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Must-Listen: Art of Manliness Podcast Interview

Last updated: September 6, 2023

I did a life-changing interview with Brett McKay on his Art of Manliness podcast.

Our discussion directly resulted in hundreds of new friendships. I know this because I heard directly from his listeners who read my book and then hosted their first party.

Brett founded the Art of Manliness in 2008. He’s grown it into the largest independent men’s interest magazine on the web.

We talked about The 2-Hour Cocktail Party and how it just might change your life.

Listen to the Podcast

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. When Nick Gray moved to New York City, he was a shy introvert with few friends, but he wanted to build up his social network, so he started throwing cocktail parties to meet people. These parties changed his life, and he thinks they can change yours too. Nick knows what you’re thinking. You don’t throw parties and hosting them is simply not for you, but he’d encourage you not to tune out. He’s got a great case for why you should give this idea a try. And just as he does in his book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings, Nick is going to lay out exactly how to throw a party that’s low stakes and low effort. It’ll be highly successful in helping you build all kinds of connections.

Today on the show, Nick shares what he’s learned from throwing hundreds of parties and refining his hosting technique to a tee. He explains why cocktail parties are better than dinner parties and don’t have to involve actual cocktails, the best night of the week to throw a party, why the party should be only two hours long and have a firm end time, how many people to invite, and who to invite when you don’t yet have any friends, and he explains why he’s a big fan of two things you might be hesitant about, name tags and icebreakers, and why two of his favorite things to include in a party are grapes and a harmonica. After the show’s over, check out the show notes at aom.is/party.

Alright. Nick Gray, welcome to the show.

Nick Gray: Thanks. Excited to talk about parties.

The 2-Hour Cocktail Party

Brett McKay: Yeah, so you got a book called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings. So you wrote this book, but you came after you started experimenting with hosting parties. How did it change your life? Like what happened to you professionally and personally once you started having these cocktail parties on the regular?

Nick Gray: I’ll start with the biggest benefit, is that professionally, it helped me launch a multi-million dollar business called Museum Hack. I don’t say that to brag, but just to say like there are real benefits to learning to host these gatherings. And I built that business based on having a warm list of people who knew that they knew me, they knew that I did good stuff by hosting these parties, that I ran a well-run event. So professionally, I launched this business. Personally, I got invited to more events. I became someone who got introduced to people because of these events. And this is one of the number one benefits that new hosts will tell me, “I’m now getting introduced to people. I never used to get introduced to people.” “Oh, you gotta meet Brett. He hosts these awesome events,” that became a part of my life, and I guess I take it for granted now that I’m constantly being email introduced or I get on a text thread or at a party or I’m out somewhere and someone’s like, “Oh dude, you gotta meet Nick. He hosts these events.” That never used to happen to me.

Yeah, so I just get invited to meet events, I meet really cool people, and then I’ve built some of my best friends. Those relationships that I’ve built have come out of them first coming to my parties. That was the first step, ’cause I believe that big relationships always start at the acquaintance level, so… Yeah.

Brett McKay: Yeah. And I imagine you felt good too. I know when I go to a good event from mingling people, the after effect is like I feel good afterwards. I feel happy.

Nick Gray: Yeah, yeah. Somebody asked me… Look, I gotta say. Somebody asked me like, “Oh, your parties, that was an amazing party. Did you have fun?” And I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t say that my parties… I don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t say this ’cause people are going to hate it, but I wouldn’t say that I have fun at my parties. That’s not the reason that I do it. I am so happy afterwards because I’ve hosted a good event and people absolutely love it, but it is not fun… Does that make sense? Is there like a difference in like…

Brett McKay: Yeah, yeah, it’s not… Yeah, I would say like when you host a party, you feel tired and it can be exhausting, but you do feel good. You feel good because you got to rub shoulders with people and you’re able to bring people together, and that feels… It’s satisfying. Super satisfying.

Nick Gray: It’s super satisfying, and folks that I talk to, ’cause I’m very lucky I get to talk to people who read my book, and one of the things I say is, “Call me the day afterwards. I wanna hear how your party went,” and they say like, “That was amazing. I’ve never hosted a party,” and so they’re very happy and fulfilled, and they have this feeling… Here’s the key thing, you feel like you unlock a key life skill that nobody has ever taught us how to host a good event, like nobody’s taught us how to make friends as adults, and this is one of those things that like riding a bike or learning how to juggle, once you learn and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, great, I got it.”

Brett McKay: That’s a good point. I think a lot of people who might be listening to this and not party throwers and you’re trying to sell them on throwing parties, one of the selling points is if you wanna make more friends, this is an easy… You might think, “Well, party, that’s a lot of work,” we’re going to show you actually, it’s easier than you think. The barrier to injury is not as high as you think it is. And it can… Like you said, you’ve made some of your best friends through these parties.

Nick Gray: Yes, hugely. Big friendships all started at that because… I don’t know. You tell me what you think about this. I think if you wanna meet interesting people, you have to do interesting things. And an easy hack to be someone who does interesting things is to host a party. Now, everyone wants to know someone who brings people together, and what I found was all that it takes is a simple two-hour gathering. In the time it takes you to watch a Netflix movie or something, you can gather 15 to 20 people and it just might change your life. It did for me. I sound like I’m a commercial or a multi-level marketing scheme, but I’m so red-pilled on the benefits of hosting these gatherings.

Why Cocktail Party and not Dinner Party?

Brett McKay: Okay, let’s talk about the parties in general. Why did you choose parties, like a cocktail party over a dinner party?

Nick Gray: So I use that phrase, cocktail party, because it represents a lightweight social gathering, but you could call this whatever you want, a happy hour, a gathering. I like the phrase cocktail party because you say it to somebody and they immediately know, “Oh, this is a low commitment. I’ll meet a lot of people. It’ll just be conversations.” And as long as that phrase cocktail party has existed, it’s kind of always been about the people. There’s not a single drink recipe in my book. I don’t even drink alcohol myself. You don’t have to serve alcohol, but I found that cocktail parties got me 80% of the results of a dinner party with 20% of the work. And I can talk a little bit about why you should not host a dinner party, but many entrepreneurs and online advisers are like, “Start a mastermind group or a host a dinner party for other business owners.” I actually don’t think that’s the best advice for somebody just getting started. I actually think it hurts more than it helps.

Brett McKay: Why is that?

Nick Gray: Dinner parties require an extremely advanced level of facilitation and hosting skills. They’re also very stressful. People have dietary preferences. You have to manage the food. The hack, by the way, is that if you insist on hosting a dinner party, just order Thai food, like order a bunch of options, let people eat family style. But I found at least… So let’s say, for example, I’m trying to tightly curate a dinner of six people. By the way, more than six people and the dinner party conversation will naturally bifurcate into two groups. I don’t like that, I want it to be mono-track, and having something like a Jeffersonian dinner with 10 people on a mono-single conversation requires extremely advanced facilitation skills. And my book is really about just trying to convince a new generation of people, “Hey, if you’ve never hosted before, or if the most you would host is on your birthday party or at a major life event, consider how hosting can become a habit that you do once every other month to build up this network of acquaintances.”

