Throwing a good party is a bit like cooking a good stew.
You’ve got to pick the right ingredients, combine them artfully and then monitor them to make sure they play nice with one another.
Which makes Beaumont Etiquette founder Myka Meier the equivalent of a Michelin-starred chef: an expert when it comes to the art of mixing humans to create a party flavor everyone will enjoy.
We sat down with the professional P&Q minder to discuss the best way to make your guests feel at home, kill those awkward silences and what the hell to do when you’ve forgotten someone’s name.
InsideHook: I’m having a party. Who should I invite?
Myka Meier: Plan your guest list strategically. The key to a great party is to invite the right mix of people who will have shared interests or whose personalities will mesh. This way, once you make initial introductions, the party will flow easily.
IH: Obviously it’s the host’s job to make sure everyone’s got plenty of food and drink, but is there anything else I should keep in mind?
MM: As the host, it’s your job to make all guests feel comfortable. The best way to do this is when your guest enters, instantly make them feel relaxed and at home. “Jessica, welcome. Your dress is fantastic. Can I take your coat and offer you a glass of wine?”
IH: What’s the surest way to cut through the awkward silence that typically attends a room full of strangers?
MM: Introduce as many people as fast as possible. There is nothing more awkward than a quiet party. Get the buzz going as early as possible, as it will set the mood for everyone as they enter.
IH: Anything I should pay special attention to when I’m in the act of introducing?
MM: You should always make eye contact with whomever you are introducing. There is nothing worse than speaking to someone who is looking over your shoulder at someone or something else.
IH: Is there a correct order of introductions? I.e., does “ladies first” hold true?
MM: Always introduce a woman to a man, and a more senior/titled person (e.g., Dr. Such-and-such) first. It’s a sign of respect to acknowledge the pecking order. There are only a few exceptions for “ladies first,” and this isn’t one of them!
IH: Say I’ve introduced two of my guests, but they don’t seem to be hitting it off. How can I avoid this?
MM: Just to introduce two people is not enough. When you introduce people, give them a launch pad to start a conversation. For instance, “Amy, please meet Jordan. Amy just joined the tennis club and Jordan, I know you’ve been playing there for years.” It automatically gives them something in common to talk about.
IH: What’s the most common rookie mistake among hosts?
MM: Always stand to introduce. When ever anyone enters the room for the first time, it’s your job as the host to stand and greet them. You should never be shaking hands with or introducing others while seated … it can come off rude and lazy.
IH: What’s the protocol for when you’ve forgotten someone’s name?
MM: If you forget a name … Say to the person whose name you’ve forgotten, “Have you met my friend Jack?” Typically the person will reply with “No, I have not. I am Claire, nice to meet you.”
IH: How do I handle latecomers? Introduce them to everyone at once or gradually?
MM: Assuming the group have all been chatting, the new person will be the one who takes priority. Get them integrated as fast as possible. You would therefore say, “Jamie, please meet Eric, Timothy and Jake.”
IH: What about the standoffish or unfriendly people at my party? Am I allowed to ignore them?
MM: You may be a bit more interested in one conversation than another, but it’s important you don’t ignore any of your guests. If you see a guest by themselves or on their phone in the corner, make sure to put an extra amount of effort into bringing them into the circle and catching them up to speed so they feel comfortable and welcome. “Amy, please come join us. I was just telling everyone about…”
Myka Meier is a British-American etiquette consultant and Founder of Beaumont Etiquette, which boasts (humble-brag) members of the British Royal family as clients. She resides in New York, where she offers instruction in social, business, dining and royal etiquette for adults and kids. When she isn’t busy gentling the manners of men, she can be found sailing, playing tennis or walking her Yorkshire Terrier.