Virtual offsites and corporate happy hours shouldn’t feel like just another meeting. Here’s a fresh take on how to spice them up.
Since quarantine first hit, Zoom stock spiked by nearly 250%. It seemed every team or group of friends had a video call planned to bond and reconnect. A month passed, then a couple more, and work from home became the new normal. In time, the well intended Zoom hangout became a drag.
But as far as we can tell, virtual gatherings are here to stay, and we shouldn’t have to settle for a monotonous social life while working remotely. Maker is on a mission to keep your virtual offsites and happy hours fresh and fun, because a mood boost, chance to build community while dispersed, and – if you do it our way – slight buzz is always worthwhile.
So, what’s our take on the virtual happy hour? Crack a can with some co-workers and connect over some independently produced, exemplary wine. No pretentious wine terms or terroir knowledge necessary – just an appetite for a good time (and wine, always wine). Whether you DIY it or go with Maker, here’s your how-to.
Well before the big day, pick a 1 hour time slot and put a hold on everyone’s calendar. Send out clear and concise instructions for joining ahead of time to avoid the dreaded 5 minutes of mayhem as people are trying to log-on or find the link – we’ve all been there. If you’re booking your happy hour with a service, choose a company that will send the goods right to everyone’s door to ease the hassle.
We recommend using Zoom or Google Hangouts and testing your wifi, camera and microphone before the event. 6-20 participants is the optimal size to keep that dinner party-like, conversational feel. For larger groups, utilize break-out rooms and pull the engaged talkers off mute selectively.
Most importantly, have your drinkware and a snack easily accessible during the event – hanger (hunger that turns into anger, we know it all too well) doesn’t pair well with a wine tasting.
Themed happy hours are fun, of course, but bonding over your colleague’s goofy Western Wednesday outfit gets old a couple minutes in. To keep everyone engaged – and give people permission to show up as they are – have an activity to do together to create a naturally structured experience.
A wine tasting can offer a fresh take and tends to encourage participation, because who doesn’t want free wine? And a canned wine tasting does so without adding the stereotypical snobbery (yes, this is somewhat of a shameless plug – of course we want to crack a can with you). Here are some other great ideas, too:
“Tasting wine with friends over Zoom creates a shared experience that takes your focus off the computer and into the moment. We don’t get to use our other senses together much anymore, so a communal, virtual wine tasting stands out from a happy hour where everyone is drinking their own unique beverage.”
– Kendra, co-founder at Maker
We’ve all been to that happy hour where the same people talk and others wait until the appropriate time to drop off. Having a MC keeps the conversation moving throughout the hour and engages all participants. Some pro tips for moderators are:
Want to elevate the experience? Invite the winemaker or local ambassador to join in on the fun and tell you about the wines.
Preventing those awkward silences is key to a virtual happy hour worth writing home about. Here are some clever ways to naturally encourage interaction (without the dreaded cold call):
At Maker, we’ve watched the evolution of virtual corporate happy hours from the very beginning, and have been lucky enough to be a part of a lot of these virtual gatherings. Our street cred: since April we’ve hosted over 100 virtual wine tastings for thousands of distributed employees at companies like Slack, Coinbase, Airbnb, and Lyft – and we still can’t get enough.
In part because of the amazing people we’ve had the pleasure of drinking with, and in part because canned wine is just delicious, our happy hours haven’t hit a lull yet. There’s something unique about experiencing the same wine at the same time that connects people in a sensorial way, despite being virtual. Drinking Maker is a fun, indulgent, and still very low-key way to connect with others and learn about something new – during a time where connection and inspiration seem hard to come by in the world.
“Kendra and Sarah brought the feeling of a Napa or Sonoma wine tasting to the comfort and safety of our own homes. It provided a brief but much-needed escape from our siloed work from home environment and allowed us all to learn about and enjoy the wine together.”
– Mark Jeffrey, Director of Business Development at Carta