Brett McKay: And I like too the idea of the cocktail party, because even if you don’t drink, everyone knows, when they picture a cocktail party, they probably picture, at least I do, 1950s, dudes in suits, women in nice dresses, but they’re just like at someone’s house and they have a drink in their hand and they’re just chatting. And I love that idea ’cause it’s so low commitment. You’re just going to show up and you’re going to talk, and the drinks are just something to give your hands to do, why you’re doing that basically. And I think today, oftentimes, I think when people think they wanna get people together, it’s gotta be some kind of big event and you gotta have… It’s gotta be elaborate and whatever, and so people end up just not doing anything. So I think bringing back this idea of the cocktail party is a great way to get people together more often.

Nick Gray: You said it much better than I did, which is that it’s just conversation. A cocktail party is lightweight conversation, a lot of people standing around, usually at somebody’s home, the drinks are the crutch, but they’re there, and it’s easy. You can pop in. If you don’t like it, you can leave after 30 minutes. Think about what it’s like when you invite somebody to an event. If I ask somebody to come over for dinner, I gotta be honest, that is a very intimate, large commitment that requires probably two to three hours of a dedicated schedule block. I really need somebody to say yes to a dinner party. The key thing is a cocktail party is easy to say yes to. It’s easy for somebody to say yes to. And I found that at the beginning, for someone to be successful in hosting and making friends and building their network of acquaintances, the number one indicator of success for their first party is how many people show up.

Party Runway

Brett McKay: Alright, let’s start talking about planning these parties. We’re going to call it a cocktail party. You don’t have to serve alcohol necessarily, but it’s just the mental model we’re using to help people understand, like, “Oh, we’re just coming together to talk.” How far in advance should you plan a cocktail party?

Nick Gray: You need three weeks to plan your party, minimum, and again, the reason for that is I really want new hosts to be successful, and I’ve found that three weeks gives you enough time to first get the five yeses from your core group and then to cast a wider net and get 10 more yeses. Your goal is to get 15 people, and when you give yourself three weeks, I found that is a very healthy amount of time to fill up your guest list in one or two weeks and then just kinda have the next week to sit and simmer, send your reminder messages, buy the supplies, clean your house. You really don’t have to overly clean your house. That’s one of the biggest myths, is that you have to have a perfect home and perfect condition, shape, location. And there’s not a lot of supplies either. It’s under $100. But three weeks is about… For more advanced people, two weeks, but one of the biggest mistakes is it’s Monday and someone plans a party for Friday. There’s so much wrong with that.

Brett McKay: Well, one of the things wrong with that is, okay, first off, it’s short, not enough time, but you don’t like people having cocktail parties on Fridays or the weekends. Why is that?

Nick Gray: Friday and Saturday nights, at least where I live, are socially competitive days. Socially competitive days of the week mean that you will get bumped. Other things will come up. People are busy. They have things on their calendar. I suggest instead of these red level days to host on an easy day, like a Monday, a Tuesday or a Wednesday night. Those are the three nights that I like. And by the way, the whole thing is two hours, and so you’re not staying up till midnight on Tuesday night and everybody has to work, the party is generally two hours long, 7:00 to 9:00 PM approximately. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights are easier to say yes to. You get less of a flake rate, that’s the people that say they’ll come, but don’t, and I think it’s just non-traditional. It’s a little bit different. It also signifies that a Monday night is not a crazy blackout boozer drinkathon, like this is a social event, it is not about the drinking or the co-partying to the extreme.

2-Hour Limit

Brett McKay: Alright, so you mentioned the title of the book is The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. You’ve put a hard limit on the party. Just two hours. Why the two-hour limit?

Nick Gray: One of the biggest mistakes people make is not setting an end time to their events. That causes slippage in what time people show up. It causes an extended awkward zone. The awkward zone happens at every party, even the ones I still throw. It’s the first 10, 15, 20 minutes of an event when you haven’t reached critical mass in the room when there’s only a couple of people who’ve shown up. At a party when you set a two-hour limit, people will show up on time, number one, that’s very important. Number two, it goes back to making it easy for people to say yes. When they know this is only a two-hour party, that’s easy. It’s a small space in their calendar. I also find that when you end things on a high note, when you end things that are going well, people think more highly of your event and then of you, so I like to end my party when things are going well. It gets people to be willing to come back. They say nice things about my parties. I also think two hours… I don’t know. I have a short attention span. Two hours is good.

Brett McKay: Yeah. And the other thing I like about the limit, the hard limit, the hard end time is that we’ve all been to those parties where you’re ready to go, but there was no end times like, “Well, am I obligated to stay?” You can… Once it’s 9 o’clock, you’re like, “Alright, I’m out,” and no one’s going to say anything ’cause that’s what time the party was over.

Nick Gray: Dude, I wanna talk about that for a second because there is this feeling when you’re at a party and you know when you kinda wanna leave, but you don’t wanna be a vibe kill. I don’t know what the word is.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you don’t wanna be the guy that’s like just ruining the vibe. Right, yeah.

Nick Gray: Right. And when you give your guests the excuse to leave, now you don’t have to end the party exactly at two hours, but you need to make an announcement, say, “Hey everybody, party was scheduled to end right now. Thank you so much for coming. If you need to leave, I just wanna say thank you. For everybody else, we can do a last call, start to wind down your conversations. Thank you for coming, and I’ll see you guys in a few minutes.” When you give them that exit, that release, people are surprisingly thankful for it. For those who have to go, they’re so thankful. “Hey, thank you for running a good event. I really appreciated that you ended your party on time.” You will be shocked and surprised how often that comment happens after you host a two-hour party.

Brett McKay: Well, the other benefit of the two-hour party that I just thought of and one of the reasons why you probably get more yeses is because if you’re a parent and you gotta find a babysitter, it’s hard to find… You can actually ask that 17-year-old to babysit your kids like, “Hey, I wanna be home at 9 o’clock,” instead of this, “Well, I don’t know when it’s going to be over.” It could be 10 or 11 on a school night. Well, you’re not going to find a babysitter.

Cocktail Party with Kids

Nick Gray: Right, right. And thinking about that, by the way, for those listeners who have kids that are wondering, “How do I host this party with kids?” We could riff on that. But one thing I have found is that if you have kids, if a lot of your friends have kids, a key unlock, a key hack, whatever word you wanna say, is to hire a babysitter to provide child care at your party, if you are able to, allows it to be even easier for your friends with kids to say yes. Now, maybe it’s not doable for you to hire the childcare for your party, then what you wanna do is host a simultaneous kid’s party in another room of the house. I have an article on my website that speaks about how to throw a simultaneous kid’s party, to play a movie, to get some snacks for them, what to do to make that a success and allow those parents to have adult conversations. What we don’t want is for the kids to be running around the house. It serves as a conversational crutch for the parents, and they don’t actually get to build those adult relationships that are so important.

