Our biggest piece of advice is not to force it. Unless all your guests already know each other, there's always going to be that odd stretch of time at the beginning of an evening when everyone is standing in awkward clumps with whoever they came with, sipping their cocktails nervously. We'll introduce people to each other, particularly if we know they have something in common, but we've often find that people gradually start mingling on their own if we let it play out naturally.
Having cocktails and appetizers before sitting down to eat definitely helps. Cocktails help people relax and appetizer stations give them somewhere to congregate - and something to talk about. Great conversations can start over a really good bruschetta!
We also try to think about the balance of characters when inviting people to a party. We have certain friends who we can depend on to be outgoing and draw wall flowers into a conversation. Other friends bring a sense of humor or an intellectual edge. We think about people who have similar interests or who we've been wanting to introduce to each other.
We also go by the philosophy that if we like all our friends then all our friends will probably like each other! And then we're back to simply trusting that the conversation will work itself out eventually.
What is your strategy for ensuring good conversation?
(Image: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)