How to do a Virtual Happy Hour using Zoom | Virtual Party, Virtual Bday

So we’re all quarantined at home – what do you do when a birthday or other cause for celebration comes up? What if you just want to have lunch with your friend or do happy hour like you used to but you’ve gotta figure out how to do it virtually? Use Zoom! It’s easy for you and easy for your guests to use too. Here’s our best tips on how to throw a virtual party using the Zoom platform – (either for FREE or you can upgrade to the $15/mo option to go longer than 40 minutes). Below is (1) our video about how to throw virtual events using Zoom along with (2) twelve steps with details on how to do each one:

Below are timestamps you can jump to for specific sections of this video:

12 Steps to Throw a Party using Zoom

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Tip No. 1: Lighting

In a virtual party, lighting is one of THE most important elements! Why? Because half of this is visuals. The other half is audio, which we’ll get to in Tip 3. None of it happens (well) without good WiFi (Tip 2).

The point of good lighting is that you want your guests to be able to see you and you want to be able to see your guests as well. If you invested time in your decor / backdrop (Tip No. 7), you want that to be seen well too. Here are the important things to know about lighting:

  • Plan: Scout out the space in your home where you’ll be doing your event. Play with lamps (you can even take lamp shades off to make it brighter), opening windows, etc. to bring in as much light as possible while still maintaining the mood you’d like. Test it out on your phone / webcam (whichever you’ll be using) to see how it looks and make sure you like it!
  • Communicate: Make sure you and your guests know to plan for good lighting ahead of time.
  • Face your light source. You need light on your face so people can see you well. Do not put a light source behind you, you’ll end up looking like a silhouette.
  • Light sources include: windows, lamps, overhead lights above you, etc. You don’t have to go purchase expensive lighting equipment; however, if you want some anyway, here’s the beauty ring light I recommend. Note: this is an affiliate link. It does not effect the price of your Amazon purchase.

Click here to go to minute 1:31 in the video.

Tip No. 2: WiFi


In order to have a well-done virtual partay, YOU as the host absolutely need solid WiFi. I highly recommend testing this out ahead of time with a friend before attempting to have your party if you’ve never done this before. Setup a test meeting in Zoom (just like you would in Tip No. 8 below) and try it out. See if everything runs smoothly. There will always be a few glitches here and there, but you want to be in the best WiFi spot of your home as possible. If you need to upgrade your WiFi package with your provider and you’re able, now is the time to do it. It also helps if your guests have good WiFi as well, but at a minimum, you, the host, need great WiFi.

Click here to go to minute 3:16 in the video.


Tip No. 3: Audio / Background Noise / Mood Music


There’s nothing worse than bad background noise when you’re trying to hold a virtual event. So here’s what you can do to have the best experience possible:

  • Communicate. Inform your guests ahead of time in your communications you send out (info coming up in Tip No. 4) to please keep background noise to a minimum. That means turning TV’s, radios, cell phones, etc. off, keeping kids as far away as possible during the event, letting family members know you’ll be at an event so you need it quiet in your space, etc.
  • Communicate again. Tell your guests a few times at the beginning about muting themselves until they have something to say (you will have to show them how to do this, see Tip No. 9). If there are just a few of you (say 6 total), then you might be able to get away with having everyone being unmuted as long as their background noise is in check.
  • Mute people as needed: If you’ve got a big crowd, you’re going to need to know how to mute everyone or just one or two people at a time who have a serious background noise going on (also in Tip No. 9). Sometimes people who aren’t used to online conference calls, webinars, video calls, etc. aren’t familiar with that online etiquette or how everything works, so they may be having, for example, an entire conversation with someone else in their home quite loudly or be on the phone and every one of your guests will be subject to hearing this until you get it under control. So that’s very important to know.
  • Ambiance music: Make use of your Alexa or other audio devices to play some background music softly if you like. Just be mindful if people are saying they can’t hear you and also be ready to cut it off if you have entertainment that needs to present, etc.

Click here to go to minute 3:58 in the video.


Tip No. 4: Inviting Your Guests (a.k.a. how to promote your partay)

If you have emails of your guests, you can send an email invite with free email service providers like MailChimp. ConstantContact has a free version as well (for a limited trial period).

No matter whether your event is BIG or small and casual, you’ll still need to get the word out about it. Here are some invitation / promotional tools you can choose from for your event:

  • Email Invite
  • Social Media Posts
  • Social Media Stories
  • Video Invite
  • Landing / RSVP Page
Zoom has a landing page you can use when you require a reservation to your event (see Tip No. 8). It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and automates everything for you. The good thing about this option is that you collect email addresses, so you can thank all of your guests later!
You can take that same branding you started for your landing page and create Instagram and Facebook stories to invite your guests. This is a tactic you’ll want to use if your event is open to the public. If your event is small and private, maybe not so much.
You can also create Facebook and Instagram posts to invite your guests as well. Every little bit of communication helps!

Click here to go to minute 7:07 in the video.


Tip No. 5: Partay Entertainment (Conversation, Bartenders, Musicians)

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You might consider some fun entertainment for your event! This will all be virtual too of course – they will not be doing this in your home (unless it’s someone who already lives there) – so you’ll need to coordinate all of this ahead of time. Make sure they know the basics too about staging their background, lighting, audio, WiFi, etc. You can even test out a Zoom meeting with them beforehand to make sure you like their setup.

