakout room.
When they came back from the breakouts, I asked a few people to share and we spent another 8 minutes or so together. The conversation was very loosely structured, much different than a facilitated meeting.
5. Group Picture
Next, we took a picture of everyone wearing their hats and holding their beverages. I took this using my phone – though a screenshot would have worked too.
6. Second Breakout Session
Then, I put them into breakout rooms with new people and a different starter question for another 10 minutes. When the time was up and they all returned to the main room, I asked a few people to share and we had another full group conversation for about 10 minutes.
7. Third Breakout Session
I screen-shared the cohort picture we had just taken (which I uploaded while they were in the second breakout) and uploaded the picture to chat so they could all download it on their own computers. Then, I put them into a third breakout with new people and asked them to come up with a #hashtag for the photo. This time they only had about 6 minutes because we were getting close to the top of the hour.
When they returned from the breakouts, they each shared the #hashtags and we had a few more minutes of light conversation.
8. End on Time
At the top of the hour, we thanked them all for coming. Everyone said their well wishes to each other and left the meeting with smiles on their faces.
The hosts now have a fun team picture and hashtag to share at a future cohort session.
Virtual Happy Hour is an interacting and high energy team building activity created to engage your participants. This online activity can be an optional or required team meeting. A well run team Happy Hour will strengthen relationships because participants have fun, get to know each other, and build memories together.
If you are looking for Holiday Happy Hour ideas click here.
About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing.
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