I just threw our annual summer BBQ, and it would have been called the party of the season, if we still referred to entertaining that way. Most of us have stopped using the word entertaining as a verb. In fact, “entertaining” is now passive – and it’s an adjective.
For example, you might refer to one of the less disgusting, more amusing antics of the Kardashians, as entertaining. As in, “The Kardashians were less hateful and foul with each other this week. The show was almost entertaining.”
But, I digress (as I often do).
My point is people don’t give a lot of dinner parties or events at home. They don’t invite people over with the intention of showing them a good time. They don’t spruce up their homes and put out nice towels, new soap and clean off the counters. They don’t construct a menu and make a special shopping trip, and take time to make the food, or at least assemble it attractively.
Instead, they might have someone over “to chill.” Have someone “hang out.” Come over and “throw back a few beers.”
Why does this matter? What’s the big get for personal brands who aren’t used to “entertaining?”
It matters because throwing a dinner party, a Sunday brunch or BBQ – or as a friend recently did, a Christmas in July party at the beach, should make you conscious of meeting the needs of other people. It should compel you to seek to delight them, with the effort you make in pairing drinks with appetizers, side dishes with entrees and a selection of desserts. Putting together a great background mix of music. Putting out some flowers. Getting an interesting crowd of people together who might not know each other yet.
That’s the most important part. Hosting a party at home involves introducing people to one another. Finding a connection between them in your brain that allows you to point out something special they have in common. Then getting them started in conversation about the point you made, and hopefully moving on to other topics of mutual interest. By then of course, you’ll have moved on to other people you welcome and introduce, share a laugh and begin your hosting duties anew as you make the rounds. .
At least that was the way it WAS when we entertained other people at home. Or how it IS for those of us who still do.
Entertaining is a lot different than clearing some space on your patio, throwing a few snacks on the table and letting people sit talking to the person they came with (or no one if they came alone). That’s a place people can’t wait to leave.
Try this, newly inspired would-be entertainers.
1. Plan a date with a set time period to have 6 people over – or like I did Sunday, a group of fifty or more.
2. Send an invitation and make sure you know who will actually be there. Don’t expect people to RSVP – call and ask if they can come. Make them feel it matters – that they matter.
3. Clean up your home. Put out clean towels. Buy some candles. And prepare food that doesn’t come in a bucket or pre-wrapped in a bag. You know, make an effort.
4. On the big day (or night), dress smartly.
5. Greet people with a warm welcome. Walk them into your home and introduce them to the other people there. Not: “Hey everyone. This is Sandy!” Try: “Sandy, I’d like you to meet Lee – he’s just been to Costa Rica and I know you’re considering taking a vacation there. Lee – what can you tell Sandy about your trip?”
6. Continue working – yes, working, your party. Don’t get drunk. Don’t stand in one place and yak with your best friend. Keep your eyes peeled for a guest that’s drowning as another one drones on. Drop in on the twosome, and say – “I must take Sandy a way for a moment – she must tell Jim about her experience with the new beverage he just introduced into the market!”
7. Help people enjoy themselves. Scan the room to see who needs a fresh drink, a napkin, a new person to talk to – or the location of your restroom.
You’ll take pride in hearing as you escort your guests to the door at the party’s end: “Now, that was entertaining! Thank you for such a wonderful time!”
Entertaining will improve your reputation, your skill set and the approach you take when meeting anyone, anywhere. How’s that for building your personal brand: one person and one party at a time?
Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen