Host a Delightful Dinner Party for Clients and Colleagues Put out a bit of you, showcasing your home, cooking and entertainment style and watch the business relationship grow. Here's how to pull off a complete evening.

By Jacqueline Whitmore

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Though hosting a dinner party can be stressful, it's an opportunity to build stronger professional relationships with important clients and colleagues. Great hosts know how to show their guests a good time without becoming too stressed out.

Inviting someone into your home for dinner is an opportunity for you to showcase your entertaining skills and a terrific way to for you get to know each other on a more personal level. Use the following helpful hosting tips when you plan your next dinner party.

Related: Using a Purposeful Meal as a Networking Opportunity

1. Practice.

Before you invite a client or colleague over for dinner, first practice making a meal for close friends or family members. They'll be more forgiving of mistakes as you master the skills of being a gracious host.

2. Let go of perfection.

If something catastrophic happens, keep your anxiety to yourself. Your client won't expect fancy hors d'oeuvres or a seven-course meal. Instead, maintain your sense of humor and your guests will most likely never notice.

3. Invite other members of your team.

If appropriate, invite one or two other people who will complement the personality of your client and contribute to the conversation. If no one from your team fits the bill, extend an invitation to other professional connections, especially if the introduction would benefit your client and your colleague.

Related: How Good Meals and Goodwill Lead to Good Business

4. Prepare.

Do your homework and ask your client about any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Plan your menu accordingly. A week before the dinner, pull out the glassware and serving platters you plan to use. Make sure you have enough plates, drinking glasses, coffee cups and silverware for all guests.

5. Don't try a new recipe.

Now is not the time to test out that new recipe for a dish you saw featured on the Food Network a few months ago. Instead, keep things simple and serve something you know how to prepare. Try to avoid dishes that are unfamiliar, complicated or labor intensive.

6. Make a master grocery list.

You don't want to run out of a key ingredient when you're in the middle of preparing dinner. Be sure to go grocery shopping and pick up all the food items you'll need, including essentials like salt, pepper, sugar and butter.

7. Clean up.

The day before the party, make sure your guest bathroom, dining room and living room are clean and tidy. Take out candles and set the table ahead of time. The more you can do the day prior to the event, the better. You want to appear calm and collected when the guests arrive.

8. Prepare for a grand tour.

Don't be surprised if your dinner guests want to be taken on a tour of your house or apartment. Be sure the entire home is suitable for guests to see. Shut the door to any rooms you'd prefer to keep private. A closed door is a clear indication that it's not OK to enter.

9. Opt for store-bought appetizers.

Reduce your stress and limit the amount of cooking required. Choose hors d'oeuvres like nuts, chips, cheese, dips and crackers, as well as one or two preprepared items from a local specialty food store.

10. Serve a variety of beverages.

Set up a drink station with a bottle or two of red and white wine as well as plenty of nonalcoholic drinks like soda, water and juice. Keep an ice bucket, glasses, lemons, limes, olives and cocktail napkins on hand so your guests can easily serve themselves.

11. Prepare a special cocktail.

Show your personality and serve your client a signature cocktail. Choose a drink recipe that is easy to prepare or can be made ahead of time. Consider a simple cocktail such as a blackberry mint julep, ginger lemon drop or cranberry-orange sangria. Mix a large batch in a pitcher and serve over ice.

12. Make the place more inviting.

Choose music that will set the right tone for the evening. Create a dinner party playlist. Preset your player to provide music throughout the evening. Place unscented candles on the dinner table. Candles are an inexpensive prop to project a mood. Light the candles just before your guests arrive, grab a cocktail and enjoy the evening.

Related: 10 Tips for a Holiday Party Everybody Will Love That You Can Afford

Jacqueline Whitmore

Author, Business Etiquette Expert and Founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

Jacqueline Whitmore is an etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Fla. She is the author of Poised for Success: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals (St. Martin's Press, 2011) and Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press, 2005).

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