We’ve all been there, hosting a party where no one knows each other. Ugh! The most difficult party to host. Guests begin to walk in, but the food isn’t ready. You’re frantically bustling in the kitchen to get everything ready, praying your guests are enjoying themselves. As you walk out with the food to greet your guests, crickets are strumming in the background, no one is talking and everyone feels totally awkward. It takes an hour to hit up all the guests to make them feel comfortable, but the damage is done. The party is a total bust and everyone knows it. You want to crawl into your bed, eat all the yummy food yourself and pretend none of it ever happened. Worst night ever.
Lucky for you, this awful experience is totally preventable. Here is my check-list of ideas how to avoid the awkward silence:
* Always think of the five senses (touch, smell, taste, hear, see) when planning your party. If you engage all five senses successfully, you will have your guests talking.
* Always have a menu so delish that guests can smell the yummies right when they walk through the door. I’ve found the smell of meat (think seasoned roast with veggies) or baked goods (hello homemade chocolate cake) right out of the oven are always a hit. Have food labels describing the menu to get your guests chatting about what they are about to eat & experience. This often leads into more detailed conversation. Who doesn’t love to talk about food?
* Further, have a creative appetizer bar (with food labels) for guest to snack on and talk about before the events begin. Have a few unique or interesting appetizers that your guests have maybe never tried before. I always like to have a few ethnic items on my menu. Food from other countries gets people talking about their travel experiences.
* Have popular music playing that gets people moving and chatting. This of course depends on your venue, type of party you are throwing and the people invited, but music always serves as a great ‘awkward silence’ buffer. Plus it appeals to one of your senses, helps create a mood and will cause guests to associate your party with that music in the future. Memorable is always good.
* Place cards around the room suggesting discussion topics or interesting questions. I’ve found that ‘Would You Rather’ questions are a crowd pleaser. The question, ‘would you rather fly or be invisible?’ gets people chatting for hours. Seriously. Try it out.
* Have a game playing right when people walk in. They will feel apart of something from the get-go and nothing breaks the ice like a little competition.
* Have stellar decorations that include activities (have guests make their own name cards, have each guest create a pendant for a collective party banner).
* Have a common cause that unites guests. Have people bring cans of food, sign petitions, or provide donations for a local charity.
So to sum up, appeal to the five senses and most of all create a shared experience for your guests. Get them talking about the experience they are having together at that very moment. They will feel a sense of commonality and be friends forever.