Brett McKay: That’s a good point. I’ve been to events where it’s kids and parents mingling together, which some of those can be fine, that’s fine, I like those things, but sometimes we just want the adult conversation, and then you see the parents, like the kids will interrupt and the parents go, “Oh I gotta tend to Jimmy,” and it just… It throws the conversation off. Or the parents will invite their kids. I think they’re being well-meaning and well-intended, they’ll invite their 12-year-old, 13-year-old to the adult conversation, and it completely changes what you’re able to talk about because there’s a kid there.

Nick Gray: Yes. One thing that I have heard is that if you are hosting a children’s birthday party, if you are hosting a birthday party for one of your kids, consider using some things from my book, such as name tags for the adults. When we have these birthday parties for our kids and all the adults show up, that is a missed opportunity for the adults to meet new people and make new friends, and I will almost guarantee you that they will not know each other’s names at those events. You’ll say them, but it’s often forgotten. A little name tag can make a lot of difference to helping adults make new friends and make connections, even at a kid’s birthday party.

Best Party Location: Your House

Brett McKay: Yeah, we’ll talk about the name tags. That’s really interesting. Okay, so let’s talk about… We talked about when to plan these things, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights are best, you wanna set a hard two-hour limit ’cause it just increases the opt-in for it, and plus, it just… People like that, it’s short and they know when they can be finished with it. Let’s talk about where to host these things. Where should you host your party?

Nick Gray: For 95% of people that are listening to this, the best place to host is at your home. Your house is key to building these relationships and creating connections. Now, in certain situations, the house is not viable, but I’m going to tell you why your home is best, even if you think it’s too small or it’s too far away or it’s too messy. First the why. When you host at home, it’s kind of a vulnerable act to invite someone into your home, and yet it creates this connection that’s almost like going on a little date with someone. It’s so vulnerable to be welcomed into someone’s home that you turbocharged the relationship. Imagine meeting somebody at a bar and the difference between meeting them at the bar or going to their home, you get to come into their personal space, which is so different and unique and it just doesn’t happen that often.

Hosting at home is also incredibly generous. It’s the difference of having to wait and handle a bar tab when people are having to buy their own drinks and things like that. That is not generous. And I believe that to build relationships, you have to give before you can ask, and the fact that you’re giving them drinks and snacks when they come up to your home, that’s very nice. Hosting at home is also nice ’cause you get to control who’s there. Everybody is there that you have invited. Hosting at home, you can control the music, the lighting. You are in charge. You are the leader when it’s at your home.

Brett McKay: Okay, so that’s the why you, you mentioned that a lot of people have… There’s some pushback. Why do people say, well, I wanna do this, but I don’t wanna do it at my house. What are the common reasons?

Nick Gray: As I’m recording this, I’m in New York City. I live in Austin, Texas. In both places I have very small apartments and people say, I have a tiny apartment, a tiny house. I cannot host people. I don’t have enough chairs. Well, number one, you don’t want chairs. If you have a large house, you wanna remove the chairs because sitting down is actually kryptonite to a successful event. When people sit down, they become locked in conversations, they become a bit lazy and it’s harder for people to approach and join those conversations. So at my parties, I actually want people standing much more often than sitting down. A small space, actually, the energy is way better. A small space is actually better than an enormous mansion for a party because in a small space you have that energy and excitement that feels more like a crowded bar. It doesn’t feel empty and big and ghostly like a huge mansion.

Some people say, “Oh, my house is way too far away. I’m in Green Point, New York. I’m in such and such place. That’s a 30 minutes drive.” What I say to that is, don’t make the decision for your friends as to whether they will drive or not. Test it out, invite your core group. You will be surprised that people will be willing to come to you, even if it’s 30 or 35 minutes away. People will come for a cocktail party. It is so hard to meet new people. What you are doing is special. You and your home is enough of an excuse to make this a special night for your friends to come join you. The last thing I hear from people, “Oh, my house is too messy, I’ve got kids, I’m not the cleanest person.”

I’ll tell you what I do. I’m very messy. I have junk all over my house and I take a couple large plastic bins or some old Amazon boxes and I kinda just clear off the countertops and put all the junk in the boxes and hide it in my closet. I will stack things on my bed in my room and just close that room off. And I tell you of many years hosting hundreds of parties, nobody has ever barged into my room or my closet and said, “Hey, here’s where he is storing all the junk. Let’s go everybody. We’re leaving this party.” To start a rival house party. Nobody says that, nobody’s going to be peeking around for your junk, host your party at home, it will completely turbocharge how you can build these relationships.

Brett McKay: For the people who were saying, “My place is too small to host a party.” Here’s an insight from Henry David Thoreau. We all know he lived in a cabin he built on Walden. It was 10 feet wide by 15 feet long. And this is what he had to say about when he had visitors, he had people come to his place. He said this, “It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain. I had 25 or 30 souls with their bodies at once under my roof. And yet we often partied without being aware that we had come very near to one another.” So if Henry David Thoreau could have 30 people in his 10 ft by 15 ft cabin, you could probably have 7, 10 people in your small apartment.

Nick Gray: You can have 15 to 25 people. There’s this kid whose name is Peter in New York City. He hosted a cocktail party. His apartment is like the size of two yoga mats and I have a selfie of him and everybody packed in there and they’re all smiling. There’s a guy, Noah, who’s on my blog. I wrote about, he had 29 people in his 400-square-foot apartment in Chicago. You’ll be surprised when everybody’s standing and mixing about.

Where to Throw a Party

Brett McKay: Yeah. So we’ve talked about where to host it at your home, if you can’t host it at your place, right? So there’s maybe that 5% that can’t do it. Where do you recommend doing it at?

Nick Gray: If you cannot host it in your home. Here are some places you can host it. Number one, in a common or community space in your apartment or your neighborhood. Number two, at a coworking space, I have an article included in the show notes about how to host a good event if you’re a digital nomad or you have access to a co-working space. Number three, the key thing and the one that will help the most people. If you cannot host it your home, find a co-host. Find someone that has a larger space. This happens way more often than you think. Who wants to host? They say, “Wow, I got this beautiful house, but I just never host.” Link up with them. Now if you do that, you need to get them to buy in to the elements of my party formula. Say, “Hey, I’m going to host this, but there’s some things. There’ll be name tags, we’re going to do some rounds of icebreakers. I’m going to kick people out at the end.” Get their buy-in for those elements. And that can turbocharge, having that co-host that is a major, major accelerator on your journey.

