Read the book and email me when you pick your party date! Join these 20 others from April!

Creating Community Connections: Tips For Your Next Gathering

Last updated: March 27, 2024

Post-COVID, we’re hungry for connection. But getting back out to socialize is awkward and uncomfortable for many.

Jennifer, a natural networker, said that my book gives people a way to make friends and build relationships in a fun way.

Plus, you can do it in only two hours with an intimate group of about 15 people.

Doesn’t that sound better than a huge event where you don’t really meet anyone?

From this article, you’ll learn:

  • Why intimate gatherings are better than large galas
  • How to invite people you’ve never met (but want to know)
  • The importance of icebreakers
Why you should listen to me: My name is Nick Gray. I’ve hosted hundreds of parties all over the world. Every event that I host follows a similar formula, which I’ll teach you here. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties.

Meet Denise and Jennifer

Denise and Jennifer are friends and business partners. They live in a small coastal town in Mississippi called Pass Christian.

denise jen flipped
Denise and Jennifer with Nick’s book at the back

Denise recently moved to Pass Christian. She runs a gallery of her work dedicated to her first art teacher and relative, her late Aunt Catherine.

Denise outside her gallery.

Jennifer is a newbie to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She’s an entrepreneur, small business advisor, and owner of J. Shea Enterprises LLC. She’s a business developer and she also works at the Bay St. Louis Fleurty Girl location.

IMG 0385
Jennifer is also a sales rep for Denise Hopkins Fine Art.

Event They Hosted

Denise and Jennifer’s event took place at Denise Hopkins Fine Art Gallery. They invited 22 people and 17 guests came. Those are great numbers!

Of the 17 attendees, only 4 people were complete strangers when they walked through the door. When I asked about her thoughts on the number of guests, Jennifer said, “It doesn’t have to be a gala with 500 people. Little waves make big changes over time.”

The goal of the party was to create connections within their coastal community because Jennifer loves to stitch people together. She calls it “making a networking croquet.”

Everyone was a business or community leader with the desire to be a resource to each other. She didn’t see a lot of people stick together. They were mixing and mingling, moving around a lot.

Denise and Jennifer found that the guests were coordinating future opportunities to collaborate together during the party.

Jennifer wasn’t surprised:

“It was all in the formula.”

IMG 4912 1
Denise and Jennifer’s Group Photo

Lessons Learned

After speaking with Jennifer, she had a lot of advice to share with future party hosts.

Q: Who did you invite and, since you didn’t know some people beforehand, how did you invite them?

Everyone we invited was a business or community leader that Denise and I found through magazines, newspapers, and our connections. There were people I knew that Denise didn’t and vice versa, which made for an interesting group! The invites were very strategic – we invited people along the Gulf Coast from Biloxi to Kiln because they could be a resource to each other.

A few people we invited didn’t come, but they already asked to come to the next one.

Q: What icebreakers did you use?

A: We used three icebreakers from The 2-Hour Cocktail Party book:

  1. What’s your go-to breakfast?
  2. What was the first job you ever got paid for?
  3. What’s a great piece of media you’ve consumed recently?

I chose those icebreakers strategically. The first question was pretty general to open people up. The next one played on that nostalgia, and the last one empowered them to teach us something. I think that worked really well.

I also made sure to announce the question 5 minutes before we did the icebreakers, which gave people time to think of their answers.

Q: What advice do you have for other people?

AA: Follow Nick’s book! I was born to give people faith in human beings and I read this book thinking, “That’s what this is.” Especially after COVID, it made us anti-social. Getting back out to socialize is awkward and uncomfortable, but Nick was very complete with how to do it successfully.

Besides that, just be willing to pivot. Nick’s book says to do 2 of the same icebreakers – one when a few people have arrived and another about 30 minutes later. However, almost everyone arrived on time, so we ended up doing 3 different icebreaker questions.

Q: Who do you want to invite next time?

A: Many! We already have another list of community leaders we want to invite to our next gathering. Plus, we asked our guests in a follow-up email who they wanted us to invite to the next one.

Nailing the Guest Bios

Besides including a little about each guest, they also included a line at the end of each bio to encourage easy, quick connections. Here are 5 examples:

  • Talk to Denise about poetry
  • Talk to Jennifer about miracles
  • Ask Janet about the bacon bit pig race
  • Ask Angela about her books
  • Ask Katrina about the history of Starbucks drink sizes

Denise and Jennifer did a great job with their Guest Bios and guests loved them too. It got people thinking about how these new connections could help them and their businesses.

As a new host, you may think no one will read the guest bios. But they do!

“I got the most compliments about the guest bios. People loved them! THEY LOVED THEM!!”

Wording the Invites

Since they didn’t know everyone they were inviting, they kept the RSVP page general.

But they made sure to personalize it by acknowledging each guest’s contribution to their local community. Here’s what that looked like:

Hey there! Because of your unique contribution to the Gulf Coast community, you got our attention! Denise Hopkins Fine Art Gallery is hosting a casual cocktail party for a small group of community professionals and leaders, and we’d love to mingle with YOU.

This line from their RSVSP page was especially strong: “We’re keeping the event small to ensure meaningful connections so please let us know if you can make it.”

Embracing the Icebreakers

Especially for a group of leaders, the icebreaker questions are fun. The 3 that Denise and Jennifer asked were:

  1. What’s your go-to breakfast?
  2. What was the first job you ever got paid for?
  3. What’s a great piece of media you’ve consumed recently?

Jennifer said that the icebreakers they chose broke the ice just enough. They weren’t too personal or controversial, just enough to take the ego mask off.

Following Up

I highly suggest you send a follow-up email to thank your guests for attending. In Denise and Jennifer’s case, they included the media that people suggested from one of their icebreakers – among bands, books, and TV shows, Ted Lasso seemed to be the most recommended.

They also asked their guests in the follow-up email who they wanted to invite to the next party. 2 people responded, so they have even more connections to make in the future!


Denise and Jennifer hosted a fantastic party for their local community. By bringing business leaders together, they forged new connections in a fun and unique way.

Here are a couple of takeaways as you plan your next gathering:

  • Involve your local community. Michele Lee with Dragonfly In The Bay contributed a charcuterie board for guests to snack on as well as jams/jellies for the door prize.
  • Your party doesn’t have to be a gala with 500 people. Little waves make big changes over time.

Shop Denise’s art on her website here.

Connect with Jennifer on her LinkedIn here.

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.

Leave a comment on this article here.

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.

What you should do next...

1. Subscribe to my free Friends Newsletter.
You'll get exclusive life hacks, business research, top tech gadgets and see new productivity tips. See why 12,000 people say it is one of their favorite emails.

2. Get your 2-page Party Checklist.
With over 19 things you can do right now to improve your next party. Plus an Executive Summary of the key lessons inside my book. Get the PDF now.

3. Buy The 2-Hour Cocktail Party on Amazon or Audible.
Look at the reviews: 300+ people can't be wrong. This is my book that I've worked on for the past 5 years and hosted hundreds of events with. It is the single-best resource that is PACKED with tactical tips and the exact scripts I use.

Leave a Comment