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Hosting the Party-Shy

Julie Hartigan
Hosting the Party-Shy
It’s a fact: It takes more than a great menu and a killer music selection to make a successful party. One of the hidden gifts of “Hosts with the Most” is their ability to make every guest feel special and comfortable. Sometimes, that means drawing party-shy friends out of their shells—without making them feel pressured to perform. It’s one of the trickier party-hosting skills to master, and it can be especially tough at the holidays, when guest lists are often a mash-up of friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers…many of whom won’t know one another. To make your celebrations even more welcoming this year, try some of our ideas to make sure everyone enjoys your holiday gathering.
  • Pre-Party Pointers:


  • Start with a welcoming invite. Provide the information that guests need to feel confident when they arrive, including a specific start time, dress code, and parking information. If you’re using an online invite service, publish the invitation list and responses so guests can feel more comfortable knowing that other friends are attending too.


  • Give guests something to do. Set up food and drink stations to keep the party moving, and so that guests can move and mingle at will. (See our articles and videos on Setting up the Bar, Setting up a Buffet, Setting a Dessert Table, A Perfect Coffee Hour for easy ideas.) If you’re going with a more formal dinner, use place settings to seat party shy people near friends or family you know they feel comfortable with.


  • Create conversation corners. Sometimes people get overwhelmed in a crowded space, so give everyone a chance to hang out where they feel most comfortable. Place chairs together in smaller clusters in different rooms so it’s easy for guests to cozy up and introduce themselves.


  • Help Break the Ice:


  • Introduce people. As guests arrive, make introductions among friends who have have something in common, or hook less chatty people up with easy conversationalists. Share some personal (or even better, fun!) details about them to each other to help get the conversation started.


  • Help people introduce themselves. Easy (and yes, sometimes silly) icebreakers can help get casual conversation going. Design a sneaky or fun way for guests to exchange (and remember) names. Writable cups or wine charms? Funny nametags? Get creative! Have guests write, “Which of the 7 Dwarfs Are You,” or “Favorite Santa’s Reindeer” or “My Worst Nickname Ever” under their names.


  • Keep the Good Vibes Flowing:


  • Look around. Check in at least once with each guest as the party gets going. If someone is lurking around solo, try to help get them chatting with another guest. On the other hand, if they’re cornered by your nosy Aunt Edna—go save them! An easy yet polite way to save anyone? Pull them away to help you with something…


  • Ask for a hand. As for helping…it’s a great idea to someone who doesn't want to stand around talking to work (if they want to!). Enlist their help in the kitchen, taking coats, managing the playlist, refilling glasses. This helps relieve the tension of needing to make constant conversation and can offer an easy break if the party gets overwhelming.


  • Create team spirit. Party games can be another great way to get everyone together and create insta-friendships. Stick with teams so nobody feels pressured into the spotlight—and never, ever force someone uninterested to play. When in doubt –Mad Libs never fails.
  • Especially if you encourage guests to get a little risqué with responses.


  • And finally? Thank everyone (especially the party shy!) for coming. One of my closest friends often proclaims he’s “Just Not a People Person.” So any time he or another party shy friend says yes and comes to my party, I know they made an extra effort for me. And that’s worth celebrating.

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