Don’t Settle for an Average Fantasy Football Draft Party
When I first started playing fantasy football, my drafts were all done online, all alone in my college dorm. The only interaction with another human was a chat that was designed like the first AOL messenger system from over a decade earlier. It was fun (because any form of drafting is fun) but it lacked a certain pizazz, something that made it memorable. A few years later, I was invited into a new league, there was tons of history and the people were all close. I was new and a bit of an outsider; however, the draft was incredible. There was food, games, and the host did an amazing job making everyone feel welcome. He created an experience that I wanted to replicate.
Whether you are doing your drafts online or in person, the draft is an opportunity to set the tone for the league and gives everyone a sense of what to expect. Myself, now an expert with over 10,000 hours of draft party hosting experience (numbers fudged for dramatic effect), I feel I am finally qualified to share some thoughts on how to throw an epic draft party. My hope for this article is that you can walk away with some real practical ways to elevate your hosting game.
One additional note before we jump in, the commish and the host do not have to be the same person. If you are the commissioner of a league, it doesn’t mean you also have to host the draft. If there is someone in your league who you think would be great at hosting, it’s your job as the commissioner to identify the talent, empower them, then share this article ;)
Nail the Invite
Yes, before the party even begins, before one person steps into your house or on a video call, you can start to mold the experience. For the invite, most people will shoot out a text or an email about the upcoming draft that includes when, where, and how long. Simple, effective, good but not epic. If you are looking to make a splash, take advantage even as early as the invite.
I am a huge fan of the analog invite. What do I mean? Kick it back old school and send something physical to the group. Yup, this may mean buying stamps. You can hand-write a letter or find an online print shop to send out invitations. One year, for a work league, I bought cheap plastic medals, glued them to some construction paper, and wrote a personal invite to each person. Only cost a few bucks and some time but people remembered it.
If you want to keep it more budget-friendly, one other thing you might consider is filming a video. You can set up a simple video backdrop in your kitchen or living room, and announce all the teams and the location for the event. An idea is to make it ironically terrible, you could remake the Fantasy Footballer’s studio using toys and trinkets from around the house, have a toilet cleaner as a microphone, and hang a hand-drawn sign of your league name in the background.
The invite sets the tone, even small upgrades to the standard text invite will go a long way to create a moment.
First Impressions Matter
Yes, momma was right, the first impression is important. Once people start arriving at your video call or party, there are some things you can do to spice up the environment. You want people to feel comfortable, especially if they are new.
Elevate your drafts by finding fun ways to engage people in conversation. A few years back I was at a thrift store and saw the perfect sports coat: wild pattern, loud colors… Craig Sagar would be proud. It is now part of league tradition, I had professional photos taken in the jacket one year to give out to league-mates. If I were ever to step down from hosting duties, the jacket would be passed on to the next host.
Simple decorations can also make a space feel unique. I am not an interior designer but with a quick google search, I was able to create some fun things around the house. One of those was an in-home concession stand for all the snacks. All I did was throw a football field tablecloth on the table, added some simple shelves I had at the house, then added some cardboard football pennants, and BOOM! I now had a concession stand. Pinterest is full of ideas you can steal.
Be clear and don’t leave them guessing. The first thing I say to someone when they get to my house for a draft party is something like, “The draft will start in 30 mins, the bathroom is located around the corner there, go grab you some snacks from the kitchen and claim a seat.” You’ve now knocked out all the main details and given your guests some direction on what to do. No more awkward standing around. Additionally, I always print out or write out the wifi password for people so they can get online and start diving into their research.
An underrated part of making a great first impression is music and lighting. Before anyone gets there, be sure these things are set and ready. If you have a speaker or something you can get music playing on, it helps fill the space and gets rid of feeling like you are sitting in awkward silence.
- There are some fun playlists on Spotify and Apple Music already curated for Fantasy Football Drafts.
- Let each manager pick a song for their “walk-up” music.
- Elevate your game and purchase LED bulbs and strips. Swap out your lamp bulbs and line your shelves and BOOM! You are in the same living room space but now everything is green! You’ve just made your space big-time.
- You can also change the light throughout the night depending on what is happening. Green for when they walk in, red for when it is draft time, purple when you are on a break. This can also apply to your video drafts if you add them to the space you will be streaming from.
Be an Over-the-Top Host
Being a great host doesn’t mean you have to be smiling the entire party and serving everyone the entire night. It does mean being prepared and welcoming. Here are three final tips to make this happen:
1. Know exactly how many people will be at the draft and have a space for their food and their computer. Also, I make sure that there is power within reach of everyone. Something that sucks and can kill momentum is if you are not prepared and people end up on the floor or in another space because there wasn’t a seat for them. For me, this means rearranging my living room to fit everyone. I also use this as an incentive to get people to the draft on time. “Doors at 7:00, first to show up gets first pick on seat selection.” Give them a place for their butt, computer, and food.
2. Create an Open Fridge Policy. This tip may not be for everyone but I’ve learned it is unique and different and also helps people feel welcome. If you are at my house, you have free reign to grab anything in my kitchen. If they aren’t drawn to anything on the snack table, let them peep the fridge. Some people will take advantage of the opportunity, some won’t, but you’ve set the standard.
3. Be you. I know, it sounds goofy but it matters. If you are the funny guy, don’t get so bogged down in the details and forget to be funny. If you’re a DJ, you better have the hottest playlist any draft party has ever seen. If you like cooking, make some crazy football-themed dishes. If you are a perfectionist and love things in a certain order, focus on doing those things great, don’t try and have a bunch of cheesy jokes in the can. The moral of the story: take what you are good at and lean into it.
We all want to throw a great draft and sometimes it means just making a few adjustments, being more prepared, and creating a moment for your league. The draft should be something your league mates look forward to and clear their calendar to be a part of. I encourage you to talk to a few other people in your league or people who take fantasy football a little too seriously for some of their ideas. Hopefully, this is your best draft season yet!