At our party, we had a bartender and a pianist and just featured them when they were ready throughout the party. The bartender made a fun dry-ice drink which was cool to see and she explained all her ingredients, talked about how that was fun to make and entertain with, etc. The musician played a nice 2-ish minute bit on the piano which was so lovely to hear and you could see the guests smiling. It’s nice to introduce your entertainers a bit and you may also consider sharing their Venmo / CashApp info, etc. if people want to tip them! Totally your call, you have to know your guests.

Other entertainment ideas:

  • Painter
  • Caricaturist
  • DJ
  • Chef

…the possibilities are endless! You can also promote your entertainment ahead of time in your communications to give people even more reasons to attend.

Click here to go to minute 9:34 in the video.

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View the Entertainment at my Virtual Bday Happy Hour:


Tip No. 6: Say HI to your guests as they enter

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Just as you would in “real life” or at an in-person party, do your best to greet every guest as they enter your event. You want to acknowledge everyone. Very important so they don’t feel like they wasted their time setting up their lighting, getting out of their PJ’s and putting their Netflix on pause for you. You will have some guests that don’t turn on their video or even audio (for many reasons) – so you may want to say a few times – “If I haven’t called your name, please let me know, I don’t want to miss you!” They can type to you in the chat section of Zoom (see Tip No. 9) or they can take themselves off of mute and say hi. Either way, you want to try to say hello to everyone.

Click here to go to minute 16:45 in the video.


Tip No. 7: Stage Your Space

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Depending on the level of event you’re doing, you’re going to want to stage your space accordingly.

  • Intimate virtual happy hours: if it’s just 6 or less of you, by all means, please be comfy and chill with your vino or cocktail on your couch. Just make sure your background is clean, you look presentable and you’ve got good lighting.
  • Big virtual bday parties: if you’re celebrating a big deal birthday party, like a 50th or your child’s 21st, you’re going to want to do this one up. Hang balloons from the ceiling so they’re in view of the camera, maybe do streamers, have some fun party decor and your cake in the background that people can see so it feels like a party when they log in.
  • String lights: this can be really fun for ambiance if you can get it in the frame of your video.

Click here to go to minute 17:05 in the video.


Tip No. 8: How to actually setup your party in Zoom


To setup your party in Zoom, you’re going to need to go (assuming you’re here in the United States, otherwise, just search “Zoom” and go to the website for your country). If this is your first time using Zoom, you’ll need to sign up. It’s free, however, the free version only allows you to go up to 40 minutes for an event. I highly recommend going to the paid version which is only $15/mo. Well worth it if this is an important event or if you plan on doing more video conferencing in the future (which – why not! You can do virtual lunches with your friends, etc.).

Once you’re signed up, the next step is to setup your meeting. We recommend checking the option that requires people to register for your event so that (A) you know who’s coming, (B) you can capture their emails so you can thank them later and (C) so you can have a branded landing page where people can register for the event (which will also automatically send them instructions on how to join your party when it’s time).

Go to minute 17:52 in the video for a step by step visual walk-through.


Tip No. 9: How to start, manage and end your Zoom meeting


There are a couple of important things to know about running your event. This portion of our video walks you through how to start your Zoom meeting, mute people, unmute people, it shows you where the chat area is, how to share your screen if you want to share a powerpoint or something with slides of pictures (fun for a big bday if you want to share old baby pictures and family pics, etc.), how to end the meeting, etc.

Click here to go to minute 24:02 of the video.


Tip No. 10: How to set up your Zoom Registration Page complete with event branding


When you’re setting up your meeting in Zoom, you’ll see an option where you can require registration. Once you check that and fill out the other information Zoom requires, at the bottom of the page, you’ll see some options for “branding” for your event. This is where you can access two image areas: (1) your banner for your landing page and (2) your “logo area” for your page. It will give you the image sizes needed and you can use a free tool like Canva to create your imagery. This portion of the video walks you through how to access this area:

Click here to go to minute 28:05 of the video.

Tip No. 11: What the Zoom app looks like on your phone

You can actually even run Zoom from your phone. It can be a little more difficult to use your phone as your camera and also use things like the chat functionality, etc., but here’s where it can make sense:

  • If you’re purely just attending an event.
  • If you just use the camera on your phone because it’s way better than your computer camera typically. If you do this, also log in on your computer at the same time so you can see everyone all at once and chat with people as needed. You can run both at the same time. (You can also use your phone for both your video and audio and just use your computer for the reasons stated).

Click here to see minute 30:43


Tip No. 12: Say thank you to your guests!

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Don’t forget to thank your guests! Let people know you truly appreciate them taking the time to come out to your event. Let us count the ways you can do this:

  • Email thank you
  • Social media post
  • Personal texts / calls
  • Old-fashioned thank you note in the mail

Click here to see minute 31:24


And that is it my friends! What questions do you have about throwing a virtual event? What about some ideas that worked well for you that we didn’t mention here? We’d love to know about them. Let us know in the comments below and have fun!

Andrea D. Smith
The ADS Agency