You know those dinner parties that come off just perfectly? Sure, the food was wonderful, the wine was divine, the music and decor both spot-on. But when you really look back, what mattered most was the conversation between guests. We bet thinking about that conversation was fairly low on the host's to-do list, but fostering an atmospher of conversation and connecction can make your get-together memorable.

We turned to writer and humorist Henry Alford for advice on our recent The Splendid Table Homemade Holidays with America's Test Kitchen 2016 episode. Alford admits that, while it seems geeky to think of pre-arranging conversation prompts, it's actually a terrific way to get people talking and sharing stories about their lives. This may simply break the ice or could be what you need to take the party up a notch. If you find your holiday conversation at an impasse, considering encouraging some interaction using some of these questions. (Psst. A few drinks may not hurt either. Check out these cocktail recipe suggestions.)

Conversation Starters from Henry Alford

  • What was the best thing you ate this year?
  • What new friends did you make this year?
  • What do you wish you were doing more of in your life?
  • What was the most helpful invention of the past 100 years?
  • What was the most destructive?
  • What are the first three things you would do if you were President?
  • Who would you cast in the starring role of a movie about your mother?
  • Describe your own version of heaven.
  • In a world with laser surgery, space travel, and aerosol cheese... why hasn't anyone invented a pill that makes you feel like you got a good night's sleep?
  • How might the world be made better if, outside of crises, the entire country had a 24 hour-long global moratorium on talking?

Some additional conversation starters from The Splendid Table

  • What do you like most about yourself?
  • Did you ever get into trouble as a kid? 
  • Did you/do you like school? 
  • Who was your most memorable teacher?
  • Tell the story of your first kiss.
  • If you could do anything, now, what would you do? 
  • What age were you when you really knew who you were?
  • What was your first job? 
  • Do you have any phobias? 
  • What do you find the most attractive in the opposite sex?
  • Do you like to flirt?

Feel free to leave some of your favorite conversation starters in the comments section below or share with us on The Splendid Table social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.