The art of social convening
My boyfriend is having a 25th birthday party this weekend. For half the year he lives in Stratford, Ontario designing costumes and sets for its well-known theatre festival and his big day usually falls during one of his first weeks back in the sleepy little town. This year, he decided to skip spending the evening at home with his cats and invited a Toronto posse up to Stratford to offend the locals with some big city hoopla.
For a born social convener like yours truly, this is a dream project. I picture a gaggle of rowdy city slickers invading Via Comfort Class with brown bagged bottles of cheap champagne and chugging into town for a weekend of backwater bar hopping. Imagine a grown-up slumber party complete with sleeping bags and the attempted late night kidnapping of one of the town swans that populate its Avon River.
The boyfriend is a bit more socially low key than that. He shies away from organizing stray friends into a party in the first place let alone pondering the legalities of train car BYOBs and whether swans waddle south for winter. I eventually convinced him that the fun is worth the minimum output of effort so now I’m organizing carpools (cheaper than the train) while he shops his local party store for a piñata.
Whether or not you are a proud social convener, there are tricks to leading a pack of friends, weighing different going out tastes and taking responsibility for an evening’s fun.
Keep the crowd fresh
My go-to expert socializer is The Globe and Mail writer Tralee Pearce. Whether she’s organizing her annual Buy Design charity gala or throwing an intimate Nordic-themed New Year’s dinner at home, she’s always cool, collected and surrounded by a smart group of people.
Her first friend corralling tip is to go outside your comfort zone and switch up the crowd.
“You constantly have to reach out to new people to keep things fresh and exciting,” she says. “I don’t think I’ve ever regretted going out on a limb in that regard. Nothing’s cooler than seeing an old friend hit it off with a new one.”
“I love entertaining, but the only way a busy person can do it often is to ask for help.”
Tralee is an expert delegator. This can mean pot lucking your annual summer barbecue or leaving the planning of each portion of a night up to a different friend. One of you chooses the pre-drinking lounge; another, the restaurant and a third person picks the dancing spot. Everyone adds a little of their own flavour to the evening and if it sucks, you can spread the blame around.
Play it cool
As good a host as Tralee is, my friend Rani Sheen is an equally accomplished guest. As an associate editor at Wish magazine, Rani also attends her fair share of industry schmoozers and is proudly punctual and prepared to party. Just don’t pester her to show up.
“I don’t like being bugged to go somewhere,” she says. “I feel pressured and it’s like I don’t have a choice in the matter.”
The overly persistent organizer can quickly become a host-zilla. An invite and a reminder email are enough to get your plan across. There’s nothing wrong with a dinner party for 10 turning into an intimate get-together for four.
Trust your personality
The last trick Tralee mentions is to decide whether or not you are the social convening type.
“If you’re throwing a party because you feel you should, because you owe your friends, or you want to show off your fancy house and new party dress, it’ll show,” she says.
Every get-together needs organizers and attendees. There’s nothing wrong with constantly falling into one group or the other as long as you’re up for a good time.
Written by: Andrew Sardone