Brett McKay: All right, so we got the date, location, time for our party set. We talked a little bit earlier who you’re going to invite. Who should you invite to these cocktail parties and like how many people should you be inviting?

Who to Invite and How Many Guests

Nick Gray: Okay, let’s start with the number of people. How many people, you need to have a minimum of 15 people to come to your party. Here’s why 15 is important. I have found that anything less than 15, there is not enough energy in the room. You don’t reach a critical mass for conversational collisions. Somebody walks into a room of 15 other people and they say, “Wow, I’m not going to be able to talk to everybody here. Like this is kind of exciting.” If you walk into a room of seven or eight people, that is, I don’t know, there’s just not enough energy there. I have also found surprisingly that the more number of people actually requires less work during the party for you as a host. When I have 15-20 people, I can kinda step aside for a little bit. I am still an introvert and I need time to recharge.

And during my parties, I will often sneak into my room and scroll social media for a few minutes just to take a breather. And I can do that when there’s 15 people. When there’s less than that, I need to babysit people, there needs… There’s a lot more work you have to do as a host to monitor the room and keep people engaged. More than 22, the ice breakers take too long. The logistics are complicated. Welcoming people, name tags, for a first-time host, I think 15-20 is the right amount. Now to get 15-20, you will very likely have to invite a lot more than that. In small towns, maybe not the case. People don’t have a lot going on and maybe you can invite 25 and you’ll get 15 to 20 to say yes. In larger cities where maybe your relationships aren’t as strong or there’s a lot more going on, you will have to invite a lot more than that.

For your first party, who should you invite? Number one, it’s okay to invite couples. So you invite one person, ask ’em to bring their significant other that can double the size of those that attend. Do not mind… One piece of advice on what not to do. Do not reach from the top shelf for this first party. Say that you know Brett and you’re like, “Oh my God, I really wanna impress Brett, I hardly know him. Do not invite Brett to your first party.” Your first party should be a low-stakes affair where you’re inviting your friends, your neighbors, your work colleagues, those people that you feel close to and comfortable with. That is who you should do for your first party. If you’re trying to use these parties for business to impress potential clients, don’t do that on the first party. Keep it a low-stakes, no-stress affair.

Core Group

Brett McKay: We also talked earlier about this idea of a core group of invitees. Who are these core group of party invitees?

Nick Gray: Your core group are people that you feel comfortable around your core group are people that if only those five people showed up, you would still have a good event. For me, that’s like my college friends, that might be my sister, that might be my girlfriend and one of her best friends, it might be my neighbor who I know these two guys that are my neighbors and I would invite them because I see them a lot. It’s not a big lift. That’s the five people that you feel close to who you know would show up on time, you know will maybe laugh at your jokes. Who just you can count on. And that’s what I consider your core group. You’re going to test whether your party date and time are good by texting your core group a message like, “Hey David, I’m thinking of hosting a cocktail party on Tuesday night, March 14th at my apartment from 7:00-9:00 PM, if I do it, would you come? That’s the key phrase to your core group and you’re not going to plan your party until you get five yeses from that core group.

Brett McKay: Yeah, the core group’s kind of like the sourdough starter, the kombucha starter.

Nick Gray: Yes, yes, yes.

Great Guests

Brett McKay: So after you got this core group, you said these are the five people you know who are going to show up. What other sorts of people should you start inviting to get that 15?

Nick Gray: After your core group, you get those five yeses. Now you wanna get 10 great guests. These are everybody else at your party. They might be the person you worked with at your last job two years ago and you haven’t talked to them in a while. This might be somebody that you went to high school or college with and you haven’t talked to them in a little while. It might be your neighbors that you don’t know as well. It might be a friend of a friend that you’ve been meaning to meet up with a coffee, could be somebody at the gym that you see all the time and you say, “Hey, I’m hosting a cocktail party with some of my friends on Tuesday night.” Use this phrase, by the way, “Can I send you the info?” You don’t wanna say, do you wanna come? Will you come? It’s not the same as with your core group. For a great guest you’re going to say, can I send you the info? And then you’re going to send them the little page that you’ll create, which by the way, you have to collect RSVPs. But that’s that wider net of people who you cast more of into the acquaintance and less of a friend.

Brett McKay: And then at a certain point when you’ve gotten good at the hosting, you can start and asking those VIPs to come as well.

Nick Gray: Yes. And that is the biggest thing that you can use these parties for is to connect with VIPs. If you truly wanna build good relationships, I think you have to be able to give value first. The secret I found is that everybody wants to be invited to a party. I’ve given thousands of party invites and nobody has ever said, “No, do not send me the info for this free party that you’re hosting with free drinks, snacks and interesting people.” Nobody said that.

Brett McKay: Yeah, and I imagine those VIPs, they’re probably getting invited to things all the time and oftentimes they might say no, ’cause they’re like, “Well it’s, it’s high stakes, I’m going to feel… ” But if you’re good at hosting these parties, you can present it to ’em like, “Hey, we have this thing on the regular, we’ve got interesting people in our community. We’d love to have you. If you can make it, it’d be awesome.” And they might be more likely to say yes to that.

Take a Party Group Photo

Nick Gray: One big thing I found is that when I take a picture at my parties, I always snap a group photo and in my book it talks about exactly at what time to snap your group photo. I think probably about 30 minutes before your party is scheduled to end you would snap a group photo. The group photo is helpful, number one to follow up with everybody the next morning, “Hey everybody, thanks for coming. Here’s our group photo.” And then number two, I use that group photo when I plan my next parties, when I invite VIPs to show them what these parties look like, the people who attend it is social proof that this is a good event. And so those parties reaching out to the VIPs. The other piece of advice I found is that if you’re inviting VIPs because they are very busy, I will invite them to multiple events and give them, I say, “Hey, I host these cocktail parties, I get together some interesting people as well as my closest friends in the city. Would you like to come sometime? Here’s my next two.” And I’ll tell them the date and the time of the next two. And I found a much higher success ratio in getting people to come when I gave them multiple dates.

Brett McKay: Let’s say someone wants to start hosting these parties, they wanna make friends but they don’t have friends yet ’cause they’re, maybe they’re new to the city so they don’t have that core. How do you do that? How do you start developing that core group? You can start inviting so you can get these things going?

Creating a Core Group WHen You Don’t Have One

Nick Gray: If you absolutely have zero friends, this is a little bit out of my zone of expertise. I can tell you what I have done and what I’ve worked with people on. But I will give the little warning that these parties work best when you have at least five friends, five people you know that can be part of that core group. If you know absolutely no one, you still need to pick a date and time, give yourself more, more of a party runway. Instead of three weeks, let’s say four weeks, you’re now going to set that date and time. Let’s say it’s a Tuesday night from 7:00-9:00 PM, you are now going to start to go to events in your local town or community. A lot of people tell you this, this is not new advice, but I would say that going to a yoga class, a workout class, a sports event, think about you basically have two opportunities to meet people that’s in the 5 or 10 minutes before the yoga class starts and the 5 or 10 minutes after.

