The most memorable get-togethers are peppered with guests from the host’s various social circles—friends, neighbors, family, and coworkers. But the very diversity that’s so appealing may translate to guests whose only common bond is their association with the host. Rather than resorting to forced, cheesy party games to break the ice and get guests interacting, try a few of these suggestions, which get the conversation flowing as easily as the libations and trays of canapés:
Spark some banter during cocktail hour. Serving a visually appealing cocktail in a striking piece of glassware gets guests talking. Stores like Pier One and World Market are especially known for funky and colorful, yet inexpensive stemware. Think outside the glass and serve a Mojito in a small canning jar, or a Margarita in an ice cream sundae dish. To really bowl over your friends, serve a big vessel of punch gorgeously garnished with an ice and fruit ring made in a bundt pan.
Turn your television into a virtual photo album. Run a digital slide show showcasing pictures of fun times with guests. Silly shots or action photos work especially well—everyone will enjoy spotting themselves and gabbing about the stories and anecdotes behind the pics.
Give guests something to do. While holiday parties are especially conducive to this (think pumpkin carving, tree trimming or egg hunting), activities abound year round. Invites foodies over for some sushi-rolling or dumpling making, and pique philanthropic-minded partygoers by decorating and stuffing book bags for elementary schools or toiletry kits for women’s shelters. Inspired busy work can alleviate the awkwardness of trying to find something funny or meaningful to say, and add a spirit of comradery.
Uncover a common thread when making introductions. It may appear simplistic, but casually mentioning a mutual interest, country visited or similar field of work or study serves as a helpful jumping off point for conversation (“Madelyn, this is Amanda. Amanda studied abroad in England, Madelyn lived there for several years.”)
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.