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10 Rules of being an Excellent Host

By: Marie Betts-Johnson, International Protocol Institute of California

October 20, 2019

The Holidays are right around the corner and whether you are hosting your colleagues or friends, the following will set the stage for the delicate dance of being an excellent host.

1.    Logistics – Questions to ask: Are there sufficient parking options for your guests? If not, provide valet service if needed. Bonus: Enlist College Students…they will welcome the extra cash for the Holidays. What is the optimum number of guests the room will accommodate? Will there be a theme? Will it be buffet-style or sit-down dinner? Will you need a caterer or servers? Where will be bar be located? Where are the restrooms? Will there be decorations involved as in Thanksgiving or Holiday traditions? What will the entertainment be?

2.    Dietary preferences…if you’re inviting Muslim or Hindu guests and those with food allergies, make sure you serve a selection of dishes that are pork/bacon free, meatless dishes for vegans etc. Place a sign on the designated platters.

3.    Choose your guests carefully: Include a mix of interesting people who have both common and uncommon interests. If you wish to invite guests who have a propensity for debating current issues, insist that they are considerate of others’ beliefs and ideologies…might be a “wild card” here or there, but do your best.

4.    Be ultra-prepared. You do not want your guests to arrive to a frazzled, stressed-out host putting the finishing touches on a dish you haven’t tried before that bears no resemblance to the pictures on UTube.

5.    A delicate dance: You are the choreographer keeping all the dancers in step. Meet and greet your guests at the door, usher them inside to meet your guests. Proceed to make the introductions. Launch them into conversation by telling each party a little about how you know them or something about their common interests. Once they’re settled in, graciously make your exit to ensure your other guests are taken care of.

6.    If someone is shy: Introduce them to guests who are outgoing. 

7.    If it’s a large group: Have several co-hosts who know exactly who is on the guest list and are capable of making the introductions and supporting you in making the event a success.

8.    The inconsiderate host who expects guests to fend for themselves: It’s your job, as host, to be generous in all ways, including not talking about yourself, but listening actively to glean information that might be of interest to other invitees and sharing it. It’s about making everyone shine and guess what? The light shines right back on you! 

9.    The role of the guest: The “rules of engagement” are to know you were not invited for the food or plant yourself at the Bar not bothering to make an effort. You were invited because you have something to add to the occasion and to meet new people. If you want to be invited back, you will have to bring a positive attitude and “Sing for your Supper!”

10. How to be a warm and inviting host? Make sure everyone feels welcome and included. Be an excellent conversationalist, ask questions, LISTEN to the answers, prod people to continue telling you about themselves…most people’s favorite subject. If you’re a scientist, engineer or technical wizard, to contribute to conversations, read, read and read as much as possible outside your field of expertise. Have a sense of humor and make people laugh…not at anyone’s expense of course. Be careful with humor in the international arena…it doesn’t travel well! Depending on the dynamics of the group, you might want to consider games like Trivia, which is always a hit. Don’t assume people know each other. Watch for introverts or new people in the group, take them under your wing until they can fly solo. 

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