And at each of those interactions you can really only meet one person. You’re not going to jump around the room inviting tons of people. That’s just going to look or feel weird in my experience. You can go to events like this, you can look up groups around your hobbies, you can join a sports team, you can go and literally pass out flyers in your neighborhood or slide them under the doors of your neighbors. A guy named Richard in Calgary, Canada did this. He moved to a new apartment building, literally knew nobody and put up flyers. “Hey I’m hosting a housewarming party.” He slid ’em under the doors, he put up signs in the common areas and he invited his neighbors to come and that helped him build a core group. The other advice I tell people is that like I love diversity at my parties and diversity extends to the occupations.

I don’t mind inviting the barista of the cafe that I go to. I don’t mind inviting folks that work at the library, things like that, saying this thing to them, “Hey, I just moved to town, I’m meeting these interesting people, I’m hosting a party, just, it’s hard to make new friends as adults, can I send you the information?” If you are new to town, you can lean on that as part of your introductions. “I’m new to town, I’m meeting all these interesting people, I’m new to town, I’m trying to meet some new people.” People respect that you have just moved to town. Why? Because it’s a vote in their favor. You have moved to their town. You think that their town is the best place that you can possibly live and they will respect and appreciate that, that idea that you’re new to town, do not feel shy to lean into that.

Sending First Invitations and RSVP Page

Brett McKay: We’re going to take a quick break for words, more sponsors. And now back to the show. So you got your people you’re going, going to invite, how do you invite them? Like what’s the best way? Is it a mass message or do you invite people one by one?

Nick Gray: This is so key. You have to invite people one-on-one. I will say to them, “Hey, I’m hosting an event on Tuesday night in three weeks can I send you the info?” I get them to say yes before I invite them to the party. Why is this important? It’s a double opt-in introduction. I’m getting them to say yes sort of and it boosts the attendance rate. I’m trying to sort of make it a little hard for somebody to RSVP to the party because I don’t want a large flake ratio. I don’t want a lot of people who say that they are going to come and then to not show up.

How do I invite them? Say that I knew somebody, I hadn’t seen them in two or three years from work, from my last job. I’d send them a message like this. I’d say, “Hey John, I haven’t chatted in a while. I’m hosting a happy hour here in town at my apartment on this date and time, I’m getting together folks I used to work with, my neighbors and my friends from sports. Can I send you the info? Hope you’re well and having a great year.” I would send out a bunch of little messages like that to gauge the interest. Once they say yes, then you’re going to say, “Hey, great. Here’s the information please RSVP here.” And you need to get them to sign up on your little event page.

I think this is very, very important. Now there’s a few platforms that will do free events. I don’t like using Facebook events anymore. Five years ago I did, but now I don’t. Now I use this one tool that’s called Mixily, Gen Z, loves this one called Partiful. You could use paperless post. The important thing is you just want a free simple service that folks can just make their commitment to attend your party. It creates a little social contract and then when you display the guest list, it also shows social proof that other people will be attending your party.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that social proof’s important. Before you do the RSVP, you wanna make sure, yeah, that core group you’re going to show up ’cause like nothing, nothing’s a vibe killer.

Nick Gray: Yes.

Brett McKay: Then you, you sent out the RSVP and like zero people have checked in that they’re going to come.

Nick Gray: Yes, yes. It’s like the old days of Facebook events where it’s like 97 invited, 3 yes. And you’re like, “Wait a second, what’s going on with this party?” I talk a lot about social proof and I think the reason why is that the purpose of these parties, is to meet new people. Your friends will want to come and be happy that they came because they will meet so many people and the party is structured in a way that there are a lot of little conversations happening. That’s what make these parties successful.

Guest Bios

Brett McKay: And the other thing you do, as the event gets closer with that events page, you will actually… You’ll like put bios of some of the people who’ve committed to coming and that can be useful ’cause it allows people who are going to see, “Okay, who’s going to be here? I have an idea who’s going to be there.” But also for the people who have been on the fence, maybe they’ll see, “Oh wow, this, there’s going to be some cool people there. I’m going to opt in now ’cause I saw that bio on the event page.

Nick Gray: Dude, the bios are my secret weapon. The bios are… I use them in my reminder messages. By the way, you need to send three reminder messages. One that’s about a week before your party. One that’s three or four days before your party and the other the morning of your party. But these guest bios that you mentioned are brief little anecdotes or summaries or talking points about half or more of all of your guests. They could be as simple as, Jim is my neighbor, he has a golden retriever. I think he works in tech. [laughter]

It could be as detailed as saying like, “Brett hosts a podcast, ask him about some of his recent guests we met through the internet.” They’re not long detailed things, but they’re little blurbs about people that give the attendees conversational access points and I’ll tell you why they’re important. Probably half of the people you’ll invite could be introverts, some of them have social anxiety. Seeing this list of who is going to be there, makes people so excited to attend, it gives them the confidence to create these new conversations, and like you said, if somebody’s on the fence, it really ensures that they actually will show up.

Brett McKay: And some people might think the reminders are overkill, but as someone who’s like, I’ve organized events for different things, it is not overkill. You cannot over-communicate because people are getting inundated with all sorts of emails, text messages, so stuff slips through the cracks, and so you have to over-communicate ’cause chances are, they’re going to miss maybe one or two of those reminders you sent.

Nick Gray: In hundreds of parties that I have hosted, I have never had somebody say, “Hey, you were spamming me too much with these reminder messages.” Instead, I consistently receive over a 90% attendance rate of those that are going to come. What’s the down side? The downside of this is, yes, maybe you send one too many messages, but it takes somebody five seconds to move on from an email message. The upside is that you show that you are a host who cares. In this age of like, too cool to care, you are showing that you are someone putting thought and effort into the planning of this social experience, in this cocktail party, happy hour. You show that you’re a host who cares and people appreciate the heck out of it. You’re going to be seen as a super connector and people are going to look at your hosting skills like you’re a magician, when all you did is just host a cocktail party, it’s amazing.

Party Supplies

Brett McKay: I was talking about supplies, we kind of mentioned it, it’s not much. Some cups, some drinks, some snacks, you don’t want anything that you have to warm-up. Nuts are great. Maybe a cheese platter. That’s it. $100 max is what you have to spend on these things.

Nick Gray: $100 max, the bar, by the way, is a self-serve bar, so you’re just going to buy some liquor and some mixers and some non-alcoholic options. People love seltzers. One thing that I added in the last week of finishing my book to the list of supplies was grapes. I would encourage anybody listening, that sounds so silly, but in all these calls I do with people, the next day I always ask, “What snacks got eaten, what snacks didn’t get eaten?” Everybody eats grapes, grapes are such a good party snack, and that and the harmonica, I think are my two things that I’m like, “That is so weird, why include those?”

