Over the years, I used many techniques to facilitate fellowship at my dinner table. My latest find is Chat Pack Stories, billed as "Fun Questions to Spark Story-filled Conversations." (Please Note: The author receives no financial benefit for recommending this product.)Each person who wants to join in takes a card and tells a story about herself, prompted by the question on her card. For example, "Got a story to share about something funny that happened while traveling?"
The idea of a story encourages participation and learning about other people. Most guests love to tell about themselves in this way. One card will get responses from others in the group, as well. In my experience, it is more effective than asking silly questions that require a one-word answer like, "If you were a pizza, what flavor would you be?," and better than delving into serious matters before you know anything else about your guests. As for me, I have a story to tell you about my jury duty and the professional Elvis impersonator plaintiff, but you need to come to dinner to hear it!