I love hosting. Hosting weekend guests. Hosting dinner parties. Hosting wine and cheese nights. But being a host for gatherings has less to do with an enjoyable time for yourself and everything to do with creating an exceptional and memorable experience for your guests.

Recently I was invited to a wonderful couple’s house warming party. (And if these two invite you, you know you’re in for a treat.) I opened the invitation which described an evening of food, fun, and of course a little Fireball to get the party started. I was happy to find a very detailed description of how to use public transportation to travel to their home. While this may sound trivial, they knew their audience–many like myself commuting from New York City to New Jersey, a place many New Yorkers rarely venture to. So, for me, the party details couldn't have been more appreciated.

The day of the party I arrived at their duplex apartment, and on the front door found a small sticky note directing guests to the upstairs apartment. At that moment I realized without that note, I would’ve experienced a significant stumbling block in my journey. I would have pulled out my phone to look up a unit number or fumbled to write a quick text. But they recognized this potential pain point and clearly removed the barrier before I even hit it. 

Walking into their beautifully decorated space, we were greeted by hugs, laughter, a table overflowing with food, and a full bar that would put most New York City bars to shame. I had expected some chips and dip and maybe some wine, but clearly, this party was begging to be remembered. 

The hosts spent time giving each guest a personal house tour, making everyone feel like it was a party just for them. They continued to effortlessly facilitate the most graceful of conversations, making connections between our backgrounds, interests, and very unique personalities. 

But, the highlight of the evening got everyone out of their typical “I’m at a classy party” comfort zone. The hosts brought out a huge handful of temporary tattoos. This little moment of surprise turned into delight as it challenged what we thought a “typical” house warming party should be. Several Fireball shots later, a handful of guests ended up with My Little Pony tattoos on their faces. Dedication, delight, and all-around too much fun.

A week after the party I picked up my mail, and to my surprise I received a beautiful hand-written letter from the party’s hosts. They could have sent a friendly email or text, but in our current digital age, this small, very personal gesture brought me so much more happiness than any piece of digital communication ever could.

So, if you’re a host, you’re an experience designer. And, if you’re want to be a fabulous host, here are the 3 tips that I live by:

  1. Exercise empathy and recognize where your guests could have potential pain points to prevent them ahead of time. Put yourself in their shoes and truly think about where they could run into problems. They’ll be thankful you did.
  2. Exceed expectations. This doesn’t mean spend a lot of money, this means think differently about how to go above and beyond what guests are expecting to get our of your event or experience. 
  3. Create small unexpected moments that will delight. It may sound cliché, but these are the moments and the stories that will get shared over and over. 

Who knows…you may end up sharing some laughs over a stack of My Little Pony temporary tattoos. I did, and it will stick with me forever.