The Secret to a Great Dinner Party

It's not just about good food and wine, but about fun and interesting conversations that makes a great dinner party-- this premise is a new book project that we are going to be working on.  

Hosting Thanksgiving with friends yesterday reminded me once again of the importance of planing the conversation and interaction as much as the food and drinks. Whether it is 4-8 or 20 people stimulating conversation, fun, involvement with everyone of all ages is critical to the overall feeling of the event.

Over the years we have come to realize that if you can create an environment over your meals in which everyone there leaves feeling more enlightened, lighter, excited, or just more relaxed -- you have hosted a great party.

Having designed interaction and experiential training programs for the past 20 plus years plus a doctorate in learning and a master's in Recreation and Leisure Studies (yes... you read it right) it has always been natural for me and my husband (a psychologist) to research, develop and then figure out how to make a training exercise into a fun learning event at Thanksgiving or with friends over dinner.

The irony is we realized not many people either know how, want to take the time to do so, or would feel comfortable facilitating activities in their home with friends. This is understandable as I often am ridiculed, made fun of and laughed at in the beginning. Those who know me moan as I stand up and ask for their attention announcing the "Gratitude Game." Secretly though, I know they are waiting in anticipation and are thrilled that I am getting even their kids involved in the activity. Fifteen minutes later in teams of 4 everyone is laughing, joking and making lists of everything they are grateful for that begins with each letter in the word "Thanksgiving." Thirty minutes later the noise finally quiets down in the room as each team is instructed to share what they are grateful for that starts with a letter, "T"-- Turkey, Talking, Tablemanners (boo yell a few kids), Timeoff, Tim and Tom (two dads), and trees.

As the meal continues, the mood changes, the conversation shifts and the bonding of our little group, many who have met for the first time, has taken place.

Conversation starters and Sharing games are not just about what is said, but about the bonding, the intimacy that occurs, the coming together of a group of people who may or may not see each other for a long time. They are about making the meal, the event, the gathering be a memory that leaves each person with the feeling of rejuvenation, connection, and a few insights into themselves, the world, and others.

The book is beginning. If you have any great conversation starters, dining games, activities, or ideas on this subject I would love to hear from you as the book is beginning.

Best, Suzanne