Importance of Name Tags

Brett McKay: So let’s talk about a few things you mentioned, harmonicas, we’ll talk about that later, but first name tags.

Nick Gray: [laughter] People are going to think I’m crazy.

Brett McKay: It’s all right. Let’s start with the name tags, so you make your guests wear name tags. Now, people might be like, “Well, this is like a cocktail party. Grandpa in the 1950s in his coat, suit, he wouldn’t be wearing a name tag.” Why do you make your guests wear a name tag?

Nick Gray: I talked to a kid yesterday who’s hosting a brunch on Sunday, and he was like, “All right, I’ve listened to everything, I don’t know about the name tags. I don’t want this to feel too formal, I don’t know if my friends will be up.” So I said, “Well, what’s the purpose of your brunch?” He said, “Well, I’m having about 20 people over, it’s kind of a house warming.” I said, “Do you know everybody’s name?” He said, “Yeah, of course.” I said, “Does everybody else know everybody’s name?” He said, “Oh. No. No, I guess not.” Name tags are important because while you may know everybody’s name and know that they know your name, they do not know everybody else’s names. And here’s why it’s helpful. When you have name tags, you will show that this is not a party of cliques. This is not a clique out party with your work friends together, your hockey friends together, and your neighbors all mixing. When we wear a name tag, it serves as a sports uniform, that we’re all on the same team, that this is a safe space to go meet new people. It makes it easier, you don’t have to remember all these different names.

I’m bad with names, and ultimately that’s why I started using these name tags, but I have found that… This is the one thing, name tags make it easier to talk to new people. The whole purpose of this party is for your friends to meet other friends. Remember, you have to give before you can ask for anything to build relationships. When you do name tags, even at house parties, it will make it such a conducive environment to create new conversations, and make it easier for people just to go up and speak to somebody new.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s a good point ’cause I think a lot of conversation when you’re starting off with somebody you don’t know, a lot of it’s just spent, “Oh, what’s your name?” And then you have to spend all this time, this bandwidth in your brain, I gotta remember… Saying their name over, “Okay, it’s Jeff. It’s Jeff. It’s Jeff. It’s Jeff.” And then you’re not in the conversation, ’cause when it finally turns to you, you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know what they’re talking about ’cause I’m still trying to remember Jeff’s name here.”

Nick Gray: Yes. I’m so bad with names. I went to this one event that was in New York, and there was this CEO who is a woman who started a company, multi-million dollar PR firm, and she remembered my name, and she called me from across the room, “Nick, oh my God, it’s so good to see you,” and I was like a deer caught in the headlights. I had forgotten her name, it was obvious that I had forgotten her name. I could have solved it by saying like, “Oh my God, it’s so good to see you, remind me what your name is again.” But honestly, this had been several years since I had casually seen her at social events, I was mortified. And that could have been solved with a simple name tag.

Brett McKay: And with the name tag, you actually write the name for your guest when they come in, correct? You don’t let the guests write heir own name. Why is that?

Nick Gray: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a small thing, and I have a lot of specific preferences, for example, first name’s only, big block letters. I think you should write the name tag when your guest come in, it gives you a way to welcome everybody, to sort of establish yourself as the party leader. It gives you a chance one-on-one, when I write the name tags, “Hey, what’s up? What’s your name? Thanks for coming.” “Alex.” “Alex, A-L-E-X. Here’s your name tag, Alex. Go over to the bar to see John, he’ll help you find a drink, but thank you so much for coming today.” It gives me a chance one-on-one to have a connection with every single person who attends.

Handle the Awkward Zone Like a Pro

Brett McKay: Gotcha. So let’s talk about those early moments. So you have a start time, that you want people to be there on time, and the two-hour limit encourages that, but there’s always going to be those moments where you just have two, three people, and it’s like you’re 10 minutes in, that’s kind of awkward. You’re like, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” How do you handle that awkwardness when there’s just a few guests and it’s just you and them?

Nick Gray: Number one, know that this awkward zone happens at every single party. I’ll give you some tools and tips on how to get out of the awkward zone, but, one, know that it happens and that it’s normal. Number two, a way to ease the awkward zone is to ask some of those people in your core group to arrive five or 10 minutes early. Now, even though they are your best friends, they will still probably show up late, so maybe ask them 15 or 20 minutes to come early, but you can ask them to show up early and say, “Hey look, I just want some friendly faces around the room when other people start to show up.” That will help the room feel a little more welcome and comfortable.

Number three, what does everybody say when they show up and they’re one of the first to arrive? They say, “How can I help?” Well, be ready to give them a way that they can help. I have a list in my book of things they can do to help, but some of those are, help me with the coat check. “This is where people hang up their jackets, can you help them?” Help people get a drink. “John, will you help for the first 15 minutes, I’ll send people over to you to grab a drink.” You can ask somebody to be the photographer. “Tyler, can you take pictures tonight, I always forget to take pictures. Can you take photos?” Be ready to delegate duties to some of those first arrivals. That is a key thing and why? Because now they’ll feel invested in the success of your party.

Some people, by the way, won’t want to help with drinks. “Oh, I don’t… Not really.” That’s okay. Say, “No problem, thanks so much. Just hang out over here and make yourself comfortable, and I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Giving people duties and things that they can do at the beginning is helpful. And then number four, do your first icebreaker. When you have about four or five people, you’re going to lead this first round of icebreakers, mostly for you to practice. That first icebreaker is just for you to practice, because many people have never led an icebreaker before, never mind at their home. And so you’ll lead a icebreaker to help you exit the awkward zone when you have four or five people. That first icebreaker, by the way, you’re just going to go around the room, “Hey, everybody. Just say your name, say what you do for work,” and if you have enough time, then maybe you’ll do one more thing. But that’s how to exit the awkward zone and manage that first 10-20 minutes. Again, however, when you host a two-hour cocktail party, you will be shocked at how many people show up on time, compared to normal parties with no end time, when people show up 30, 45 minutes, even an hour late, very common.

Icebreakers: Purpose, Right Icebreaker, and Facilitation

Brett McKay: So let’s talk about these icebreakers ’cause I think a lot of people they hear icebreakers, they think summer camp, or they think some corporate retreat, and they’re like, “Ugh, I don’t like icebreakers.” So why do you incorporate ice breakers in your party, and how are they different from maybe the ones they might have done at some office retreat?

