Transform Your Dinner Party: From “Typical” to “Meaningful Conversation” in 5 Simple Steps
Whether you live in a small apartment or you’re hosting a dinner party at a restaurant, use these tips for meaningful time with friends. There’s no need to be fancy or overdo it on the etiquette (unless you like that sort of thing, of course!).
For years, I’ve loved gathering people together. But the idea of going out for drinks and expensive dinners all the time doesn’t necessarily do it for me anymore. Before you read any further, allow me to give you a glimpse into my soul.
What you’ll find is that I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to connection—whether that be with your life partner, family, lifelong friends, new neighbors, co-workers, or the person at the grocery store. I truly believe that we are capable of experiencing a level of connection that is deeper than what we’ve known for most of our life.
Sadly, I think we’re starved of the connections we truly need. I think part of the problem is that we spend a lot of time, energy, and money chasing novelty—the next concert, latest pop-up experience, or street fair. Don’t get me wrong, novel events are awesome. They usually just aren’t the best container for groups to connect.
What happened to neighbors hanging out on the front porch, sharing pitchers of iced tea and talking about life? What happened to the dinner parties where people sat engulfed in long, engaging conversations about their hopes and dreams, their struggles, and their latest personal revelations?
I’m all about “filling my cup” with nourishing activities, and after a solid hang with people I love, my cup runneth over. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry! I got you covered, love.
Whether you live in a small apartment or you’re hosting a dinner party at a restaurant, use these tips for meaningful hang time with friends. There’s no need to be fancy or overdo it on the etiquette (unless you like that sort of thing, of course!).
1. Pick a Theme.
Sure, it might seem cheesy, but themes can be super fun. Last time it was Italian potluck, next up will be French Jazz vibes. You can also choose a theme around a certain topic, like dreams or generosity. If you want to get really active, you can organize a Jeffersonian dinner (this works especially well for larger groups that want to solve big problems).
Themes are also great for generating powerful conversations. Let’s pretend our theme is generosity. We might all answer the question “Where do you feel most generous in your life today? Is there an area where you don’t feel generous enough?”
Get the Scoop: Stylecaster | Theme Party
51 of the Best Theme Party Ideas
There’s no question that a good theme can take a party from average to wildly creative and fun. Read on to find the best theme for your next dinner party.
2. Set Your Space.
Live in a small apartment? Try clearing the furniture and putting pillows and blankets on the floor and couch area, borrow extra chairs from a neighbor, or even buy a set of stackable chairs from IKEA for $12 each. If you simply don’t have enough room, most apartment buildings these days have common areas that can be great for a dinner party. Just make sure you reserve the space ahead of time so you don’t run into any surprises!
Have a small dining table? Try adding an inexpensive table next to your main table to expand the surface area (it’ll end up looking like more of a square shape). One benefit of this is that you’ll all be able to see each other better!
No tables? If all else fails you can get cozy on the floor. Clear your furniture, put pillows and blankets on the floor around the couch area. You might be surprised how relaxed and connected you all feel just because you’re in tighter quarters.
Ask for volunteers to help with certain tasks. Humans are wired to want to help out, so let them! It makes everyone feel better and more useful.
3. Create Your Invite List.
The general rule of thumb is that every person should know at least one other person. Anything else is fair game! But if you find yourself hanging with the same crew all the time, maybe it’s time to switch it up.
Is there anyone you’ve been wanting to get to know better? Someone who just moved to your city? Someone you haven’t seen in a while? This is a great, low-pressure way to connect as well as be a catalyst for your friends to make new connections. If you’re looking to meet new people, ask your friends to extend an invitation to someone you don’t already know.
Be intentional about diversity. Mix genders, ages, races, professions, political views—you’ll immediately have more perspectives in the conversation and help everyone feel more connected to one another even if they don’t look/act/think like each other.
If you’re using Fabriq, you can play a little “invitation roulette” with your outer circle to come up with a great mix of people to invite.
Now for the fun part…
4. Create a Container for Great Conversation.
Wanna know the key to getting people to connect? It’s all about the intention.
As the host, your job is to create an environment for sharing and connection. It’s your dinner party, so model the vibe you want to have!
This starts the moment that you create your invitation. Here’s a good example: “Join us this Friday for a Greek-themed dinner party full of fun ways to connect. Throughout the evening we’ll play 2-3 different connection games all designed to get you out of your head, get to know others in a deeper way, and play together.”
I know that sounds a little different, but trust me here. We humans are hard-wired to connect, and sometimes we need a little structure and permission to do things a little differently. The key is to strike that perfect balance of light structure, but not too much.
Throughout the evening, sprinkle in 2-3 questions, games or activities. My favorite thing to do is ask questions or give prompts for people to start with (these always work best when everyone is able to hear and there are no side conversations).
Here are some of my favorite connection games and questions:
- Rose, bud, thorn. Share one thing that’s going really well (rose), one new thing that’s just starting for you (bud), and one not-so-great thing (thorn). Feel free to shift up the order so you’re not ending on a negative note.
- If you really knew me…This is a fun one, especially when you don’t know each other as well. All you do is finish the sentence. For example: “If you really knew me…you’d know that I am obsessed with taking baths.”
- What’s one thing that’s new and good in your life?
- What’s one habit you have that you’d like to give up or change?
Check out a full list of connection activities here, ordered by how “deep” they go.
5. Follow Up the Next Day.
I think one of the best things you can do is send a thoughtful follow up, either in a group text or email. Most likely everyone else is feeling just as happy about the evening as you are, and this is a great way to share fun memories of the evening, give someone props, etc. Also it’s a way for people can have each other’s info so they can hang out again! This doesn’t have to be long or complicated, just a quick thank you and a specific appreciation is usually all you need to help people feel really good.
Above all else, you want to connect with your people in a casual and meaningful way. As the host, don’t stress about the details. Just keep going back to your intention, remember to have fun, and let the evening flow. Happy connecting!
You’re Communal by Nature
These days, most folks find it easier to lock eyes with a screen than with another person, but on a social level, we’re biologically built to avoid loneliness in order to live happier, healthier, and longer lives. In the era of the great “disconnection epidemic,” when we’re more likely to kick back than venture out, it’s tougher than ever to maintain a tight-knit crew.
That’s where Fabriq slips in and works its magic for the relationships that matter most to you.
Why do we put so much effort into staying busy, and so little time into nurturing our most important relationships?
Resist the urge to recoil from discomfort in your life and watch the magic happen. Learn how to lean into loneliness and embrace new opportunities to grow.
If you’re looking to show people you care and strengthen your connections, you’ve gotta amp up your active and empathetic listening skills.