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Practice Management > Marketing and Communications > Client Retention

Hosting a Dinner Party to Impress Your Clients, Made Easy

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What You Need to Know

  • Some store-bought food is fine: You don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen away from your guests.
  • For the cocktail hour, serving wine or beer is a lot simpler. Have sparkling water and soft drinks for the nondrinkers.
  • Conversation is the main ingredient of a dinner party. Draw your guests out so that everyone has a chance to speak.

The lockdown has eased. The masks are coming off. People are getting together again. There is enormous pent-up demand for “something to do.” Inflation is making life more expensive. Since you have become friends with some of your clients, this could be a good time to host a dinner party and invite them into your home.

This idea is not for everyone, but it is appropriate for many financial advisors and insurance agents. The major factor holding you back might be that dinner parties seem intimidating. 

Rather than make the case that they are not intimidating, I will make two suggestions: Consider buying the book “Brunch Is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party” (Brendan Francis Newnam & Rico Gagliano, 2017). I first heard about it on PBS radio, and I bought it on Amazon the same day. It is both hilarious and easy to follow. 

The second suggestion is to visit YouTube and search for the British TV series “Come Dine With Me.” You will find plenty of episodes. The premise is four (or five) strangers each host a three-course dinner party and are scored by their fellow contestants/diners. It is very funny.

10 Steps to Hosting Your Own Dinner Party

The book and YouTube videos will teach you plenty, but here are the major ideas to get you thinking:

1. Half of the food can be store-bought.

Hosting a dinner party does not mean everything must be made from scratch. TV cooking programs can be intimidating. On the other hand, sending out for pizza does not count as a dinner party. You must put in some effort.

2. Set the scene.

You will need a table, chairs, plates, glasses, cutlery and linens. Whatever you do not own, you can borrow or rent. You want to set a nice table. You can learn how to do this online or by asking people you know who entertain. Put another way, your table at home should look similar to what you see when you go out to dinner at a nice restaurant.

3. Drinks before dinner.

Unlike in a restaurant, guests should not be greeted at the door and shown to the table. You should sit around and make conversation over drinks and munchies. Serving cocktails is fine, but serving wine or beer is a lot simpler. Have a cooler nearby. You want sparkling water or soft drinks for the nondrinkers.

Munchies can be store-bought. You could even do a cheese platter with grapes, nuts and dried fruit. Bearing COVID in mind, I have tried setting up individual plates of munchies, so that everyone is not reaching into the same bowl.

4. The first course.

This is the start of your three-course meal. Soup or salad are easy options. You know how to put together a salad. A Caesar salad is a classic, but requires some extra work. Soup can be brought premade. Costco has carried lobster bisque for years.

5. The main course.

This is the star of the show. This part requires work. The British have an expression, “meat and two veg.” This is what most people expect and should be easy to deliver. You can pick something easy to prepare. You might buy roasted chicken at your supermarket. You might buy a partially prepared entree at Costco or your grocery. You do not want to spend lots of time in the kitchen.

6. Dessert.

This can be bought at a nice bakery. You might make brownies and serve them with ice cream. You might bake a cake. It depends on how creative you want to get.

7. Additional details.

You will want music. This can be done via Pandora or whatever technology you prefer. It should be quiet background music — ideally, with no vocals, because you want the conversation around the table to be the focal point. The meal should include bread. Visit a nice bakery and get something that makes an impact. You will want water on the table. People will be drinking, and they need to get home. You want them to have the ability to step away from alcohol.

8. Wine.

Wine takes a meal up a notch. You should have a choice between red or white. The wine primarily needs to complement the main course. Ask your wine store or wine fan friend for some advice. Your aim is to have a pleasant evening, not to make a statement about wine. You do not need to spend a bundle.

9. Coffee or tea.

This should be served with dessert or afterward. In the U.K., it’s often a separate course. In the U.S., we tend to consume dessert and coffee together. This moves you out of the alcohol category, which can be helpful for people who are driving home. You want to be a good host and make alternative arrangements for people who should not drive.

10. Conversation.

Although it might not be obvious, this is the most important aspect of the dinner party. You want all of your guests to feel comfortable. Your party might have four, six or eight diners including yourselves. You want everyone to get an opportunity to speak, so draw them into the conversation. Generally speaking, it is polite for everyone to converse with the person seated to their left and their right. Avoid controversial subjects. If one comes up, try to steer the conversation into a different direction.

Sharing a meal deepens relationships. People often repay you by inviting you over for dinner. This can bring you into your client’s social circles and vice versa.

Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” is available on Amazon. 


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