Nick Gray: I think icebreakers get a bad rep because a lot of people do them wrong. I hate though, “Say a fun fact about yourself.” or, “Two truths and a lie.” I think about icebreakers as green, yellow, red level of intensity or vulnerability, and many people will start with the red level, which is totally wrong. They’ll ask, “What was your worst first date. What was your first kiss?” or something like that. That’s a terrible icebreaker. That is terrible. I will start my parties with a green level icebreaker. Now, a green level icebreaker, an example is, what is one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast? That may sound silly or stupid, but I promise you having led thousands of icebreakers, this works 100% of the time, here’s why. It is easy to remember. It does not require a lot of thought. There is minimal judgment. And it ever so slightly expresses something about somebody’s personality. The answer is also generally very short. Now, some people don’t eat breakfast and they can say why they don’t eat breakfast, that’s fine. But the breakfast icebreaker is good at the beginning of a party when there’s not a lot of rapport built up, and you can just share.

For example, mine would be, “I like scrambled eggs, my secret ingredient is coconut oil, it really fluffens them up. Sometimes I’ll add spinach to them.” Now, note that what I said was, “What is one of your favorite breakfasts?” I didn’t say, “What is your absolute favorite thing to eat?” I just wanna know what’s one of your go-tos. Similarly, if you were to ask as an icebreaker later on, “What is your favorite book?” That’s not a good example. That’s definitive, it’s subjective, and it really will elicit judgment. People wanna know, “What’s the best book? I wanna sound smart. What’s my absolute favorite?” People freeze up. The way to modify that would be to say, “What is one of your favorite books? What is a book you have read recently?” Allow them to pick so they don’t feel like they’re going to be judged on their favorite.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. So the ice breakers, what are the purpose? Why do you do these in the first place? Why not just let people just start getting together and talking? Why facilitate this?

Nick Gray: Yeah, I’m sorry, I jumped in too much to the logistics. Let’s talk about the why. You gotta tell people why you’re doing the icebreakers, and the purpose is that it’s a conversational crutch, it’s an excuse to go up and talk to somebody new, but more importantly, it’s a survey of the room. I got tired of going to these events in New York, 20 people in the room, I don’t know who I need to talk to to help my business if I’m trying to network. You want people to say a little about themselves. Are you a parent? You probably wanna talk to other parents. You have a unique life situation. Are you working on a startup? Are you hiring? You probably wanna talk to other people that relate to that. An icebreaker serves as a little roll call around the room, to know who’s there, and to inspire some new connections and conversations. It also has a secret purpose. When you break the room for an icebreaker, you bring an end to existing conversations. Have you ever been at a party and you get trapped in conversation? After five minutes, you’re kind of done talking to this person, but you’re just not ready to say, “Okay, well, thank you very much. I think I’m ready to go meet some other people.”

Brett McKay: Yeah. No, that happened to me once. I went to an event and I got stuck talking to this person for the entire thing. And I wasn’t able to… And I should have been more assertive. Like, “Oh, I wanna go talk to other people,” but they just kept talking and talking and talking, and by that point, that was the only person I talked to.

Nick Gray: Dude, that happens to all of us. That happens to me even. And I was hosting an event here in New York City and I had to train a bunch of facilitators, and they said, “How do I leave the conversation? After I do the icebreaker, how do I leave?” And I said, “Well, I just say something like this, ‘Hey, thank you so much, it was really nice to meet you. I’m going to go mix around the room and mingle with some other people.’” And this guy followed up with me the next day, he said, “I never knew that you could say that. I thought that you just wait till the conversation dies and the other person leaves or something, I never knew that you could end a conversation like that.” That little thing, nobody really teaches us this stuff.

Brett McKay: But the icebreakers as the host, you’re kind of helping people with that, in the conversations they might be in.

Nick Gray: Exactly.

Brett McKay: You’re doing these every 30 minutes or so, is that right?

Nick Gray: Roughly every 25 minutes or so, you’re going to do two and a half icebreakers. So that first one, I call it the half one, that’s at about… Let’s say your party starts at 7:00, that’s a 7:10 or so, about 20 minutes later at 7:30, you’re going to do the full… The first big icebreaker with everybody, that’ll take five or seven minutes. About 35 or 40 minutes later, you’ll do your last icebreaker of the night. And that one, by the way, is your value-additive icebreaker. Should I talk about that one? And how that is… Yeah.

Brett McKay: Sure, yeah. And again, I think when you’re doing these, you’re having people stand in a circle and you’re just going around, all right, share your name and then answer the question about your favorite breakfast food. That’s kind of what it looks like.

Nick Gray: Yes. Yes.

Brett McKay: And you want them to be fast. You don’t wanna let people talk forever, and ever. Just like, “You gotta be done in 30 seconds.” You maybe even set that time limit for people.

Nick Gray: Dude, I’m so glad you mention this, because you need a sense of urgency when you’re running these. A good icebreaker is a fast icebreaker, and you need to be looking at everybody, thanking them, “Oh, thank you, John. Let’s go to Gina next.” You need to be directing the group.

Brett McKay: Yeah, keep the pace going.

Nick Gray: Keep the pace going, and yes, you have to have everybody stand up and get them in a circle. “Hey, everybody. Let’s all stand up in a circle real quick. I promise this won’t be awkward, we’re going to do this icebreaker to give you an excuse to meet somebody new. I found it’s so great to meet new people, and doing this party, that’s the reason why I brought you all together. Bear with me. Let’s go around the circle. Say your name, what you do for work. If you don’t wanna talk about work, then you can say how you spend your days or something, a hobby that you have.”

Party Harmonica

Brett McKay: And also, that’s what the harmonica is for, to get their attention. You mention the harmonica.

Nick Gray: I know, I mentioned the harmonica and I hesitate to bring it up, because I don’t want somebody to totally blow me off, but I have found that at a large event with 15, 17 people in my apartment, I was always yelling above the crowd. I turn the music down, I’m clanking a glass, I’m yelling, “Hey, everybody. Hey, quiet, quiet, quiet.” And I tried all these different things to get people to be quiet. And I don’t know how to play the harmonica, I don’t have a musical hair on my body, but I somehow had a harmonica and I just blow a little tone in the harmonica like a whistle but much softer, and that noise, which is a little calming, helps people to quiet down and to be like, “What is this?” It’s also playful and it’s silly. I am not going to talk anymore about the harmonica for fear of totally losing people, but I have… I will swear by it, it’s in my book, I have videos on my website on how to do it.

Brett McKay: It works.

Nick Gray: You gotta do it.

Value-Additive Icebreakers

Brett McKay: So you mentioned the value-add for that last icebreaker. What are you doing there for the value-add?

Nick Gray: So the value-add icebreaker, let me give the three questions, I guess I’ll start though and say the why. You want your last icebreaker for people to get smarter. You want them to get ideas or suggestions of things in town or stuff they wanna do, so that they leave your party feeling smarter. I don’t wanna know somebody’s worst job they ever had, that’s not value-add. A value-add icebreaker for me is one of these three, number one, what is the best piece of media, or one of the best pieces of media that you’ve consumed recently? That could be a podcast like the Art of Manliness, that could be a book that you read, it could be a movie you watched, that show you binged on Netflix. Just, what’s some good media that you’ve consumed?

