Helpful Tips in Engaging Conversation

Staff Writer
Helpful Tips in Engaging Conversation
Dinner party
Istock/BJN

Dinner party

One of the most dreaded elements of family gatherings falling into an awkward conversation, or the painful gaps of silence. Engaging your guests in pleasant conversation is a skill every host and hostess should master. The complexity of large family gatherings means that everyone has something to bring to the table, and not all of them are welcome conversation topics. Likewise, while silence is golden, it is equally unwelcome when a large family gathers around a table. Effortless conversation rarely comes accidentally, and is frequently the result of carefully planned table topics.

To keep your dinner-table conversation festive and engaging, there are a few fool-proof methods to keep everyone involved. Of course, how you seat guests around the table, if you opt for a seating plan, is key. The next is to avoid controversial subjects, boasting and addressing the white elephant if it pays a visit to your dining room. Once you have mastered the art of aversion, focus on bringing the family together with clever table topics. 

What is a clever table topic, you might ask? These include movies, books, travel, pets, and hero’s – open ended questions like, “Grandpa, which historical figure do you most admire?” always get family members listening, learning and eager to join in.  If you are looking for a more playful atmosphere this year, a fun idea is to compile a list of questions amounting to one question per guest. Print the question on the back of the place card, and then take turns answering the questions, leaving room for conversation to develop between each question. Alternatively, if you want to learn a few new things (and know your family), why not try trivia questions, spelling trials, or even word problems?

Not every family needs the structure of pre-planned table topics; for some, pleasant conversation flows effortlessly. However, introducing table topics to these social families will only bring a more playful feel to the table. Taking the time to prepare enjoyable table topics now will give you a backup plan in the event that you need them. Last year, my family did not touch our table topics, the conversation was too fabulous. However, the year before, when we blended multiple families together, they were the ice-breaker that brought us together, and truly appreciated by all.