As an introverted party planner I have learned to be strategic in how I plan events to encourage conversation amongst my guests. At first I wanted to call this post "How to Host a Party if You Don't Like to Talk" or "Entertaining for Introverts" but decided that though I think I am pretty funny (!!!), these tips are not just for introverts. A good host is thoughtful of her guests, so here are five ways to help get your guests talking (whether you are a talker or not)!
1. Make friends with genuinely kind talkers.
I have a few friends and family members who are super friendly and excel at conversation with people they have never met before. This is not me. But by inviting them (of course, not just for this reason!) they fill in some of the quiet spots if you are having trouble doing this yourself.
I will often plan with some of these people ahead of time to make sure they can come. This is not secretive or a trick--you can genuinely ask a friend who is good at talking, to come a few minutes early to help greet guests or answer the door so that you are freed to finish up getting things ready. Consider them your entertaining wing (wo)man!
2. Have an activity.
If your event is not surrounded around a theme like a birthday party or baby shower where you may have a more standard schedule of events, creating an activity for yours guests gives them something to do as well as something to start a conversation over.
Our holiday dessert party presents guests the opportunity to talk about the desserts everyone brought while my annual Ladies' Valentine's Tea always includes a craft to fill some of the time. If you are having an outdoor party, consider setting up a game like Giant Jenga or even a volleyball net. Seasonal parties can surround around food like decorating cookies at Christmas.
Even something as simple as providing a make your own drink station, encourages an activity and conversation. I put out my selection of Torani syrups so that guests can add it to their coffee or tea. Though small, this little event makes guests feel special as well as something to small talk about.
If you are struggling at creating a successful event, consider creating a theme to build interest.
3. Ask people questions.
In a variety of social situations, I have learned that I can sometimes say awkward things when I am uncomfortable (don't we all!!?!?). And so instead of putting pressure on myself to share about myself, I try to ask my guests questions instead.
People feel good about a conversation when they get to share, so why not make your guests feel great about the time they spent with you!
4. Provide different food stations.
I am very strategic about where I place the food at a party, especially when entertaining indoors as it is easy to get stuck in one spot inside a house. By putting the food in one area and the drinks in another, it encourages guests to move around. This allows bumping into someone new to talk to or an excuse to get up from their seat. It helps prevent awkward transitions in conversation and keeps the movement going.
I have often experienced feeling stuck before or without someone to talk to in social situations where I do not know the other guests very well. Though I drink a lot of water, making it inevitable, I often use a trip to the bathroom to excuse myself or get an introverted breather when I am feeling out of place. I have found that providing such structure for my guests, without them having to hide away in the bathroom (!!!), it hopefully keeps guests comfortable and willing to stick around longer.
5. Let people talk where they are.
I used to get so hung up on where people were standing, making sure they had a seat, and feeling uncomfortable while everyone was standing but there was still places for them to sit. After I started being aware of this, I began to evaluate this same scenario in other people's homes. I realized I really didn't mind standing around and often preferred it at times then getting glued to a chair. Once I realized guests probably did not care too much either, I stopped bugging them to find a seat. Sure, I still offer to have them sit down, but I realized it was me who was more uncomfortable about it than my guests.
Sometimes guests would be in the middle of a conversation and when I would ask them to sit I was only interrupting their conversation. This was the last thing I wanted to do and have learned to wait for the appropriate time to offer guests to take a seat or move to the other room.
// The more I host the more realize that having people in my home is not all about me. It is about my guests and relationships. If I can foster a place where guests can have conversation and build relationship, I consider that a success. I know many of my friends and family come to the parties I host for me, but I only hope that they can leave with just a little deeper relationship with others as well.