By Debbie Gregory.

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If you are working remotely for your company or a small business owner, you are probably having back to back work conference and video calls.   Perhaps it is time to take video conferencing from the workplace to reconnecting with friends and family.

We have been enjoying virtual cocktails and it is a new way to visit.   You also don’t have to worry about a designated driver or calling Uber or Lyft to drive you home.

Open a bottle of your favorite wine or mix a cocktail and enjoy catching up with those you care about and miss.  Leave your work behind and unwind a bit.   You can also enjoy snacks and make it more of a party.  This will lift your spirits more than you can imagine.

There are many services out there.  I have been using Zoom that offers a full-featured Basic Plan for free with unlimited meetings. You can try Zoom for as long as you like and there is no trial period. Your Basic plan has a 40 minutes time limit on meetings with three or more total participants.

Below are a few tips:

1. Pick the video chat platform that’s easiest for everyone.

The right chat platform will be different for different groups. I like Zoom because it’s user friendly and it’s easy to send invitations to anyone. The drawback to Zoom, though, is that the free version will only allow for a 40- minute group meeting. Google Hangouts, Facebook, and Skype are also viable options, and there are more. Try to select  whichever platform your most familiar with and is easiest for you.

2. Set a specific time and plan for a one-hour event.

When you go out for cocktails, it can last for hours but sitting in front of a computer or a smartphone looking at your friends is a different thing, and you’ll get tired of it more quickly. Also, you may have co-workers or friends who are unaccustomed to video chatting for fun and feel uncomfortable at the prospect. Limiting your encounter to an hour, at least the first time you do it, will make the whole thing less intimidating. You do not want to keep going until people are bored.  It’s much better to end when people are eager for more. That way, you can schedule another happy hour next week and everyone will want to come back.

3. Encourage everyone to bring a drink.

There’s something nicely communal about drinking together, even if you’re only doing it remotely and it is not alcohol.

4. Plan the conversation a bit.

There would be no need to do this at a real happy hour. But since people generally start out a bit uncomfortable and shy at a video chat get-together, you should plan to break the ice by leading the discussion if needed.  I strongly recommend that everyone leave politics at the door as we are all in overload already.      If there are people in the video chat who don’t know each other, make sure to begin the event by going through the list of participants and having people introduce themselves, saying a bit about who they are and what they do.

5. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate and contribute.

It’s nice to be the host.  It is important to listen and allow everyone to participate.   When a person speaks, they are on camera and no one should dominate this social hour.  So relax, enjoy hanging out and have fun.


And that’s it. Relax, enjoy hanging out with your tribe and have fun. You will not have a bar tab to settle.