Last updated: September 5, 2023
Hosting is a skill that takes time to learn. Maybe your first party wasn’t a 10 out of 10.
That’s normal, by the way: the first time is always the hardest.
But don’t let that stop you from hosting again! I’ll show you why.
One of my readers, Ben, recently hosted his second party with 19 guests. It was a life-changing experience that finally gave him the satisfaction of providing a truly unique social experience for his friends.
I’ll show you how he did it so you can do it, too. This article will go over:
- Why the first party you host is the hardest
- What to do so that your next party is better
- How to make hosting a habit
- The keys to a successful cocktail party
Ben enjoyed himself from start to finish and was grateful he didn’t stop after his “okay” first party.
Why you should listen to me: My name is Nick Gray. I’ve hosted hundreds of parties all over the world. After making it a habit, I can easily host a gathering and make new friends with no sweat. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties.
Meet Ben in Virginia
Ben is a writer who lives in Fairfax, Virginia with his family and 4 dogs.
He has written for publications such as Mere Orthodoxy, The Symbolic World, and Front Porch Republic.
I met Ben when he reached out to me after listening to my podcast episode of The Art of Manliness. He wanted to host a cocktail party himself!
Why Your First Party is the Hardest
The first party is usually the hardest, especially if you’re a first-time host.
You rely on the book to know what food and drinks to buy, the format for reminder emails, and when to do icebreakers. You ask your guests to take a leap of faith because even you aren’t sure if it will be a good time.
The cognitive load of juggling the details of your party while trying to ensure it lives up to you and your guests’ expectations makes it difficult to enjoy the evening.
You might experience you didn’t had a change to engage in a conversation with your guests and connect with them because you’re nervous or anxious about the flow of the party.
But that’s normal! And you should know that it won’t be like that next time!
“If I had 20 guests for my first party, probably about 10 loved it, 5 liked it fine, and 5 didn’t care for it or thought there was room for improvement,” Ben told me.
The Benefits of Your First Party
Ben’s first party was good, but it wasn’t a 10 out of 10. It didn’t go entirely as planned. He felt there were a few little awkward moments that could have been avoided.
But his second party was everything he imagined a 2-Hour Cocktail Party could be. There was an energy and excitement in the room that felt truly magical.
This is what Ben shared when I talked to him after his second party:
“It was amazing. I saw worlds colliding in the best way. I got to experience the satisfaction of providing a truly unique social experience for my friends. There was an energy in my house that made the room feel like it was about to pop.”
Even his friends found unexpected connections, saying things like “We live in the same building!” and “I went to that church growing up too!”
This wouldn’t have been possible without the first practice party that Ben hosted. Now he’s learning to make hosting a habit. It is all part of the process.
Party #2: What to Do
To nail your next party, try first inviting the people who loved your last party.
This is like a cheat code: they’re already bought in and know what to expect. The name tags, the icebreakers, etc.
When you start with a nucleus of people that you know want to be there, it relieves the pressure on you to entertain all of your guests.
Plus, those who loved it give you helpful data on the types of people you want to invite who will enjoy this sort of party. You’ve also had more time to “collect” interesting people to expand your Great Guests list.
Having folks who already knew the flow of the party will also help. They’ll anticipate the icebreakers and would even ask when the next one is so they could run to the bathroom or grab a drink without missing it. Their excitement will help amp up the energy in the room.
My book The 2-Hour Cocktail Party provides helpful rails or guidelines for first-time hosts. For your second party, you can personalize it a little bit to better fit your social situation and culture. Keep reading to see how Ben ended up doing that.
When it comes to the basics like name tags, icebreakers, and the harmonica, Ben followed my book exactly again. But he tried hosting on a Thursday night instead of the prescribed Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday nights.
That Thursday night led to more scheduling conflicts, but it also gave the party more of a “fun” energy.
For drinks, Ben prepared a batch of Old-Fashioned cocktails. It was a hit and earned instant points with his guests.
Make Hosting a Habit
I’ve hosted hundreds of cocktail parties. When you make hosting a habit, it gets easier after each party.
Ben experienced the benefits of hosting right away, such as how it made it easier to meet new people. As soon as he met someone interesting, he was able to get their contact information to invite them to his next party:
I now have seen firsthand how the benefits of hosting compound even as it gets easier. With each party, my roster of rock-solid guests will increase, I will have more time to “collect” interesting people from my life, and my reputation as a connector will grow. However, my work will keep decreasing as I nail down my go-to apps and drinks, the evening’s schedule, and the flow of my house. Now, my conscious energy can go toward talking rather than logistics!
I love what he said there. You can tell that his reputation as a Super Connector in his town is growing.
Ben wrote Guest Bios for both of his parties. He said that a few of his guests mentioned it at the first party. But at the second party, people were coming up to him saying:
“I loved the bios. They were so funny!”
And his guests even sought out other guests by their bios:
“Where’s the marathon runner?”
“Are you the Old Town photographer?”
The Guest Bios work! Keep using them at each of your parties.
Ben kept the same building blocks from The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, but his tweaks and experiments based on party #1 brought his party #2 to a whole new level.
Guests went from giving him a perfunctory thank you to saying things like, “You’re a natural host!”
Ben’s first party was good, but it wasn’t amazing. But after experimenting with his own style of hosting while still following my book’s key concepts, he was able to breathe a whole new life and an incredible energy into his second party.
The momentum builds. Trust the process!
Remember these key concepts from my book and I know you’ll have a successful event:
- Collect RSVPs and send reminder messages
- Write up guest bios
- Create name tags
- Facilitate a few quick icebreakers
- Offer basic snacks and drinks
- End your party on time
If your first party was so-so, don’t underestimate how much you learned and how much better your next party can be. Congratulations to Ben for not giving up after party #1 and for making new friends along the way!
Hello, My name is Nick Gray. In my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, I provide helpful guidance on how to host a great party for any event. I wrote this book to support anyone attempting to meet new people and develop closer bonds with their community.
When is your party? Send me an email and I will give you some bonus tips, including a pre-party checklist that you can print out. Plus I’ll answer any question you have, free of charge. I love talking about parties and I’m on a mission to help 500 people host their first party.