It can be really intimidating to host a large number of people. How do you feed them all? How do you make sure everyone is having a good time? I want to know that my guests are having a good time, feel comfortable and walk away chatting about how glad they were that they decided to come.
I am admittedly more of a small group extrovert. I flourish in one-on-one conversations or feel more relaxed when we are hosting just a small few but, we often are celebrating a birthday, a cake day or just hosting our weekly “small” group of twenty men and women. So, how do we make big gatherings feel cozy and inclusive? Here are some of our best tips!
Plan things with others in mind.
There have been a few gatherings I have hosted that were flops! Yes, that’s right! The “community queen” over here has hosted some stinkers! Growing up, some high school friends of mine use to get together and read. We loved reading, but we also loved each other (talk about the FOMO generation). So, we’d go to someone’s house with our books, eat cookies and drink Sonic slushies and read together.
Fast forward ten years and I asked my husband if we could host our own coffee shop night in our house. We could have coffee, tea and some snacks. Set up different rooms in our house to be cozy shared work spaces or a comfortable place to read books amongst friends. Now some of you book lovers may be thinking THIS SOUNDS AWESOME! Well, you know how many people showed up…zero. Yea, people in Denver didn’t really think this was an exciting way to spend a Friday evening.
The takeaway from this story is keep others in mind. I knew that Denver folks may not be excited for an in-home coffee shop experience because it didn’t include some serious exercise or local craft beer, but I wanted to do something that sounded fun to me.Now when we bring people together, we make sure to include things theywould enjoy and get excited about. We want to do things we love with the people we love but we should make sure it is something everyone will enjoy.
Introduce people and find a common topic.
When we are having a lot of people in one place, my guess is they are coming from different social circles. Take a birthday party for example. We invite work friends, neighbors, small group buddies and family. It’s up to us as hosts to introduce folks and not leave them stranded to fend for themselves around new people.
Now, introducing names is one thing but to take your hospitality to the next level, find something they both have in common to encourage continued conversation.
Ex: Jennifer, this is my neighbor Alexa. She has a 2-year-old girl just like yours. We’ve been talking about getting our kids into a soccer program this fall. Do you have any advice for her?
Find common ground for people! Trust me, they appreciate the conversation starter and it will make them feel more comfortable amongst new people.
Activity! Activity! Activity!
I know we want to be organic, but you have need activities planned to just create an atmosphere of fun. It can be a game you all play together like trivia or charades. Or you can have a bunch of different activities set up to allow people to play at their leisure but for the success of a quality party; you need to have planned activities for folks to let loose and create some shared memories.
Let’s be real, the best inside jokes come from some “out-of-the-box” game.
Ex: A friend of mine had folks decorate wood blocks at her son’s first birthday! It was great for the adults to get creative, busy their hands and laugh about whose blocks looked the silliest.
Run to the bathroom and pray!
Okay, so this one may seem weird but at some appointed time during the party, you will find yourself in a quiet place…the bathroom. Usually, I take some deep breaths and find some moments to pray. I pray for friends to feel connected, for good conversation to take place and for energy to continue being a good host to others. Also, if you are an introvert, you may need a minute to recharge. The bathroom is the most natural place you will go rather than retreating to your bedroom or wherever. But perhaps you take a moment and pray while filling up your water cup or when you go change a diaper. Just make a point of taking a moment to refill your tank before pouring yourself back out.
Be aware of what’s going on and look for people who are not connecting or standing off to the side of conversation and bring them in. This just happens to be Tim’s super power. Sometimes, I am unaware, or I see it happening and just stand paralyzed not sure how to make the transition smooth. But Tim always knows what to say, is always willing to leave a comfortable conversation to go talk to someone new, and often makes them feel like family. He then invites the person into conversation with a friend and moves on to the next person who may need some friendly assistance. I am so lucky to have him as my #1 teammate in loving others.
So, next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed about hosting a large gathering just remember it’s the small, personal touches that help people feel loved and known.