Dinner parties are tremendous ways to connect and socialize with friends and family members, enjoy great food, and make memories that will last forever. However, as almost everyone who’s hosted a dinner will attest to, the process isn’t as simple as calling some guests up on the phone, throwing something in the oven, and kicking back.

On the contrary, there’s quite a bit soon-to-be dinner hosts need to know about hosting, and there’s a substantial amount soon-to-be dinner hosts need to know about hosting if they want their evening to be remembered positively.

Let’s take a look at some tips that’ll help improve your dinner hosting skills!

Choose an Accessible Date and Time

This tip might not pertain to the actual dinner, but it sure will amplify the effects of your hosting efforts.

It’s impossible to cater to everyone’s busy schedules, in terms of setting a date for your dinner party, but with a little bit of foresight, you can avoid having your guest list thinned down because of cancellations.

Try to choose an accessible date and time for your dinner party, and make a point of avoiding evenings that are likely reserved (or are close to conflicting with) other events. For example, dinner parties for shouldn’t be scheduled on days of major sporting events (World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals) or holidays. (The obvious exception here is when a dinner is held for the purpose of enjoying said sporting event, but the meal then becomes less of a dinner party and more of a viewing party.) The time a dinner begins is also important; most guests would rather not eat at four o’ clock in the afternoon or at midnight.

Having guests arrive at six and eat at seven on a Friday or Saturday night is probably your best bet.

Don’t Make Guests Wait to Eat

Although their name indicates otherwise, dinner parties aren’t entirely about dinner; they’re also about connecting with others and having a good time. With that said, dinner is a pretty important ingredient in the recipe for a good time, and it’s accordingly ill-advised to delay serving dinner for an extended period.

Thus, there’s a fine line between rushing guests and “starving them out”; try to serve the main course about two hours after everyone’s arrived. Dessert should come roughly an hour after that, preferably with coffee (or the option of coffee, that is). Serving light appetizers during the initial two-hour arrival window is also advisable.

There’s a lot of wiggle room with regard to the serving-time suggestions offered here, depending upon a dinner party’s setting, mood, time, and more. Just try not to let things run too late, or there’s a chance your guests will create excuses to exit the scene—as they did on the now-famous “Dinner Party” episode of The Office.

Guide—Don’t Dominate—the Conversation

As the host, it’s your right to have more fun than anyone else at a dinner party.

Just kidding! While you should have fun, hosting brings with it some conversational and social responsibilities that must be attended to initially. Think of yourself as the captain of a boat named “S.S. Good Times.” Your job is to navigate across hazard-wrought waters in the most efficient possible manner and assure that the journey comes with smooth sailing.

In short, when small-talk appears to be dying down, reignite it by asking a question of universal interest. If someone isn’t completely included in conversation, try to involve him or her. Additionally, games—board and/or video—are fantastic for prompting dinner-party groups to function as a whole and relax together.

Declare a red alert and change the subject immediately if the conversation shifts to politics. Political dialogue is excellent for riling individuals up, but it most definitely isn’t excellent for helping guests to cut loose and take it easy, and it’ll probably end up dragging the mood of your party—and its attendees—down.

Incorporate Uncommon Drinks and Desserts into the Menu

Today, drinks and desserts are plentiful, generally speaking; water, beer, wine, tea, coffee, brownies, ice cream, cake and more are abundantly available. For dinner hosts, this means that the days of guests being riveted by ice cream, as they were when Thomas Jefferson served it in the White House, are long gone.

Thus, hosts have two options: they can stick with “the usual” drinks and desserts, or they can think outside the box and excite their guests.

If the latter is selected, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, you can focus on simple, seldom-seen beverages and desserts. There’re plenty of recipes online for exotic fruit cocktails and adult drinks, and something as straightforward as lemon-coconut water will almost surely be refreshing (in a couple ways), for guests. For dessert, try unexpected ice cream flavors and homemade bakery.

If you’re hosting a dinner party, remember to implement as many of the listed tips as possible, and also, remember to have as much fun as possible. Thanks for reading!