'Tis the season to have a party. Sometimes a big party. And why not? It's a festive time of year and a perfect time to celebrate with a larger gathering of friends.
I've been to a few big parties lately which were...not fun at all.
These parties were given by people I know and like. There was plenty of good food and drink. They'd put some effort in getting the ambiance right, seemed happy to see me and everybody else there. What was the problem?
Simple: Giving a party is not simply putting out food and beverages and lighting some candles.
The larger the group, the more chances there will be people who don't know each other. There's nothing worse than wandering around a big party for more than a few minutes where you know nobody except the host -- who is nowhere to be found.
So to all hosts and hostesses -- an overlooked, simple secret for creating a great party:
Introduce people to one another and do it frequently.
Be near the entrance for at least the first hour, chatting with guests but mindful of new arrivals.
Make guests feel welcome the minute they arrive. Take their coat or show them where to set down their things.
Offer them something to drink and let them know where they'll find the food.
Try to avoid getting sidelined by deep conversations at the beginning of the party that make it tough to break away to greet new guests.
Find some common ground or say something simple about each person: mention what they do, where they're from, etc.
" Rita, this is my childhood friend, Catherine, visiting from Paris. She's a great chef and Rita had one of my favorite restaurants in L.A." " Michael, have you met Joan? You both are thinking about trips to Egypt..."
" Rita, this is my childhood friend, Catherine, visiting from Paris. She's a great chef and Rita had one of my favorite restaurants in L.A."
" Michael, have you met Joan? You both are thinking about trips to Egypt..."Intros are especially handy when you've invited people from different parts of your life.
No matter how smart and accomplished people are, it is often awkward to be in a group of unfamiliar faces. Instead of the lame "And how do you know ..." opener to someone new, a 10 second lead-in from the hostess is so much better. Just giving one or two details really helps make people relax and enjoy themselves.
If you're in the movie business and also invite "non-pros", make sure to step in and break up the closed clusters of shoptalk with " Hey you guys, meet Michelle. She just came back from Thailand and has some amazing stories..." to mix it up a bit.
Look around and check out your party. Did you forget to put out extra napkins or light candles?
Enlist two strangers to help you with that and they will probably find common ground in that quick task to get them talking.
Is there someone standing alone with prop food and drink in hand?
Intercede and drag them to anybody nearby and make them speak to each other with a simple topic -- Sports, Politics, whatever -- even an animated disagreement will at least engage people who might never have spoken to one another.
All this seems like a no brainer, right?
Yet most hosts forget this essential party step: Gracefully and briefly connect people. Your guests will be grateful and it will be a much more memorable and happy party for everyone.