First, a bit of pre-planning. Just a few days before your party, there’s a few things you can set up ahead of time that will ease the experience for your guests as they arrive. Go ahead and arrange a fitting playlist (or mix cd!) to give your guests something to listen to when they arrive, as well as set the mood for the event. Another often over-looked but fun factor is to put out a “conversation piece”. Depending on your personality and your guests, this could range from a classy new art piece to a cheesy gag! Lastly for the pre-planning, lay out your serving dishes the evening before the party on your table or serving area, then label them with a sticky note. This will make it super easy to present your food once it is prepared right before the party (it also gives helping guests something to do- they can go get the appropriate plate and put the sticky note in its place on the table, then return it full of food to its proper spot)!
The Rule of Guest Engagement: “Keep Hands Busy”. Nobody likes those awkward moments at the beginning of a party when the other guests are arriving and people are trying to settle in and maneuver quickly through small talk to get to deeper conversation. Some thing that helps ease these uncomfortable (or at least dull) moments is to have something for guests to do as soon as they arrive. Having snack foods or appetizers present right off the bat is one of the easiest ways to “keep hands busy”. As you the host are finishing your final preparations for the party, keep a few “easily delegatable” tasks in mind- like filling the ice canister, or slicing cheese. When a guest offers to help (which they likely will), this gives them something to do (and legitimately helps you get things finished up!).
Plan for the kids. Not only do you want your adult guests to enjoy themselves, but it is important that the kids at the party have a good time, too! It’s best if you can dedicate a whole room or area for the kids to hang out. Make sure it has plenty of age-appropriate toys and games and that you’ve removed anything unsafe or breakable. It’s even better if you can set up a kids movie or have a craft ready so that the kids are entertained. They’ll leave telling their parents how much they loved being at your house- and they’ll be so busy in their kids’ area, that the adults can enjoy their own conversations.