Game of Thrones season is my favorite time of year. Not only do we get 10 straight weeks of a deeply rich television show with a rabid fanbase, we get to enjoy it with cord-cutting services like HBO Now. But most of all, it’s a social phenomenon — and watching it together with your friends is an experience like no other.
Enter the TV viewing party.
People throw these kinds of parties for all sorts of occasions. You’ve got (mostly) entertaining pop culture events like the Academy Awards, the opening premiere for a hyped-up new show, a sporting event such as the Super Bowl, or even the grand finale of a beloved narrative like Friends.
But if you’re the one throwing the party, you have to know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. How much care you put into it will dictate how the night goes. And you want it to be a success, don’t you? Here’s how to make that happen with our guide to hosting a successful TV viewing party.
Start with a Head Count
Preparation is the key. As they say, failing to plan is planning to fail! Of course there’s a lot of wiggle room here — a TV party shouldn’t be a regimented affair save for when the show actually starts — but you don’t want to completely wing it. That could be disastrous.
First, you should send out invitations. Depending on how serious the party is, you could send out paper invitations, but most of the time verbal invites and electronic invites will suffice. Either way you cannot skip this step. You need to know who is interested!
An easy way to manage this would be to use an app like Jabb Events, Invitation Maker, or Evite. With them, you can create private events (only open to friends) or public events (open to anyone using the app), send out invites, and keep track of planned attendance with the built-in RSVP managers. They’re extremely easy to use and will save you a lot of time and hassle.
Or if that’s too casual for you, you could go with a Web-based tool instead. Whoozin is a great choice as it allows you to create an event page, send out email invitations, and track responses on a convenient dashboard. An alternative is EventBrite, which is completely free as long as you aren’t charging for attendance.
If the responses are lackluster, you may need to scrap the idea. If too many people want to come, you may need to cut the guest list — unless the group is okay with being overcrowded (which, in my experience, doesn’t make for fun viewing).
But if you can keep the number in check, great! Now you can start on the real details. For example, if you want to host a potluck prior to the viewing, this is when people should sign up with what they’re going to bring. There’s nothing worse than having 10 people bringing plates and cups but no food.
Keep Them Fed, Keep Them Happy
Speaking of food, this is one aspect that you absolutely cannot forget. Food may or may not make your guests happy, but not having food is sure to make them a bit grumpy. The aforementioned potluck idea is always nice, but even something as simple as delivered pizza can work out well.
Ask people to chip in a few dollars each if it’s going to be too hard on your wallet or purse.
Eating prior to viewing serves a secondary purpose: breaking the ice. If new people are joining in the fun, get to know them while you’re all eating together so they feel more comfortable later on. You may even make a new friend in the process. If no newbies are attending, the eating phase is still good for getting hyped up.
If your group is the type to consume alcohol, be sure to serve some. (Or at least have a few people bring some.) Craft beer and microbrews are always a convenient option. If you prefer cocktails, check out Liqurious, which is a Pinterest alternative for alcohol.
Don’t forget the snacks and refreshments. People will want to keep munching even after the end of dinner, so provide a station with a few finger foods (chips, cookies, etc.) and a self-serve drinks station. Keep it simple and easy, nothing too messy. Need inspiration? Check out these awesome recipe apps and these YouTube food channels.
Or maybe you want to order food instead, in which case you will love these fast food restaurants with mobile apps. Chipotle delivery with just a few screen taps? Amazing. What about these apps for ordering pizza? Never before has it been so easy to provide food for a party.
Make Sure Everyone Is Comfortable
Once everyone is done eating, and the snacks and refreshments are set, and the TV show is about to start, is it enough to plop down and keep your eyes trained on the screen? Not quite! In the few minutes leading up to the show’s start, you need to make sure everyone is comfortable.
For starters, that means providing enough seating for your guests. I hope you took a guest count because it’s hard to summon a couple of chairs out of thin air when you realize you invited too many people. Cap your guest list by how many seats you have — unless there are folks who prefer to sit on the floor.
The viewing angle is important, too. I can’t tell you how annoying it is when I’m invited to a TV party and it’s so cramped that someone is relegated to the sides where the viewing experience is diminished by reduced contrast and glares. Which reminds me: always dim or turn off the main lights.
Lastly, temperature. It’s no fun to shiver through a long show, nor is it fun to sweat bullets. If it’s unfeasible to alter your thermostat accordingly, at least provide your guests with a few blankets or air fans. They’ll love you for it, guaranteed.
Don’t Skimp on the Media Center
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to afford a big-screen television or the latest smart TV. However, if your only screen is a 24-inch CRT from the last decade, you may not be well-equipped enough to be hosting these kinds of parties. To be frank, you would be doing a disservice to your guests.
The lowest acceptable screen size is probably somewhere around 40 inches. If you can push that beyond 50 inches, that’d be even better. Also, when buying an LCD screen TV, note that glossy screens produce richer colors but are more problematic when it comes to glare — and glare isn’t the only issue.
Have you noticed that when you watch TV from the sides, the picture “fades” and becomes unwatchable? This is due to the screen refracting light, which means that the picture is clearest when you’re directly in front of the TV rather than at an angle. When you have a lot of guests, this can be a problem.
Most modern flat-screen TVs have a maximum viewing angle around 20 degrees. Better quality TVs can reach upwards of 30 or even 40 degrees. Unfortunately, do the lack of standards and regulation, most TVs claim to have a 89-degree or 178-degree viewing angle (depending on how they measure), so on-the-box specifications can’t really be trusted.
The moral of the story? Try to keep everyone as “in front of the TV” as possible. The further to the side, the worse their viewing experience will be. For optimal viewing angles, however, you’ll want to get a TV with a curved screen. Not exactly within everyone’s budget, I know, but the difference is noticeable.
Sound is another important factor you don’t want to overlook. Depending on the size of your room, you may need to hook up an external sound system in such a way that audibility is optimized. It’s no fun when a TV show makes no sense because you can’t hear what anybody is saying.
Share Your Own Tips!
Hosting a TV party is ultimately pretty simple — it’s just a lot of work. If you can manage to pull it off on a weekly basis, more power to you! In that case, feel free to be less extravagant with your food and drinks.
But if it’s for a one-off event like an awards show or a series finale, don’t be afraid to kick it up several notches. Get everyone to dress in costume. Make party favors for everyone. Do something memorable!
Have you ever hosted a TV party? What kind of things do you like to do to keep your guests happy and entertained? Which shows do you throw parties for? Tell us in the comments below!