By Karen Cleveland

When asked to attend a a dinner party with 11 strangers (ok, nine strangers…there were a few familiar faces), even this social butterfly got butterflies in her tummy. Awkward talk about the weather? Or a night of shop-talk? Blech.

To my pleasant surprise, my well-matched dinner companions were full of lively discussion — but that conversation was greased by thoughtful planning on behalf of host and organizer Marcello Cabezas.

His tips for keeping the L12 dinner party series lively might also help your next dinner party banter from going dull.

· Round up a group of like minded people (although interests and professional background can, and should, vary widely)

· Don’t be afraid to ask bold questions, but ask them to the masses, so no one feels put on the spot (the money question last night? “What did/do you wish your mother understood about you?”)

· Be inclusive and if someone is lagging out of the conversation, make an effort to subtly bring them back into the food.

· Good food served family style (encourages interaction) and a reasonable amount of alcohol encourages chatter.