That’s great. People love to get these recommendations, and they’re often trying to write them down, and they leave with all these good ideas. That’s number one. Another one that you could use is, what is one of your favorite purchases you’ve made over the last few months for $100 or less? That could be a kitchen gadget, it could be an object, or an experience. It could be a massage, it could be a tour, it could be a new blender thing you got. But people love this one as well, they love hearing these types of things. And then the last one that I like is, what is your favorite city or life hack for the town that we’re in? Say we’re in St. Louis, what’s your favorite dog park in St. Louis, local business you like to support? What’s your favorite little thing about this town that we might not know or that you’re just passionate about?

I do these icebreakers… By the way, for this last one, you’re going to wanna give people about a five-minute warning before you do it. “Hey, everybody, in five minutes, we’re going to do the last icebreaker of the night. The question will be… ” and you tell them the question. You say, “Grab another refill, use the restroom if you need to freshen up, we’ll do that last icebreaker in five minutes.” By the way, that’s yet another chance for people to end their conversations. I’m constantly at the party, looking to mix the room up, I wanna see movement in my parties.

Ending On a High Note

Brett McKay: Okay. So let’s talk… You’ve done the icebreaker, the party end time is coming near, how do you end a party, and why is it important that you end right on time? And what do you do with those people who, they can’t get the hint, they’re sort of lingering around?

Nick Gray: Let’s start with why. Why do you end the party? Because like we said, you wanna finish the party on a high note, you wanna bring finality, you wanna be the leader of your event, you don’t want it naturally just to fizzle out, you wanna sort of end it with authority and finish it up on a high note. How do you do that? Number one, by setting the expectations. In the invitations, in the RSVP, you’ll be listing a start time and the end time. When people know that there’s the end time, they know they have an idea. You wouldn’t surprise people to say, “Hey, show up to my party at 7:00,” and then suddenly you say that it’s ending. They’ll know when you list the start time and the end time. Now, how do you end the party? 15 minutes before the party is scheduled to finish, I’ll make a little announcement, I’ll turn down the music, I’ll say, “Hey everybody. Party is scheduled to end in about 15 minutes, I guess this is last call, so make a last drink, grab some snacks if you want, say hey to somebody new or start to wrap up your conversations. We’ll wind down in about 15 minutes.” I then will turn the music back up.

And when the party is scheduled to end, I’ll turn the music down, I’ll turn the lights up, and I’ll make an announcement, “Thank you guys so much for coming. The reason that I hosted this party was to bring people together. I’ve met so many interesting people. It’s hard to stay in touch. I hope you got a chance to meet somebody new. Thank you everybody, and I’ll see you next time.” Then I kinda just start to clean up and start to tidy and people get the hint and start to make their way out. Now, what you need to be aware of is sometimes someone will be there who hasn’t had a chance to talk to you or they haven’t seen you in years, and they’ll say something, “Brett, oh my God, I didn’t get to talk to you all night. Dude, let’s catch up. Let’s sit down.” And what I will say to them because I’m kind of strict on my stuff, I’ll say, “Dude, I am so glad you came tonight. I would love to catch up. I haven’t seen you in forever. I wanna stick to my goals with this and I need to wrap up tonight, can I call you tomorrow? Because I wanna stay in touch and I wanna see what’s up and what’s new with you, may I call you tomorrow?” That will get the person to feel seen, and they will not feel like you’re being dismissive of them.

One final thing you can do is, if people are really having a great time, you can plan ahead with a venue that they can go to next. You can give them a name of a local restaurant, or a bar or something, if you live in a town where those things are nearby. “Hey everybody, thank you so much for coming tonight. Folks are going to keep going next door at Beatnik. So if you want, meet us down at the bar there, I’m going to start to wrap up here ’cause I got my goals to finish on time, but if you wanna keep chatting, I encourage you to go down to Beatnik and you can have a drink or a slice of pizza down there.” That’s generally how you wrap up the party.

The Day-After Thank You Message

Brett McKay: So you’ve successfully had your first party, any follow-up you need to do after the party is over? Like the next day, or the next few days?

Nick Gray: I send a simple thank you the next morning where I include the group photo, again, just keeping it sort of top-of-mind if people wanna follow-up or if they forget anything. I would note that if you’re using these parties to try to build relationships, you really only have about 16 hours after your party ends to try to create and deepen that next connection. So if I’m trying to connect with somebody, I will invite them to my party, and that day at the party itself, I’ll say, “Hey, I’d love to get to know you better, can we schedule a coffee for some time later this week, or next week?” Or the next morning, “John, thank you for coming last night. I’d love to chat more. Can I call you later today or tomorrow?” That is the time when you would make that ask.

Brett McKay: Right. Within 16 hours. If you wait too long, it gets cold, it gets stale.

Nick Gray: Yeah. That’s not 17 hours. I just say the half-life of what somebody owes you after a party, life goes on, and if you expect to follow-up with somebody one week after your party, and them to be ultra responsive to your invitation, I haven’t found that. I found that the next morning is a good time for me to follow up, next afternoon is fine, but if I wait two days afterwards, life goes on. Folks are busy, they have work, family, friends.

Brett McKay: And I imagine the next thing too besides that follow-up, is start planning your next party?

Nick Gray: If possible. If you are excited and many people are, keep the momentum going and pick your next party date. Even if it’s 6-8 weeks out, get that date on your calendar. Why? Because now you’ll have it when you meet somebody interesting. You’re like, “Hey, I’m hosting a cocktail party in six weeks. Once I get everything together, can I send you the info?” And this is the thing, you go through life, and you just start collecting interesting people that you get to bring into your world.

Conclusion

Brett McKay: Well, Nick, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?

Nick Gray: The name of my book is The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. It’s available wherever books are sold online. I recorded the audio book, I’m very proud of it. And then I have a ton of resources on this website, I’ll try to include notes in the show notes. I’m very big on social media, I love posting stories and funny videos, so you can check me out. I’m @nickgraynews, N-I-C-K-G-R-A-Y, news, N-E-W-S. And I have a really cool friends newsletter. Oh, and if you wanna download an executive summary of my book, a checklist of 17 things you can do before your next party, sign up for our newsletter, nickgray.net, and you’ll get that PDF download right away.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Nick, great. Thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Nick Gray: Thanks. More parties.

Brett McKay: Let’s do it. My guest here is Nick Gray, he’s the author of the book The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. It’s available on amazon.com. You can find more information about his work at his website, nickgray.net. Also check out our show notes at aom.is/party where you can find links to resources, we delve deeper into this topic.

About the author

Nick Gray is the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. He’s been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and in a popular TEDx talk. He sold his last company Museum Hack in 2019. Today he’s an expert on networking events, small parties, and creating relationships. Read more about Nick Gray here.

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