How to be a Fabulous Host
After each Dinner Circle dinner party, the guests can review their host on Welcome, Food, Venue and Overall Experience. Reviews build trust and community, but another good reason for those categories is they give you a structure to follow, to ensure your guests have a great experience and give you good feedback.
First of all, don’t worry! It’s not about serving Michelin star food in an ornate palace (unless that’s what you said you were going to do!); it’s about how people feel, and if what they find meets their expectations.
Welcome is easy points! The first things are obvious, but you may be surprised how many times they get missed. When your guests arrive, open the door with a smile, shake their hands (or whatever is the cultural norm) and introduce yourself. Thank them for coming and ask if they got there ok.
Top Tip: When they tell you their name, say it back to them “Nice to meet you Jennifer” and (discretely) notice something about them. Ideally something that stands out: their shiny jacket, sparkly dress, their hair or height, anything distinctive. Your brain will link that to their name and you’ll find it much easier to remember! It sounds silly but, especially in a larger group of 8 or more, name badges are a very welcome thing; they break the ice and save your guests the embarrassment of asking twice, which always goes down very well.
Just imagine how you feel when you arrive somewhere you’ve never been, and meet new people. Chances are you’d be a little nervous, and maybe a bit unsure of what to do. Do you take your shoes off? Where do you sit or stand? Ask any customer service professional, and they’ll tell you that people feel more relaxed and comfortable when they have a sense of certainty. So tell them straight away if it’s shoes on or off.Show them where to go “come on through to the lounge, can I get you some champagne or a soft drink?” Let them know where the bathroom is. If other people are there, introduce them to someone straight away “Jennifer this is Susan, she’s just arrived too”.
Food just needs to be cooked or prepared properly, not to Masterchef standards! Unless you said you were a top chef, people are expecting real food made by real people. If it tastes pretty good, is presented nicely, and not undercooked or burnt, that’s enough. For presentation tips there are plenty of idea on Pinterest; and it’s amazing what a touch of garnish on the side of a plate can do.
Now obviously in the real world things don’t always go according to plan! It happens to everyone. If something gets a bit overcooked, doesn’t turn out the way you wanted, or even if you have to change the menu entirely, don’t panic. Just tell your guests what happened, and try to provide an alternative. Even if it means getting the ice cream out the freezer and whacking some hundreds and thousands on there! If people see you’ve made the effort they really won’t mind, and you’ll probably end up laughing about it.
Top tip: Don’t spoil your guests’ experience by continually apologising or telling them the food isn’t as good as you’d hoped, it’s annoying. Once is enough, if you really need to.
Venue, like food is nothing to be worried about. Everyone there is expecting to be at a dinner party in someone’s home, not at the Ritz. Yes it’s a good idea to tidy up a bit, but a little effort goes a long way. If you can, dim the lighting slightly, candles give a nice effect too. You really don’t need to buy expensive tableware either, but a few little touches can really make a difference. Like a table runner (basically a long piece of fabric) you can get for £10 or less online. And if you want to make a formal impression with absolute minimal expense, simply write people’s first names in gold pen on black or white folded card, like you get at a wedding. Little things like that make people feel special.
Overall Experience is of course harder to pin down, but the key here is to let people relax and feel good. As the host you have an excellent opportunity to set the tone of the evening. By that I mean if you want people to feel relaxed and open, that’s how need to be.
When everyone has arrived, either when you’ve just sat down at the table or are standing with drinks, it’s a great time to start the evening with introductions. You can startby thanking everyone again for coming, tell them it’s really lovely to meet them all and you hope they enjoy the food. Then tell them something about yourself. The key is to relax and be a little humble; because it helps other people drop their guard too. For example, “As you know I’m Mike. I’ve been really looking forward to this evening, but a bit nervous too, to be honest, as I really wanted the food to turn out well. I work as a chiropractor, but what I really love is writing my book, and I’m looking forward to going to Cuba with my wife this summer”
That says more about you than just your name and job title, but without being too personal. Then when you’ve set the precedent the others can follow, and people will find themselves talking about what they’re really interested in, instead of just their job and the weather.
Make sure you talk to all your guests, and include people in the conversation if someone’s a bit quiet.And for your guests’ comfort it’s a good idea to have water on the table, and to let them know you can arrange a taxi for them when it’s time to go home.
Dinner Circle Co-founder
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