If you have been reading here for a while you know that I love hosting parties. In our family hosting, cooking and feeding people is our way of saying we love you and we want you to be part of our lives. I also sell a line of fair trade jewelry called Noonday Collection which involves hosting home trunk shows on a weekly basis. Plus I am on the hospitality team from my mom’s group. All of this makes for a lot of inviting.
Now some folks are just naturals and will think it is silly to have a tutorial on this. They are warm and welcoming and they are able to, with confidence, extend an invitation in a way that makes the invited feel excited and welcomed.
I love people, but this is a challenge for me. I tend to have a lot of doubts as I approach someone. Maybe they will think my event is stupid, or maybe they really don’t want to hang out with me. So my invitation tends to sound something like “um, hey, I’m having a few people over on Friday, if want to come, I mean if you aren’t doing anything, you know, I don’t know if it is going to be that great, but if you are free it would be great if. . .” my voice trails off, I’ve been staring at my shoes the whole time.
When I planned Zenie’s birthday party recently I was not sure what to expect, most of our friends are new and we don’t have a huge network in town. But I wanted to have a fun event so I muscled down and decided I was going to do this well. Here are some pointers that I learned along the way.
1. Plan a great event. Your event doesn’t have to be anything more than a play date at the park. But give some thought to the time the date and the location. I knew that most mom’s with young kids liked to go out in the morning and have nap time in the afternoon. So I held Zenie’s party at 11. It worked out great even though it was an unusual time of day. The kids played and then all went home to nap.
Often times Saturday afternoons, which initially seem pretty appealing, are the worst. People are out of town for weddings or at baseball games for their kids so it is hard to get together.
Also, if you are planning a social sales party make sure you really believe in the product. As much as your best friend would like you to host a party for her, if you can’t get behind her product you aren’t doing her any favors and it is going to hard for you to promote the event.
2. Make a great invite.– Always make a paper invite (I know there are lots of exceptions to this, but think about it as a standard and deviate from it as it makes sense). I usually make post cards, you can drop them in the mail with a less expensive stamp and just carry them around in your bag and hand them out. Make your own at Canva and Redstamp and either print them yourself (seriously I don’t know how I survived before I bought a paper cutter) or have them printed at Office Max. If you have time add a personal note to each card.
If you are on Facebook make a Facebook event and post updates and pictures to get people excited. I did this for Zenie’s party and posted pics of the decorations and party favors as I made them which was great. But don’t rely on a Facebook invite alone to do the inviting unless you are in a social network that does this often. For most people there is too much going on with Facebook and invitations will get missed. For anyone that does not get a written or face to face invite, send them a personal Facebook message and/or email invite on Paperlesspost or Evite.
And don’t forget you can still make calls on your telephone. It isn’t just for texting. You will be surprised at how often people are excited to get a phone call. Visit and be pleasant and then make sure to pass along the important details. Use text to follow up another form of invitation but not as a primary form of invitation unless it is a very casual event with good friends.
In whatever invitation you design make sure the event, time and date are clear, put these in bold. This let’s someone glance at your invite and get the essentials. They can always look again to read the details.
3. Tell people you are going to invite them before you do. Talk to friends who you intend to invite as you make your plans. This lets you get their input on how the event should be done and then they will be expecting your invitation when it comes. If you are doing a sales party talk about how much you love the product and are excited about hosting a show well before you send the actual invite. This let’s people feel like you are sharing something your really love with them.
4. Consider how much notice to give. For a more formal event at least 2-4 weeks notice is necessary. For a dinner party or a social selling event ten days may be enough. If you want to make sure people get the information they need, send out an email “save the date” a few weeks before you plan on sending out the invite. But don’t make too much fuss until you send out your official invitation. Once your invite is out try and keep it in the front of everyone’s mind. With this approach sometimes 10 days or less is better because it doesn’t give folks time to forget about it.
5. Consider who you are inviting. This may seem obvious. Of course give thought to how many people you want and how broadly you want to invite. If it is a sales party you may think of people that you share an interest with that you have never invited over before, it can be a great way to build new connections.
Do invitations in way that you don’t have to keep your event a secret. This may sound a bit silly but there are often hurt feelings over not getting invited to something. If your neighbor has been wanting to have dinner but you would rather not include them, just let them know that you are planning something but it is only your co-workers. This way you can be open and don’t feel like you need to sneak around. This will help you avoid hurt feelings in the future.
Second, consider people’s circumstances. If you plan to do a small dinner party and four of the couples have newborn babies and the fifth couple just miscarried this may be difficult for them. Instead of not inviting them, see if you can broaden your invite list, include a few friends who are single or don’t have kids yet, this will keep the conversation a bit broader when otherwise it would likely end up all talking about new babies all night.
4. Ask face to face. Talking to someone in person is the best way to make sure they know about your event and feel welcomed. Take a paper invite in your hand, give it to them. Look them in the eye and say sincerely “I would love it if you could join us.” You want the people that you are inviting to feel special (after all they are special, that is why you are inviting them). Let them know that you care about them being there.
At the same time don’t ask in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Avoid phrases like “You have just got to be there.” or “You won’t miss it will you?”
Be vulnerable, let them know that you really do want them there. This is true even if you don’t know someone well. Let’s say you are hosting a party to sell kitchen utensils. There is an acquaintance at church who you know loves to cook, though you aren’t good friends. Walk up with confidence. Look them in the eye and say “I’m hosting this party and I would love for you to join. I love these products and I know you are an amazing cook and I think you may loves them too. Plus I have been wanting to figure out a time when we could hang out so we could get to know each other better, after all, our kids are the same age and we both really like cooking.” You will be surprised at how many people will be touched by your invitation.
5. Delegate tasks. Letting others share responsibility with you takes some of the pressure off of you and is one of the best ways to make sure that your guests remembers to come. If someone is responsible for bringing food, drinks, serving pieces or decorations it keeps the event in their mind and makes it more of a priority.
6. Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up. I mentioned already that you can post info on Facebook and most email invitation systems provide updates as well. These are helpful but secondary. Your main form of follow-up needs to be more personal, either face to face or a personal email or message.
Don’t nag them. Just ask something like “Hey I was working on dinner plans for Friday, do you think I should stick with red wine or get white too?” or “Do you know if I can buy guacamole at the grocery store, I was thinking about serving it at lunch next week?”
A text the day of never hurts. Sometimes people really do get so busy and just forget. But stick to something positive and personal. Avoid a mass text. Rather ask each person, “Hey friend, I’m just making the last grocery run for dinner on Friday and trying to decide what to do for desert, any requests?”
7. Make accommodations. It is more work but goes a long way to ask about dietary preferences. At Zenie’s party we made sure to have gluten free options and also asked about allergies, and other dietary sensitivities. I had several people thank me for doing this. Or unrelated to food, maybe your friend has a small baby, you could offer to get a sitter at your house so mom could still nurse the baby but still come, or set up a pack and play in your spare room to save someone from having to get a sitter at all. Even if you don’t end up making any accommodations asking about this and making the effort lets your guest know that you care about them and that this event is more about meeting their needs than your own.
8. Be vulnerable. It can be intimidating to make an event and invite friends, especially when you don’t have a large already established friend network. Sometimes it may feel easier to play down what you are doing and make it sound like no big deal. But if you are really excited about the event and really do want people to come let your guests see your excitement. Sure it will be disappointing and even a little embarrassing if the night is a flop or if no one shows up. But it is worth it to take the risk and you will get a better turn out and create a better atmosphere if you are positive and genuine going into it. So put your heart into it and see what kind of amazing gatherings you have.
I’d love to hear what kind of events you are hosting. Feel free to comment!