How to Host a Virtual Party: 4 Ideas from Virtual Event Planners
Professional event planners give tips on hosting virtual parties for staff, clients, and other corporate guests
As office spaces moved out of office parks and into the virtual space, organizations have been forced to find new ways to bring coworkers together entirely online. There are many ways to build company culture in a work-from-home setting, but one company party remains extremely popular—the virtual happy hour.
Whether you’re saying goodbye to a longtime coworker or celebrating a big sale, a virtual party is a fun way to bring your team together over special moments. But how do you plan this online event?
One of the largest draws of a virtual happy hour is the casual atmosphere in which coworkers can enjoy drinks and bond with one another in a low-pressure environment. So how can you recreate that environment in a purely digital environment?
If you’re looking to plan an upcoming virtual happy hour, don’t fret! This article will help you plan a killer virtual party with tips from virtual event planning industry experts.
Build Out Your Guest List
Before you start planning any aspect of your virtual happy hour, it is important to identify your goals and what you’re looking to achieve from the event. Are you marking an important organizational anniversary? Has your sales team exceeded expectations? Are you saying goodbye to a peer who is leaving your team?
When you succinctly identify the purpose behind your virtual happy hour, you can move on to build the guest list for the event. This first step helps define one of the most important elements of a killer celebration. You can’t throw an amazing virtual party without an amazing guest list.
A good practice when building out your guest list is to first cast a wide net, meaning you initially include a large number of guests for your virtual party. From there, you can whittle down the number of guests to a more appropriate group.
Appropriately curating your guest list will go a long way in keeping your virtual happy hour organized—and fun! If you’re planning a farewell party for a team member, it may be a good idea to just invite the department that is saying goodbye to their former coworker. A party too large may dilute the individual time peers get to spend with one another, which could ultimately defeat the goal of your party.
Conversely, if your organization is celebrating an internal milestone or important anniversary, it is best practice to include most—if not all—of your employees. Including as many guests to milestone celebrations is a great way to lift spirits and keep good energy flowing throughout the length of your virtual party.
Finding the Best Time to Host a Virtual Happy Hour
When looking to schedule a cocktail party or happy hour at a physical location, there are clear logistics to plan around. You wouldn’t schedule a party during evening rush hour, for example. But what logistics are there to consider when planning a virtual happy hour party?
To start, it is important to remain considerate of your guests’ time. A late night party on a Friday night may cut into the weekend plans of your employees or clients. Likewise, a party on Monday afternoon could get in the way of important work.
There are no fast and hard rules for scheduling virtual happy hour events, but professional virtual party planners do have general recommendations.
“The name of the game is attendance! Entice your team with getting out of work a bit early—4 p.m. is a great time! Tuesday through Thursday are our most commonly booked days of the week,” said Jill Zahaeas, a Virtual Event Planner with Unboxed Experiences.
Sorting out the scheduling for your virtual happy hour will go a long way in determining if your online event is a success. Think carefully about the habits and attitude of your team before sending out your invitations.
Virtual Happy Hour Drinks
When planning a virtual happy hour, one element stands above all else as absolutely necessary—drinks. Which drinks are you going to make available for guests, and how do you get those drinks into their hands?
In order to help answer that question, you should go back to the intended goals of your virtual happy hour. For an organizational party intended to lift spirits and connect coworkers, a general selection of drinks should work just fine. If your organization is celebrating hitting a sales mark or a very special occasion, maybe it is a good idea to splurge on higher end drinks. Your team will appreciate the extra effort you put into the drink selection.
Further, it is very critical to consider the health and lifestyle choices of your invited guests. Notably, you don’t want team members or clients who are living sober to feel left out in the activities by neglecting to provide them with alcohol-free drinks options.
Luckily, there are an increasing number of alcohol-free beverages on the market right now. According to data from research firm Nielsen, non-alcoholic beverage sales increased 33% to $331 million in 2021.
Because of that increase in demand, there are now more non-alcoholic options available than ever before.
Craft beer leader Brooklyn Brewery sells a variety pack of non-alcoholic beers that include a Hazy IPA and a pilsner. Several nonalcoholic spirits brands have recently launched, as well, such as Lyre, Kin and Seedlip. These drinks make excellent selections for creating mocktails.
