The Art of the Dinner Party

by Sarah Sherwood

Think of the beginning of your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn experience, building an audience until it takes off. That is the ancient art of the dinner party. 

They come to forget about the stock price, the mother in law, or the missing pearls. Some come nervous; some cannot wait to jump in and put their best foot forward. 

As with well-designed social media campaigns and sites, it needs to be a great place to go. You’re throwing a dinner party; fun and indulgence in the 1920’s will forever have its place. Making it perfect requires details just as important as the photos in Pintrest, or the recommendations on LinkedIn. 

A dinner party must be a place where people can come to forget about their troubles, and gather to celebrate life with friends, acquaintances, and people they would want to meet. It doesn’t have to break the bank—it has to distract in order to bring out what is lovely about life: good hearted people, lively music, delicious food and then things like color, a little nature a la flowers, and all in the appropriate spot and, just in time. 

To plan your party, like your web site, step back and ask yourself: when people walk in the door, for the first time, what do you want them to see? What do you want to communicate straight on? As they move about the evening, what do you want them to remember about their experience?

Good party (and on line) planning considers the visitor, and his likes, so that means you will consider whom she wants to sit next to—this matters tremendously. How can you encourage the best of conversations? Answer: with beautiful art, travel photographs and, in some cases, with children running around. People love to talk about other cultures and their kids. 

Put away your electronics, unless they are truly the next best helpful thing, and do not, and I mean this, carry your cell phone. If you are the lucky guest, you must make sure that any technology you carry is transported with class. If your boss calls, please politely step outside. Being a nerd can be very helpful, but not at a dinner party. I have a friend who is a genius Hollywood high tech executive, and he has the best way of showing off with music and technology. He enlists his baby grand and highlights it with some beautiful black box that carries the music throughout the house. It works.

I think about web sites with phony, flashy technology and shake my head.

Once they have arrived, take good care of your people. Refresh them with not just a drink; but with your prized smile. A happy host or hostess, not overdressed, but elegant and kind, steals the show. 

Now it is time for the toast. Make it about someone you love and you will shine. If you fumble, laugh at yourself and carry on. If announcing you are running for office, be human.

And then you know you’ve made it; you look around and even so and so is having a great time. Because, and this is the point, the conversation they longed for has taken place. 

Ah, community. Someone needs to tell Sartre that heaven is other people, too.