One of the reasons the party was so successful was because of the game. The people who came to the party were from several different worlds: old friends, old roommates, family, and current colleagues, and we were worried that people would only talk with people they already knew (as is typical). So I applied everything I had learned during the last two years of management training at my former firm and invented a networking game.
As they arrived, each guy would get a sheet with a number, and each girl would get a sheet with a letter. The guys (“numbers”) would then have to find out the names of all the girls (“letters”) and write them on their sheet. Same thing mutatis mutandis for the girls. There were three conversation-starter questions to ask, and because I thought I wasn’t going to be playing, I gave the girls good questions like, “Are you still single and if so why?”, and “Tell me one of your secrets”. The secrets all revolved around theft, gambling losses, illicit sex, and secret crushes on other party attendees (all hilarious), and even the shy or cerebral could have meta-discussions about the questions themselves: whether the questions were “appropriate”, what they would have asked if it had been up to them, what the best way to answer each question would be.
Lesson learned: Next time, as the game designer, I will give myself a “super-user” set of questions to ask, or perhaps multiple cards that I can rotate into the game depending on the context.