How To Host a Happy Hour Event

What makes a good happy hour? Is it the venue, the drink specials, or the music?

I believe it is none of those things. Not the venue, not the drinks, and not the playlist.

Instead, what actually makes a good happy hour is the people you invite, and the people who actually show up.

In this article, I’ll show you how to plan and host the best happy hour ever. You’ll learn how to make it a success, how to make it easy, and how to make it a win for everyone who attends.

Why you should listen to me: I've hosted hundreds of happy hour events and cocktail parties in New York City and Austin, Texas. New York Magazine once called me a host of "culturally significant" parties. But don't take their word for it. Keep reading to see my tips that will help you meet new people.

Overview of Key Steps

Many of the steps outlined here are included in my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. What’s different is that your happy hour will most likely be held in a bar, restaurant, office space, or other non-home environment. We’ll discuss the key things to be mindful of for all of those venues in a later section of this article.

For now, familiarize yourself with the key steps in planning and hosting a great happy hour:

  1. Give yourself at least 3 weeks for planning and invitations (aka The Party Runway)
  2. Collect RSVPs using 1-to-1 invitations
  3. Write a compelling event description: make it fun! Use cool images!
  4. Send a series of 3 reminder messages

During the happy hour, do these things:

  1. Use name tags for every single person
  2. Lead two or three rounds of icebreakers
  3. Take a group photo
  4. End the event after 2 hours

When you do those things, you’ll have an incredible happy hour that is better than any other. Your guests will meet new people. They’ll appreciate your incredible hosting skills, and you’ll get compliments the next day. Everyone will ask you, “When are we having another happy hour? That last one was great!”

The Party Runway

If this is your first party using my formula, give yourself at least three weeks to plan the party.

The Party Runway article featured image

The runway also gives you time to buy a few necessary supplies like basic drinks and some snacks. But don’t panic about preparations yet. 

  • Send a message to your core group or close connections.
  • Create a RSVP page.
  • Lock in your first RSVPs;
  • Then send invites to other prospective guests.

Read The Party Runway article to discover more about the things you need to do before your party.

Collect RSVPs

Interaction with your party guests via a variety of digital channels can help liven up your occasion. You can send them a private message, ask them to vote in a poll, show them the itinerary for your event, and send them announcements.

Event Platforms article featured image

These are the event management platforms I recommend:

Learn more about these RSVP collection platforms by reading this article: Event Platforms: Pros, Cons, and My Favorites

Write Your Event Description

  • Include all the relevant information.
  • Add photos of you (the host) and other attendees or co-hosts.
  • Make it fun! Over-exaggerate, if needed. Entice people to attend.
  • Create a start and an end time. It will help people show up on time.

Reminder Messages

Send a series of pre-party messages that will generate excitement for your party and will ensure high attendance.

Reminder Messages article featured image

Send this sequence of reminder messages to your guests: 

  • Seven Days Before
  • Three Days Before
  • Morning of the Party

Read this article to learn more about sending reminder messages to your guests!

Use Name Tags

I feel so strongly about this topic! I’ve even written an entire chapter in my book, all about name tags and why you should use them.

  • Big benefits of name tags
  • Best name tags to buy for your party
  • Practical Matters and Best Practices 

Do 2 or 3 Icebreakers

It might be hard to do icebreakers at your happy hour. It depends on how many people you have attending.

Icebreakers: The Ultimate Guide article Featured Image

Please see chapters 12 and 13 in my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, for more information about this topic. The maximum group size that I suggest you do is 15 people. Any more than that, and your icebreakers will take too long.

To learn more about the proper execution of the icebreakers, read Icebreakers: The Ultimate Guide here.

Take a Group Photo

Circle everyone up 1 hour before the end time of the photo. Maybe use your party harmonica to call everyone’s attention (see a video example here). Take a group photograph. Send it to everyone the next day.

End the Happy Hour

Ending a party is never easy. Asking people to leave is never fun.

But don’t worry, after hosting and ending hundreds of parties, I’ve never lost a friendship or ruined a connection by ending on time. 

In fact, this tactic of ending a party is so effective that sometimes I received Thank You notes from new guests.

In this How to End Your Party article, I will show you exactly how to successfully end your party and how to handle people who don’t want to leave.

Conclusion

Running a good happy hour can be easy. You’ll connect new colleagues, meet new friends, and even have some fun.

Remember to do these key steps along the way:

  • Use The Party Runway
  • Collect RSVPs
  • Send 3 reminder messages
  • Use name tags
  • Lead icebreakers, if possible
  • Take a group photo

Good luck! Let me know how it goes. Did I miss anything? Email me to [email protected] and I’ll update this article with your suggestions.

What you should do next...

1. Subscribe to my free Friends Newsletter.
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2. Get your 2-page Party Checklist.
With over 19 things you can do right now to improve your next party. Plus an Executive Summary of the key lessons inside my book. Get the PDF now.

3. Buy The 2-Hour Cocktail Party on Amazon.
Look at the reviews: 100+ people can't be wrong. This is my book that I've worked on for the past 5 years and hosted hundreds of events with. It is the single-best resource that is PACKED with tactical tips and the exact scripts I use.

About the author

Howdy! I'm Nick Gray. Most people know me as the Founder of Museum Hack. I wrote a book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, about making new friends and building big relationships through small gatherings.

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