How to engage your guests at a formal dinner

A formal dinner event is a great way to toast the success of your company’s endeavours or to round off a conference or annual review.


It’s a chance for colleagues to socialise and network as well as for you to showcase the achievements and progress of which you’re especially proud as well as providing the perfect platform for delivering your keynote message. Guests often relish the opportunity to dress up and to have fun with their colleagues and to be treated for their efforts of the year.

It’s really important to get your guests interacting and to create a fun atmosphere to avoid it becoming a stuffy affair. This can sometimes be a little tricky when gathering people who might not know each other particularly well. However, we have a few top tips you can take into consideration to ensure that your formal dinner event is fun and engaging.

Take your seats

Make sure you mix it up when it comes to the seating plan. Don’t just plonk guests in the same groups with whom they usually work or socialise with, but do create tables that make it easy for them to mingle and meet new people. Consider who might get on with whom when viewed on paper, but also take this opportunity to encourage communication between departments you’re hoping will work together in future.

Theme night

A strong theme is a must when it comes to any sort of party and this is no exception. Take care when picking yours and make sure your resulting event styling re-iterates this throughout the event. Make your decoration outstanding and you’ll already have a conversation starter on your hands.

The main event

A strong menu is a must but goes far beyond just the three courses. Why not create a signature cocktail and give it a name in keeping with your event? Create fun and delicious canapes and make a beautiful dessert station to wow your guests?

Stimulate table conversation by printing small details about the provenance of your ingredients. For example, the smoked salmon might be from a specific farm in Scotland, or have been smoked in a local smoker. Perhaps the beetroot has come from nearby, or the honey from bees who feast on a specific type of flowers. All these are great for getting your guests chatting and engaging more fully with the food on their plates, as well as demonstrating the level of care you’ve gone to in creating your meal.

Fun and games

Spark conversation and bonhomie by encouraging some creativity. Reinforce your message by using it as inspiration for your guests to express themselves. How about a digital graffiti wall where guests can draw pictures or write notes of thanks or recognition to their colleagues. These can be branded in line with the theme of the event or something more widely associated with your company.

Photo booths with plenty of props and costumes are a great idea. Why not ramp up the interaction by projecting the images in real time?

If you know that there will be lots of people who don’t know others on their table, it can be a good idea to encourage some teamwork. Nothing brings people together quicker than a spot of friendly competition. Put some questions or a challenge into an envelope at the centre of each table and pick a winner at the end of the speeches.

The entertainer

Continue the theme of interaction by taking your entertainment acts off the stage and into the crowd. Dot your acts around the venue and run them at different times over the evening; for example, a contortionist at the entrance, magicians working their way around the room between courses and music later on. Something to bear in mind is the engagement level each act invites. For example, a table magician will always be more successful at initiating conversation as their audience participates in the act, rather than just listening to music.

Whether you’re a seasoned party thrower, or this is your first time, our experienced team is always on hand to guide you throughout the event and make sure all your guests get as much out of it as possible. Contact our team to find out more!