9 Tips to Improve your Hosting Skills
Here are some thoughts and ideas to help make your home a more welcoming place for friends, family or strangers. Please share in the comments your thoughts on these tips and which one resonates with you. Do you have anything to add? Please share! What do you think is the secret to intentional hospitality?
1) Freshly Baked Cookies Ready in 15 minutes.
I remember a moment after my first son was born when I was able to get out of the house by myself and do something relaxing. I took a book to a coffee shop, ordered a coffee and a donut, and sat down to read, rest and dream. I was reading Sally Clarkson’s book Lifegiving Home.
I remember being totally romanced by one of her ideas in the book. Sally recommended having frozen cookie and scone dough in your freezer to be stocked and ready for an unexpected guest stopping in. It’s such a simple idea but it really caught hold of my heart! Being prepared in that small way means you can prepare a special moment in a flash.
In just the time it takes to preheat the oven, brew some coffee or tea and get the cookies out onto a baking tray you’re ready to spend intentional time with guests or people you love, treats in hand. To make it really easy for yourself you can preroll the cookie dough into perfectly sized balls before freezing so you just have to plop them on the tray and put them in the oven for 10 minutes.
Having freshly baked cookies ready in 15 minutes requires some prep work on a weekend morning so you can make extra cookie dough but it will be so helpful when you just wish you had some treats to offer guests or for your family! Coming home from church after a busy morning is a moment when I often wish I had some cookie dough ready in the freezer for a special Sunday afternoon coffee time.
2) Let Art Serve as a Conversation Starter
When decorating your living space, consider creating pockets of space with little “conversation starters” such as pictures from your travels, coffee table books, framed art, unique trinkets or magazines.
Coffee table books or beautiful magazines can give your guests something to browse through. Carefully placed trinkets or eye-catching art can also serve as a great conversation starter. Finding the perfect art piece can be a fun challenge. I have a suggestion of one place you could start.
3) Children Have a Role to Play
Young children can participate in helping guests feel at home. As a parent, you can provide them with intentional questions to ask others. Brainstorm with your children ahead of time on how they can be helpful while you’re serving your guests. Here are some suggestions:
- They can answer the door and offer to take coats.
- They can offer guests a drink.
- They can practice listening to others.
- They can carry a plate around with appetizers.
- They can clear dishes.
They can ask questions like:
- Where do you work?
- When you were a kid what was your favourite subject in school?
- What are you looking forward to?
- What is your favourite food?
Give children the tools so that they can confidently contribute to the work that goes into hosting. I heard something in a podcast recently that really resonated with me. The guest on the podcast said that the number one indicator for adults who have high self-esteem is that they felt needed when they were a child. I really love that. Children love to be helpful.
Our role is to help and guide them so they can succeed.
4) The Power of Sustained Attention — Really Listen
Giving someone your full undivided attention is easier said than done. I’ve come to think of hospitality as a skill that needs to be developed. Paying attention to one person for a prolonged period of time is a lost art for some.
I’m really trying to practice true listening. It’s surprisingly difficult at times. I’m sure we’ve all had those experiences when a well-meaning person asks you a question about your life but then you feel their attention drift away from you as you begin to respond. It doesn’t feel very nice.
To contrast that, think back to a time when someone was fully present and really listening to you. You can feel their care and attention. It’s something to think about next time you’re visiting with someone. How present can you be?
5) Beauty in Ordinary
Little inexpensive touches can go a long way to make people feel special. Some examples are:
- Providing ice water with a slice of lemon in it.
- Lighting candles at dinner.
- A simple bouquet of flowers on the table.
- Providing your guest’s favourite food or drink.
- Name card at their place setting (children especially love this).
- Music playing in the background.
6) Start Thinking Outside of the Box
We are attracted to people who look like us, are the same age as us and are generally at the same economic level as us. When I started thinking about the people I spend the most time with I realized they are almost exactly like me. I was inspired to start looking for opportunities to connect with people that I wouldn’t naturally gravitate to.
It’s not that they wouldn’t make great friends and acquaintances. It’s just too easy to stay inside our comfort zone. I encourage you to look beyond your typical social circle. Is there an older couple that you really admire that you could invite over? If you’re single, hey, why not invite a married couple with kids? Start pushing the limits of the social group you’re in and you’ll find some new rich relationships.
7) Invest in Fun Group Games
In the future, I’m planning to do a whole blog post on games that are great for larger groups of friends. But for now, I can recommend two games:
Good for 3-10 players and each round takes 30 minutes. In this game, you play the role of a dwarf who is working to lay down tunnel cards to reach some nuggets of gold.
But someone among the group is a saboteur trying to stop the mission. Players need to identify the saboteur before they are successful in stopping the game.
Good for 4-8 players and each round takes 15-30 minutes. This is a popular game for a reason. I think everyone should own this game if you frequently host large groups of people.
This is a word-based game. Two spymasters give clues to their teams that connect multiple words on the board. The beauty of this game is that it’s fun and easy to do the guessing and anyone can participate even if they don’t want to take on the task of being a spymaster.
8) One Day It’ll be Your Turn to Receive
Sometimes it’s your turn to be the recipient of hospitality. If you’re reading this blog post I assume you’re often the one who is hosting the parties and gathering people around your table.
You’re probably the one busy in the kitchen feeding hungry people and I bet you love it. There are times in life though where you need to be the recipient of love and food and care. It can be harder for some personalities to accept help. Or you may feel the burden that you need to be helping someone less fortunate than you at all times.
I encourage you to consider that perhaps it’s your season to accept help and enjoy being cared for. Embrace the season.
9) Pause and do Some Dreaming
Take a moment.
Look around the space you have in this world. Take some time to imagine what you could do to make your home feel a little more inviting for yourself and for others.
Sometimes it’s a simple task that could be done almost instantly that would make your space more comfortable. Or maybe there’s one errand you need to run that will positively change your environment. In my own living room, I can immediately think of a few things that I should update or improve.
For example, my sons recently broke our living room lamp and now in the evenings, it’s incredibly dim. It would make a big difference if I purchased a new lamp. I encourage you to jot a few things down and commit to putting a bit of energy into making your space a little more functional and comfortable.
There is no hospitality like understanding.
Do you have any tips to add? Share your wisdom with all of us in the comments!