My job often requires attendance at a lot of different functions – some will be full of people that I know, others I won’t know anyone at all which is why I’ve learnt how to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. And whether it’s a networking event, a dinner party or a wedding where you’re flying solo there are some tricks that I’ve learnt that will have you chatting up a storm with virtually anyone.
Make the first move
It can be daunting walking into a room and realising there are no familiar faces. And whilst it’s tempting to hide away in the corner and scroll through your phone, it does pay to introduce yourself to at least one person. Often this introduction will lead to meeting another person and so forth. Set yourself the challenge of saying hello to at least one person. My general fallback line is to introduce myself then explain my connection to the person or event and ask them in turn about what brings them to the event.
Remember someone’s name
Always make a point of remembering someone’s name and using it in conversation. This is courteous, respectful and is a way of recognising the person you’re talking to and will generally result in someone being more likely to open up to you. If you have trouble with remembering names try and associate their name with someone you already know – this is one of my tricks!
My Date with Kate columns often require me to sit down for a meal with a complete stranger for over two hours and build a rapport. To do this it’s important to genuinely pay attention to what the person is saying (resist the temptation to think of the question you’re going to ask next). By giving them your full attention you’ll often set the person at ease which will make them more comfortable to chat. Plus you’ll be able to pick up on a topic you may have in common and where to steer the conversation.
There’s a fine line between asking questions out of general interest and interrogating someone! Ask questions about their work, what brought them to the event or what they did on the weekend but make sure to steer clear of touchy subjects such as religion or politics.
Watch your body language
Seeming closed off and uninterested in chatting will result in conversation fizzling out. Also actions like folding your arms or looking around as if trying to find someone else to talk to is a guaranteed conversation killer. When I’m talking to someone I try and remain open with my responses, smile a lot, and remain present. Generally these simple things will mean someone will is more likely to want to chat to you in return.
Celebrating Grace’s first birthday
As most parents will attest kids’ birthday parties can sometimes snowball into a big production that can involve a whole lot of stress. From decorations to food to entertainment, the list of things to organise can be quite lengthy and often there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. Having organised parties for both Sophia and Grace I’ve managed to hone down my event planning to a few key things that ensure an enjoyable but more importantly stress-free event. Here are my top tips:
Keep it intimate
I’ve made the mistake of having a really big kids’ parties in the past and based on that I now make a point of trying to keep the numbers small and host a really intimate event. You don’t have to invite everyone under the sun! I think inviting the people that you’re going to enjoy having there the most such as close family and friends help make the day even better. Now that Sophia’s old enough, she can invite her own friends to her parties which often helps shape the guest list and makes it a lot easier.
Grace’s first birthday cake
Catering doesn’t have to resemble an episode of Masterchef
The first kids’ party I ever threw I double catered and had kids’ meals and adults meals and by the end of it I thought this is ridiculous. Now when it comes to catering I serve up things that kids and adults can eat. I do big fruit platters and cheese platters that include carrot sticks and celery sticks so it’s a winner for both the big and little guests. Both are really easy to put together and can feed a lot of people. I find serving a variety of sandwiches is always a winner so I’ll do fillings such as chicken, ham and cheese and Vegemite which I know most kids will eat. As a treat I’ll also do sausage rolls and meat pies. I don’t like serving too many sweets so I keep it limited to the birthday cake and maybe some additional cupcakes and popcorn as a savoury treat.
Do most of your prep in the days before the party
I usually compile a list of everything I will need and do a big grocery shop before an event so I have all the ingredients I’ll need. I’ll aim to have ingredients chopped up ahead of time and if I’m making something like chicken sandwiches I’ll make the filling the night before and just buy bread in the morning so it’s fresh and put it all together on the day of the party. The more that you can do ahead of time the easier it will be on the actual day.
Sophia’s farm themed third birthday party
Have a theme
Having a theme just makes pulling everything together so much easier. Whether it’s a farm themed party or princess inspired having an overarching theme can guide everything from decorations to games and party bags and the birthday cake. One thing I do when I’m decorating a venue is to designate one area for the big photo moment when we’re doing the cake cutting. I’ll have balloons (a number balloon is always a nice touch) and some bunting to make the space fun and festive and this will be the backdrop for most of the photos on the day.
Plan group activities/entertainment
When you have lots of kids running around it’s a good idea to organise activities that they can do together. This helps keep the kids in the one spot and also keeps them all entertained. For Sophia’s last birthday we hired a birthday fairy and she kept the guests occupied which is a must when you’ve got to keep track of a group of three-year-olds who all want to venture off in different directions. If you don’t want to hire someone you can just have a line-up of classic games such as pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs and have all the kids get involved. Having games or entertainment is a must! Most of the time this keeps all the kids happy and at the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about?
What are some of your tips for throwing a kids’ party?