Which best describes you? The life of the party or the one in the corner cringing at the thought of having to approach total strangers at your colleague’s daughter’s graduation party? The kicker…you came all by yourself because your social butterfly of a cousin cancelled on you last minute.
What to do? Simple. Make me… the guest, your number one priority – cater to my every whim. Just kidding!!
How about I walk away from that experience with a warm feeling, convinced my host(ess) really put some thought into planning the get together? and more importantly, that it was clear her guests were her top priority?
Here are a few suggestions on what my host(ess) can possibly include in making for a low on stress but high on memorable experience occasion; one in which the guests walk away with no doubt in their minds they were included and not ignored..
i. Chauffeured, Barn or Hangar – A nonconventional venue for your event could turn it into the talk of the town. There are dance studios, rooftops, renting the restaurant space during non-service hours, an art gallery, a coffee, ice cream or pastry shop or maybe an airplane hangar, planetarium, yacht club or barn. Even having your guests picked up from a central location in a coach gives people an opportunity to chat. Who knows? they may make a new acquaintance by the time the coach pulls into the venue. How about making it part of the big reveal, that is the actual destination, only upon arrival?
ii. Warm Reception – Depending on the size and type of event it may help to have one or two people receive your guests at the entrance. Even for an event where guests are being chauffeured, it helps the lost in la-la land guest in verifying that they are at the right location.
iii. Cover for You – Appoint co-hosts to cover while you as the primary host(ess) attend to other matters. Their main role is to spot and engage that lost looking outlier in the corner with the uncomfortable but polite smile.
iv. Mingle, Mingle and Mingle some more – Make it interactive using fanciful name tags that would encourage or facilitate introductions. Introduce your guests to each other. Engage your guests in team based activities such as a game night. A game of Bingo where they get their answers from other guests is an opportunity to get to know each other better.
v. Good Eye Contact and Name Tags are handy – Engage your guests in conversation, making good eye contact and addressing them by name. The name tags also come in handy in terms of remembering names – think large crowd with a lot of new faces.
vi. Seating Options – Sometimes your guests do get weary from standing or walking around so make sure there are comfortable seats that are easily accessible. Customized escort cards are a nice personal touch. Also fresh flowers on display in colorful bottles or vases or mini fresh flower arrangements in mason jars or colorful teapots, Italian soda bottles or beer mugs could serve as centerpieces. How about hanging different sized paper lanterns from the ceiling and or placing the oversized ones in different parts of the reception space? For an even more intimate feel, votive candles can add an element of warmth to the ambiance. Clear signage to the powder room especially with the larger venues is helpful.
vii. What is a Party without Flavor – Good Food and Drink make for good company. The food station is another gathering point. The menu could be as simple as mixed punch with some non-alcoholic drink options served with crudités or as fancy as you choose. There are a slew of cocktail and mocktail recipes available on the internet to choose from. Place the food and drinks in an area that draws guests all the way into the venue and not at the entrance for example. Use of place cards for labeling the food helps your guests in identifying items on the menu.
viii. Wall of Fame – Have conversation pieces such as beautiful artwork placed in key traffic areas or an accent wall with a display of multiple images in different sized frames. This could draw groups of people together and provide an opportunity for guests to interact.
ix. Keep the Party Going – Have your finger on the pulse of the party and provide music that matches the mood – know when to tone it down and when to kick it up a couple of notches so you have more people on the dance floor than seated.
x. A few Favors – Have unique favors. It could be something in line with the theme of your event. If the host(ess) is a known avid traveler, it would not be far-fetched to give away luggage tags or a mini-compass. For the movie buff, perhaps movie ticket vouchers. But why leave anything to waste? Even the mini fresh floral arrangements can serve as tokens of appreciation.
In one word, Repurpose.