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Practice Management > Building Your Business > Prospect Clients

How to Throw a Dinner Party That Wows Your Wealthy Clients

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What You Need to Know

  • Entertaining is essential to building relationships with high-net-worth clients and prospects.
  • Don't be afraid to host dinner parties at home, even if you just live in a townhouse or an apartment.
  • Do it right and not only will you be an in-demand party host, your guests will invite you to their own parties.

When cultivating relationships with high-net-worth individuals, entertaining is a key element. You can join the right organizations and see people once a month at meetings, but that can take forever. You want to accelerate the timeline.

Entertaining at home or in a restaurant setting is key. This might have been second nature pre-pandemic, but after 18 months of lockdown and social distancing, those skills might have become rusty. Time for as refresher.

Many agents and advisors think entertaining is expensive and complicated. You will have two logical options: entertaining in a restaurant or entertaining at home.

Entertaining Two Ways

Obviously paying restaurant prices to have the food cooked and served for you is a significant cost. Here are two ways to view it:

  • The occasion: You are celebrating a major event like a milestone wedding anniversary or your spouse’s significant birthday. You are willing to spend for something splashy. You’ve been cultivating friends and family members as potential clients for a long time. Everyone is there.
  • Client/prospect dinner. You have a marketing partner who will split the costs. You book a private room at a restaurant. You and they host a dinner that’s both social and business.

Wait! I Have Excuses

Let’s assume you’ve looked at both and said, “That’s not happening.” Entertaining at home is the other logical option. Now you see two different roadblocks:

  • Wealthy people won’t accept. Why? Because you live in a townhouse or an apartment. They have estates. They would be taking a step down. But give yourself more credit! If they are self-made, they lived modestly before they made the big money. They will see their earlier selves in you. Earlier in my career, we had the great and the good over to the house.
  • The house is covered with children’s toys. You think this would be a turnoff. There’s a simple answer: Have a BBQ or picnic in your backyard or the common area that your building allows you to reserve. Regardless of wealth, everyone loves grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. They only need to enter the house to use the bathroom. You can clear a path free of toys.

Here’s Another Excuse

You think hard and come up with yet another obstacle: Entertaining is too tough. Dinner parties are not what I do. It’s a common excuse.

The solution is to buy a book. A couple of years ago, I heard a book review on PBS radio for “Brunch is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party,” written by Brendan Francis Newnam and Rico Gagliano. It’s easy to find on Amazon. It’s available as a Kindle book, audio book or audio CD. I think I bought it the next day! It demystifies everything in simple language.

Rules for Entertaining Clients (and Everyone Else)

You want the magic to happen. You want everyone to have a great time, leaving and liking you a lot. You want them to have you over and invite you to parties so you can meet their friends. Here are some practical pointers.

  • Send invitations on notecards. Yes, you can back up or follow up with emails or texts, but a nice invitation sets the tone.
  • Hire staff. We are talking one or two cater waiters. They keep things flowing in the kitchen, pass munchies, and load and unload the dishwasher. This is important because your job is interacting with your guests.
  • Greet everyone upon arrival. You are thrilled they could come. Coats go someplace like a guest bedroom.
  • Mark the presents. In polite society, no one arrives empty-handed. Many people buy a bottle of wine on the way over. Who gave what? Have Post-It notes and a pen in the hall. Discreetly tag each gift with the guest’s name.
  • Work the room. Introduce your guests to each other. Have something flattering to say about everyone. Bring the shy folks into the conversation. Years ago, we held a party. Everyone was engaged except one woman sitting alone on the couch. My wife and I said, “Apparently she’s told someone she works for the IRS!”
  • Use a seating chart. When it’s time to sit down for dinner, and assuming there’s more than four of you, have little name cards indicating where people sit. Two standard rules: Don’t sit people next to their partners and try for alternate male/female seating.
  • The easiest and most difficult guest. You want to sit next to your closest friend. You always have the best time together! Sit them at the opposite end of the table next to your spouse. Remember that shy guest? Seat them next to you.
  • Timing the evening. You want everything to flow effortlessly, but food needs to go into the oven and come out on a schedule. A good trick is to have the technology equivalent of a mix tape. Once a certain song comes on, you know something needs to happen.
  • Conducting the orchestra. Conversation should develop organically. There will be people who seem left out. Join into conversations at the table, bringing them into the discussion by asking their opinions.
  • Time to stop talking. One of the rewards of entertaining is when everyone is having a great time, as if you aren’t even there! No need to insert yourself. Let everyone have a good time.
  • Getting people to leave. You want them to go home at some point. A good technique is to move them to another room or area for coffee. They have finished dessert. You suggest they gather on the couches for coffee. The physical movement snaps them out of their reverie. Parties often have a unique timing element. No one wants to be the first to leave, but once someone moves to get their coat, the party breaks up shortly afterwards.
  • Remember those gifts. It’s not critical, but someone may have brought a great gift. Birthday presents are a good example. You want to acknowledge those gifts, by phone, email or handwritten note.

Following these steps should establish you as a great entertainer for clients and catapult you into the category of in-demand party host. People will want to get invited to your parties!

(Photo: Adobe Stock)