Hosting Virtual Parties:
When people started going into quarantine en masse a few weeks ago, virtual happy hours were still a novelty. “Where did these people get all their friends?” you said to yourself, seeing social media fill with gritty mosaics of people, all grinning at some sort of inside joke. “I want to be a part of it.” So, you learned to love gallery mode. Coffee time blended seamlessly into wine time. You kicked your piles of dirty laundry out of the camera’s reproachful eye and you were good to go.
But now, if you want to host a happy hour, you must compete. An ironic side effect of a quarantine is that your friends’ social media pages are full of virtual dance parties, Skype sessions, FaceTime catchups, webinars, and watch parties. There is a brand-new social ecosystem of online gatherings. At the end of a long day of staring at colleagues through questionably secure videoconferencing apps, can you convince friends to begin an evening of staring at each through questionably secure videoconferencing apps? Can you avoid the crushing rejection of friends canceling on your virtual hangout when they have literally nowhere to be?
The Team at Full Circle Event Solutions has tips to help you HOST a virtual happy hour that won’t leave people cursing the invention of the front-facing camera.
“I like giving people ideas for how to use the ingredients that might be in their freezer or around the house,” says mixologist Danielle D’Souza, cofounder of the women bartender mixology competition Speed Rack, and full time bartender and Full Circle Event Solutions- Toronto. A few of the usual suspects are “blueberries and other fruits, honey or agave nectar, or different sugars in your house that have been hanging around, like sugar cubes or maple syrup, and vinegars, which you can sweeten to make long drinks and spritzes—these are quick and easy ways to update your cocktail game at home.”
And what you don’t have, you can substitute. If you and your happy hour group decide to make an old-fashioned, Danielle says, any aged spirit and any sugar source will do. If a recipe calls for mint, but you have only basil, swap with abandon. A forlorn-looking can of pineapple in your cupboard can be crushed up and combined with coconut water for a piña colada or—for a Marrero-approved riff—a colada-IPA. During quarantine, Danielle has been enjoying combining ingredients most of us have hot sauce and beer. She makes a Michelada, a Mexican cocktail, using hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce or Maggi sauce, or a dash of soy sauce, lime juice, a little bit of orange juice, and beer.
Find Your Platform:
Zoom, glorious zoom! It is our quarantine daddy, our eternal online office park, conference room to the stars, and it is somewhat problematic. It is an easy, familiar interface for a large group meeting…but it might be a little business-y for an intimate evening hang.
A good option for a small group is House Party, a phone or desktop app that sorts friends (and strangers, if you like) into video chatrooms that cap off at eight. Or even Google Hangouts, which can be office-break-room chic, if you’re in the right mood. FaceTime can host up to 32 (but only if everyone has the latest IOS). Skype is…fine.
Lights, Camera, Background:
When I turn on my front-facing camera I see a haggard, slightly oozing version of myself, similar to a mugshot. When Camille Johnson, the YouTuber behind OffBeatLook, turns hers on, she glows like one thousand angels are tipping their haloes toward her.
“I think that the biggest thing that people usually do wrong is just leaving on whatever overhead lighting they have, which casts really unnatural, unflattering shadows when you’re filming,” Johnson tells Glamour. Lighting should be at eye level, and it should come from the front or the side, not the back. “Pretty much the worst thing you can do is have a large light source from behind you shining into the camera,” she says.
The second thing that will take your appearance out of mugshot territory is diffuse lighting. “If it’s a cloudy day and you have a window, that’s perfect,” Johnson says. “But if the sun is really high up and it’s hitting you at an angle, and it’s direct and it’s sharp, that’s going to be really harsh lighting, lots of unwanted shadows. One way to easily get your lighting to diffuse more is just back up a little bit—back up from the window so it’s a little softer, or you back away from whatever lighting you have set up so you have more space to diffuse. If you’re using light at home that’s not meant for filming and it’s really harsh, like a desk lamp, you can point it at the wall and the light will bounce off it and that will completely diffuse it for you.” But you have to pick between natural light, which is cooler toned, and synthetic light, which tends to be warmer. “Different temperatures of light will turn each side of your face different colors,” Johnson says.
Your camera angle should follow the same rule as your lighting, Johnson says. “You want it directly eye level, coming straight at you, whether you’re using a webcam, a laptop, or a camera on a phone.” If you’re trying to set a mood and you don’t want to use one of the wild Zoom backgrounds, just keep it simple and clean. And if you can add a plant, well. Add that plant.
Bring your game face:
If you have nothing to talk about because you’ve been in your house all day, you’re doing it right. You can try a Cards Against Humanity–style game called Remote Insensitivity, that allows all players to feel like they’re in the room together. Scattergories has a free app. Uno does, too. If you use House Party to host your gathering, that app comes with games the group can play together. You can do a drinking book club, or you can “book-club” a TV show or movie. If you’re feeling really confident about your Wi-Fi signal, you can play charades.
Follow dinner party rules:
On some level, a virtual hang is just like any other kind of party, and it should follow similar rules you would apply to a dinner party. Remember, side conversations do not exist—you essentially must pass around a virtual talking stick. So, cap things off at a certain number of guests. Send a cal invite or paperless post. And at a certain point, let it end. Don’t make people make up a desperate quarantine excuse (we know no one has one more party they must hit). Let them go play Animal Crossing in peace.