As long as social distancing remains a must, much of what we used to do in the same physical space will continue to be done online. That includes having a night out with your friends. As we are forced to remain indoors and many outdoor venues remain closed, here are some pieces of advice you can use to have a fun virtual night out:
1. Set up your communications
When going on a virtual night out, a laptop or desktop computer is definitely better than using your phone or tablet. The screen is larger and as long as you have a good-quality webcam, speakers or wireless headphones, you’re good to go. Be sure to get the angle of the webcam right so your broadcast to the other people in the call doesn’t make you look like a character straight out of a horror flick. Choose a common platform such as Zoom, or the conference call features of Facebook or Youtube.
2. Dress for the occasion
While it’s more of a virtual night in instead of a real-life day out, it’s better to look presentable and reinforce the “illusion” that you and your BFFs are just having a normal night out on the town. Don’t come to the call wearing pyjamas (unless it’s a pyjama party) or other sleepwear. Wear what you normally would if you actually went out to a bar or party, and don’t cheat — don’t wear only the top half of what might be visible to the other people on the call; you will eventually be found out.
3. Have food and drinks prepared
Whether your virtual night out includes dinner or is an after-dinner meet up for drinks, make sure your beverages and food are ready. Although it’s fine to microwave a meal for 3 minutes tops, to cook an entire dish for half the duration of your call can spoil the fun. Have your food prepared or eat beforehand. Better yet, you can make a game of your meal by having random takeout food delivered to each other.
As for the drinks, you can put a few beers or soda pop into the fridge, so they’re cold by the time you have your call. If you want to take it a step further, brew your own beer at home; just be sure to have enough ingredients, such as the highly sought-after Galaxy hops to make a batch. For sure, it will become the envy of your friends. But if you’re feeling generous, make a batch and have some bottles sent to them so that you can have a toast with your brew online.
4. Geek out the way you want
Talking about your interests on your virtual night out can only go so far. Why not play the games you are all into together? Since you’re the host, maybe you can also be the Dungeon Master for the evening and create a campaign you can all enjoy (warning: D&D sessions can last until the wee hours). You can also play classic board games like backgammon and chess, or play the hilarious and absurd Mad Magazine board game. But when it comes to board games, don’t play Monopoly if you want to remain on speaking terms.
5. Keep the ball rolling
Whatever you do on your virtual night out, don’t rely on talking alone. Staring at each other and waiting for visual cues to see who wants to speak first can become awkward. There will be a point in the call when it’s quiet and you’ve run out of things to say. Avoid the awkwardness by suggesting activities and putting it to a vote. Do charades, have a scavenger hunt, or watch a movie together.
6. Know When to stop
Apart from the dead silence, another awkward situation can be when you want to get off the call and go to bed. A good unwritten rule to go by: the more people there are in your virtual night out, the shorter it should be. If there’s a total of five people (including you) in the call, an hour at most is good enough. Some may complain that “the night is young” and they could be right, but making constant eye contact and trying not to speak all at the same time can be tiring.
When you think it’s time to log off, don’t be hesitant to say so. Don’t make a flimsy excuse that you’re having technical difficulties — you are all friends, after all.
A virtual night out can be a fun alternative to a real one if handled well. Practice proper etiquette and let everyone have their say, prepare food and drinks beforehand, keep the group small and the call for an hour at most, and don’t be afraid to call it quits.