Between nonalcoholic craft beer and spirits, there are plenty of options available to provide sober guests at your virtual happy hour.
Virtual Happy Hour Drink Kits
Now that you have settled on what drinks to offer at your virtual event, how are you going to get those drinks to your guests? If your organization is fully remote, you could conceivably have employees in states all across America.
The logistics of delivering alcoholic drinks to teams spread out across the country are complicated. Carriers like FedEx and UPS will not ship alcohol across state lines unless you hold certain licenses.
Those logistical hurdles will likely add an unnecessary headache to your event planning, according to virtual event planning professionals.
“Build-your-own-cocktail kits are definitely a popular choice for a virtual party, but there are definitely some drawbacks surrounding the legality of shipping liquor. Certain states have laws in place making it illegal to receive liquor in the mail and some vendors do not have the proper licensing to allow them to ship liquor which means their cocktail kits are just mixers and barware,” said Matt LaRosa, a Virtual Event Planner for Unboxed Experiences. “These hurdles and extra effort by the guests to source their own liquor can take the fun out of this type of virtual party.”
Luckily, there are options for organizations looking to host virtual happy hours but don’t want to get stuck in the weeds with shipping and handling logistics.
Unboxed Experiences is a virtual event planning company that runs several unique events to connect people over the digital space. The company’s most popular event is its Beer & Cheese Pairing Experience, which delivers a box full of craft beer and artisan cheese to every guest in the party. A knowledgeable and fun live event host will then lead your guests through a guided beer and cheese pairing experience.
This event works great both as a gift for remote employees and as a gift for clients. Perhaps best of all, the team at Unboxed Experiences takes care of all the logistics to ensure all of your guests get their kits. You don’t have to worry about printing labels, shipping alcohol or sourcing party favors—just talk to the Unboxed Experiences team about your virtual happy hour goals so they can point you to the best product for your virtual event.
If you want to throw a virtual cocktail party, there are several companies that can deliver cocktail kits throughout the nation. Similarly, guided wine tastings are also available for company happy hours. These wine tastings are sometimes led by winemakers and deliver sample bottles across the nation.
As previously mentioned in this article, for some virtual team events, it may be best to stick to non-alcoholic drink options. Some virtual happy hour planning companies, such as Unboxed Experiences, can customize individual boxes with non-alcoholic drink options. Finding a company that can send non-alcoholic drink packages to your sober guests will go a long way in ensuring inclusion for everyone attending your virtual happy hour.
But Unboxed Experiences also runs a couple of virtual team parties that wholly exclude alcoholic beverages in the kit, so each and every one of your guests will receive the same box of goodies. The company’s Ice Cream Float Experience delivers everything your guests need to make their own ice cream floats at home—yes, even the cream! The kit comes loaded with sodas and flavoring syrups so guests can customize their own ice cream, and the entire event is led by an energetic host that keeps everyone engaged throughout the event.
For an entirely different experience, consider Unboxed Experience’s Tea & Mindfulness Experience. The virtual team building activity is designed to refocus and re-energize guests through guided tastings of teas sourced from around the world, with team meditation exercises led by one of Unboxed Experience’s knowledgeable live event hosts.
With so many options to choose from, it is not really necessary to go out and buy, package and ship drinks to your guests. Several companies offer drink kits that send beer, wine and spirits to your guests in kits that include customizable items, gourmet snacks and events that are led by live virtual hosts. There is no need to visit the beer barn for your virtual happy hours!
To review, there are a number of important factors to consider when planning a virtual happy hour for your remote team or clients.
It is best to first build out a large guest list before whittling that roster down to the appropriate number of guests. Finding the right time to host your virtual party—especially if you are celebrating with your remote team—will help drive participation numbers and engagement.
There are several ways to get drinks into the hands of your guests for virtual happy hour parties, but not all drink packages are created equal. Avoid assembling and shipping alcohol on your own if possible.
Overall, don’t sweat planning a virtual party for your team. There are many ways to make a great party, and one size does not fit all. Consider what is most likely to bring joy to you and your guests and use these simple guidelines from there.
To plan an unforgettable online event with your team or clients, contact Unboxed Experiences. We have more than a decade of combined experience running unique events that combine hands-on elements, customizable kits, charismatic and knowledgeable live event hosts and unmatched customer service.