Ever been in a situation where everyone seemed awkward, and you know that if only the right magic wand could be waved, everything would change and people would get on really well? For example, dinner parties can be like this: the hosts invite all their interesting friends, knowing they normally can be relied upon to be entertaining but then nobody speaks. Or what conversation there is lacks energy. It is polite, but guarded. Boring, even.
Well next time you find yourself in such a situation, there's a conversation technique that gets everyone's energy levels up -- use games to introduce the element of fun.
Anyone who has ever been at a party where a game has been played will have noticed that the participants become livelier after; levels of formality drop considerably, and it's as if everyone were old friends.
There are three types of game to play:
1) Word games: Guessing games like Twenty Questions and memory games, imagination games like The Minister's Cat, and memory games like I Went To Market And I Bought, where everyone has to remember what everyone before them has purchased before adding an item of their own are easy to explain and carry out, and no one feels embarrassed participating. The idea is to go round the table and make everyone take a turn.
2) Puzzles: these would include those Mensa-influenced puzzles about things like a man found dead with a parcel in a field, surrounded by snow or mud with no footprints in it - how did he die? Or riddles like the Man on his way to St Ives who met a man travelling with his wives and kittens. There are clever puzzles that look like they're mathematical problems, too, but in fact the numbers refer to something else: a crude example would be 0,7,7,3 and the next number would be 4, because when you look at them upside down they spell HELLO.
3) Physical games like charades, Hangman or Pictionary.
It's usually best to start with word games and puzzles before moving onto physical games (because the guests may be a little self-conscious at first), and spending no more than one hour on them.
Time will fly while these activities are in progress, and when normal conversation resumes, the topics will be a lot livelier. That's because after people have smiled and laughed a few times, they become much more relaxed, and even strangers will seem like old friends.