Most of us have been to and hosted dinner parties over the years. However, the best ones are when everyone goes home happy. The atmosphere was great, the food superb and everyone genuinely had a fantastic time.

Wouldn’t it be great if our attendees buzzed about an association meeting, corporate event or training session in the same way? Why can’t we make our professional meetings fun and interesting? With a little time, creativity and money it can happen!

Below are 5 ways you can give your next meeting a dinner party feel.  

Dinner Party Tip #1: Decorate the Venue with Lighting. 

Especially during this time of year, holiday lighting abounds. The different types, sizes and colors are always fun to see as you go into neighborhoods and attend holiday parties. Light equipment rentals are available in all sort of sizes and each type of lighting serves a purpose. But most of all, lighting sets the mood for the event and immediately says to the attendee that you cared enough to spend a few extra dollars and dedicate the time to make your space very special.

Dinner Party Tip #2: Put Together a Great Playlist. 

Music is essential to a good dinner party especially when you only have a few guests on hand. But now you can tailor music to meet the needs of your guests by creating a playlist of artists they will enjoy listening to. So how about asking your attendees what genre or artists they like? Put together that playlist on an iPad or iPod, hook it to a quality sound system and voila — you have set in motion another way your guests know you care.

Dinner Party Tip #3: Make Everyone Feel Welcome. 

When you host a dinner party, you usually greet your guests with enthusiasm and a handshake or hug. You make them feel welcome into your home and help them get acquainted with other guests. You offer them a drink and steer them toward the appetizers.

When is the last time you made each and every attendee feel welcomed at your meeting?

Dinner Party Tip #4: Have Personalized Assigned Seating.

This may not be practical for very large event, but it can be a real ice breaker for small to medium-sized meetings. The comedian Joan Rivers does the following: she puts one fact about the person to the left and and the person on the right. This is meant to be a real conversation starter.

Marlo Thomas, puts personalized gifts at everyone’s seat that act as place cards. A mug, clock or baseball cap with their name on it is placed in front of the plate and not only will they know where to sit but they will have a personal reminder of the evening every time they use the item.

Dinner Party Tip #5: Presentation of the Food is Key. 

Choosing the right food and presenting it on the plate is all about color and choice. Having the right combination of protein, vegetables and carbohydrates — with a variety of colors — will make the plate look vibrant and the meal more appealing.

Do you have the chef prepare food for your approval that he/she will be making for your attendees? What about the way they present it? Insist on creative presentation options and if possible, stick with seasonal food choices that are locally grown.