With summer almost behind us, we look toward a new season of “back-to’s”: back-to-school, back-to-work, back-to-reality. For entrepreneurs and business owners, this is also a signal to refresh goals and reconnect with colleagues who have been on vacation.
A great way to touch bases and to welcome everyone back into the swing is to host a mixer at your home. As an entrepreneur or business owner, opening up your home for a casual get-together of business colleagues shows that you are interested in people, are generous, and know how to have fun.
Here are a few tips to entertaining at your home while maintaining a professional demeanor.
1. Send invitations – Social media is a great channel to communicate to your audience. But not the place to invite people to your intimate event. I think it is appropriate to use an online invitation such as Evite and Pingg. People still enjoy receiving a personal invitation. An invitation will allow for an RSVP so that you can properly plan your refreshments and space-planning at your home.
2. Serve finger foods – Canapes and hors’ d’ouvres are simple and no-hassle. Bite-size items make conversing and mingling much easier, as your guests can still walk around without having to juggle a plate and full-service utensils. Besides, it can be awkward to try to carry on a conversation while you struggle with cutting up a piece of steak or chicken.
3. Serve alcohol with discretion – Although this is a “party”, keep in mind that your invited guests are still business connections and not your close personal friends and family. The beauty of summer entertaining is that you can serve pitchers of fruity and low-maintenance cocktails and juices without having to man the bar. You can pre-make pitchers of refreshments and set them out for people to serve themselves.
4. Keep the name tags (and business cards) in a drawer – This is a relaxed event. The purpose of entertaining at your home is that you are bringing your connections together for fun – and not necessarily for the purpose of business. Your guests will likely be in a fun mood and not feel too pressured to talk shop.
5. As the hostess, connect your guests! A no-name-tags party encourages people to connect on a more casual level, and also lets introductions be less intimidating. For example, if Richard Branson were a guest, you would likely introduce him as “Richard” and not as “Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Mega Empire.” Encourage people to mingle by personally introducing each guest as they arrive. A personal introduction brings down walls and eases any awkward moments.
The key to business entertaining at home is simplicity and low-key. Your goal is to interact with your professional connections in a more relaxed setting. There is not hard sell, no presentations, no elevator pitches – just people who happen to be business owners, coming together for the common purpose of making new friends and enjoying one another in a real-world, non-business environment.