How to Keep Party Guests Entertained (No Matter the Occasion)

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Throwing a party can be one of the most fun and exciting experiences in your social life, but it can also be stressful; regardless of the occasion, you’ll take responsibility for entertaining people, sometimes for hours, and people will remember the atmosphere you created.

To make matters worse, there’s no surefire way to throw a good party because every party is different. There are dozens of types of parties that exist, and based on the people attending or the motivation for throwing them, they can end up looking very different to different groups of people.

So how can you make sure your party guests stay entertained, no matter the occasion?

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Setting the Right Tone

First, you need to make sure you set the right tone for the party. Do you want this to be a loud, raucous night of fun, or would you prefer it to be quieter and more intimate? Should this be a welcoming environment for casual acquaintances, or is this meant to be for close friends? You may look to the nature and history of the type of party you’re throwing as an example, but you don’t have to follow that history; for example, bachelor and bachelorette parties can get raunchy with binge drinking and strippers, but they can also be fun, clean events—it all depends on who you’re throwing one for.

Choosing the Core Location

One of the first things you’ll need to do is choose the right location. For many parties, your home will do just fine, but you may also need to consider the accessibility of food, drinks, and entertainment. For those purposes, a bar, casino, or restaurant may be a better option. Look at online reviews of each establishment, and visit them in person during a time and day similar to when you plan on throwing the party—that way you can get a feel for the atmosphere provided by the venue and see if it falls in line with your vision for the event. Pay attention to things like how loud the music is, how strong the lighting is, how much room there is to wander, how busy it is, and how expensive its offerings are.

Inviting the Right People

Next, you’ll want to invite the right people to your party (if the guest list isn’t already decided). First, decide approximately how many people you want to have here; more people can make the party livelier and more exciting, but a smaller group can afford you better one-on-one conversations and a more intimate vibe. You’ll also want to keep each person’s preferences in mind. For example, quiet, shy friends may not feel as comfortable in a loud, energetic environment, while your hard-partying friends may not be able to contain themselves in a laid-back atmosphere.

Building an Atmosphere

If you’re hosting the party yourself, you’ll need to do some prep to build the right atmosphere from scratch. That can include things like hanging up the right decorations, installing good mood lighting, and creating a playlist that matches the tone you want for the evening. Choosing the right food and drink can also give your party a reinforced tone; for example, a party with wine and cheese “feels” different than one with chicken nuggets.

Keeping People Engaged

Plan ways to keep people engaged throughout the night. For example, you might have specific activities planned, or you might roll out new trays of food as the night unfolds. As host, you can also make people feel more engaged by making a point to talk to each guest one-on-one, and kicking up conversation if the energy gets too low.

Preparing a Backup Plan

No matter how well you plan or how sure you are that things will go well, there’s always the chance the evening will turn in a direction you didn’t expect. That’s why you need a backup plan—just in case the bar you wanted to go to is closed, or your streaming service isn’t loading correctly, or someone spilled the main foods and drinks you were providing. This doesn’t have to be fancy; it could just be an alternative bar or restaurant, or a night in with board games, but being prepared for these eventualities can help you maintain your poise and keep the energy of the party going when you face the unexpected.

There’s no right or wrong way to throw a party—you just have to recognize the elements you’re dealing with, like the nature of the party, the preferences of the people coming, and the general atmosphere you want to provide. The more thought and attention you put into making the party work, the greater your chances of success will be.