Social distancing doesn't have to mean being antisocial.

If you were hosting a party, you wouldn't just set out a bag of chips and call it a day, so as digital entertaining becomes our new normal—at least for the next month or so as people across the globe work to stop the spread of coronavirus—we'd like to raise the bar when it comes to online entertaining. Throwing a virtual happy hour can help you stay close to your nearest and dearest while you're physically apart, and it's a good way to keep your hosting skills sharp during. Here's how to plan an online event worth getting dressed from the waist up for.

old fashioned cocktail
Credit: Bryan Gardner

Craft the Guest List

First things first: You're going to need a Zoom Pro account, which will set you back $14.99 but gives you the ability to host up to 100 of your closest friends. (The free version will also allow for 100 attendees, but only for 40 minutes, and we'd like to be optimistic about the lifespan of this soirée.) Other options? Google Hangouts or a group FaceTime call for Apple users. The best part about hosting an online event is that anyone can attend, so rather than simply assemble the same old crew, think outside your zip code! Maybe your college roommate and your power-walking partner would really hit it off. Might as well try—even if things go awry, there's zero chance of a drink being thrown in someone's face.

Set the Dress Code

Remember when a pajama party felt like a novelty event? Most of us are living in loungewear these days, so your crew will likely welcome the excuse to get a little dolled up. Semi-formal gala? Cheeky theme party? Anything goes during a global pandemic. Just make sure everyone is on the same page beforehand—there's nothing more embarrassing than showing up in black-tie optional when the theme is Tiger King-chic.

Standardize the Snacks

While a long-distance event necessitates BYOB, there's something festive about sharing the same drink or treats, even from different locations. Know your crowd here—if your friends are fellow Martha types, you may want to pick a fun recipe that everyone can prep in advance and enjoy on-camera together. If your crew is more laid-back, a simple theme like "margarita night" will ensure that everyone can raise their salted rims and toast to your togetherness.

Plan a Party Game

Virtual parties are unique in that really only one conversation can be happening at once, so it makes sense to plan an activity that everyone can get involved in. Party favorites like Cards Against Humanity and Scattergories can be played online or through apps, as can many storytelling or role-playing games. If it's a movie night you're craving, the new Netflix Party feature allows you to play and pause in sync—letting you swap commentary and even take snack refill breaks as needed.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

Let's face it: A ridiculous screenshot of you is pretty much guaranteed to wind up on someone's Instagram story, so do what you can to take the edge off. Overhead lighting can cast unforgiving shadows under your eyes and nose, so if possible, you'll want to have soft lighting (like a table lamp) hitting your face from the front. Holding your camera at eye level will create a flattering frame, so don't be afraid to rig your setup: Prop your laptop or phone on a stack of books, and angle it slightly downward. When you sit, angle your shoulders slightly to one side and turn your face to the camera. Your image will, of course, still freeze just as you let out a belly laugh while gesticulating wildly—but at least your angles will be on point.


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