- Posted by Action Catalyst
- On December 8, 2022
- 0 Comments
- author, Business, entrepreneur, networking, party
In this special bonus episode, entrepreneur and author Nick Gray leads you through the advice in his book, “The 2-Hour Cocktail Party”, including the benefits of hosting, both personal and professional, how to make everyone feel included and even get help along the way, how to be the perfect guest, the two magic words for meeting new people at an event, the best days to throw a shindig, and a lot more.
He helped grow his family business, Flight Display Systems, making avionics equipment for private jets and military aircraft, as well as did web design for Texas-based companies, and started a web hosting company called vs3 Web Services.
Nick attended Wake Forest University in North Carolina and was a Presidential Scholar in Entrepreneurship and member of the Lilting Banshees Comedy Troupe, where he also worked on BuddyGopher, a blog for away messages on AOL Instant Messenger.
Nick lives in Austin, Texas, is a paddleboarder and swimmer, and produces the Friends Newsletter.
Learn more at NickGray.net.
The Action Catalyst is presented by the Southwestern Family of Companies. With each episode, the podcast features some of the nation’s top thought leaders and experts, sharing meaningful tips and advice. Learn more at TheActionCatalyst.com, subscribe below or wherever you listen to podcasts, and be sure to leave a rating and review!
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(Transcribed using A.I. / May include errors):
Host: Today we are pleased to be joined by Nick Gray, author of The Two Hour Cocktail Party. The only guide you’ll ever need to hosting the Perfect Networking Event, and a surprisingly quick read.
Nick Gray: That’s the highest compliment when somebody says A fast and a quick read, and I’m like, yeah, this isn’t Rocket science. How to host a good networking event, how to host a happy hour. It’s easy.
Host: Give us a bit of your background.
Nick Gray: So I grew up very middle class in Dallas and in North Georgia. I went to school in North Carolina, uh, but I started making webpages when I was young, and then I started a web hosting business when I was in high school.
And I got really lucky with that. And after college, my dad, who, that’s where I got the entrepreneurial nature from, he was starting a business in the basement of our house called Flight Display Systems. They made that map that shows you where the plane is flying across the country, and he made that for.
For small planes, right? So that map existed, but if you had a small plane and you wanted that, you had to buy the same one that the airlines and Boeing bought. And over the next couple years, we built it up to about 70 employees. And yeah, we sold that to a private equity company in 2014. I’d actually left the business a year.
Before selling it to start and kind of go off on my own, I started my next business, which was called a museum hack, and that’s where we did those Renegade museum tours.
Host: I feel like “Renegade Museum tours” is going to be a new phrase for a lot of us.
Nick Gray: Renegade museum tours mean that I would hire people like standup comedians and Broadway actors to lead the tours science teachers.
Imagine like the coolest science teacher you ever had in middle school. I would hire them to be the museum tour guide and I would teach them about art and the museum. They worked for me, not the museum. So they would tell you the juicy gossip and the back stories about the. We started it for the tourists, right?
They’re gonna go to the museum one out of a sense of obligation, but we wanna give ’em a fun experience. And then where we made our money, where we turned it into a multimillion dollar business, was by taking that fun family activity and turning it into like a corporate team building experience. It was a really cool experience.
Host: But how does that make you a party authority?
Nick Gray: authority? Right? How does it make you a party expert? Well, I launched that last business museum hack on the back of this network of acquaintances and loose connections and weak ties I’m talking about and trying to encourage people to think about your network of acquaintances.
Many of us maybe have a couple close friends. 15% of males do not even have one close friend. We’re in a friendship recession. Most American adults haven’t made a new friend in three years, and so I’m on this mission with my book to think about and help people say, Hey, how could your life be different if you had more acquaintances?
Because acquaintances can help you refer customers for your. Acquaintances can turn into friends and you can build big relationships. I got to be an expert by hosting hundreds of parties because when I moved to New York, I was not social. I did not know how to meet people or talk to people. I would go to these networking events that were terrible.
I just didn’t have a lot of success. So instead, I decided to bring the party to me and start to figure out how I could host my own. I wrote this book really for the first time host, for the person who doesn’t have experience hosting. My goal is to truly inspire a new generation of hosts, cuz I think many people never host or they only host for special life moments like a birthday, a wedding, something like that.
I’m trying to say, look, the biggest benefits for you and your business can come when you can make hosting a habit.
Host: Introverts will recognize the value here, but some of our more extroverted listeners may say, I don’t need this. What do you say to them?
Nick Gray: I talked to a guy last night, his name is Angelo. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and Angelo sent me a text during his party, um, he said, look, we got 20 people here.
They seem to be socializing enough. Everybody’s talking, do I need to run an icebreaker? That’s what most people think. Well, everybody’s talking. Why do I need to add structure? To the party. I said, Angelo, you need to do it. I don’t have time now. You don’t have time to explain, but just trust me. Do it and I’ll tell you why later.
And he did it and he said, oh my God, you were so right. Running an icebreaker helped to shuffle the room and mix people up. So one of the things that that common host, people who host already say, I don’t need to add structure. I wanna be the cool host. I just wanna be chill. Well, when you run an icebreaker, it does two things.
Number one, it helps break up your existing conversations. Have you ever been at a party and you get trapped? In a conversation, you’re kind of ready to be done with it. Well, when you do an icebreaker, it gives you an excuse to break up the room and mix it up. Icebreakers also help for everybody at the party to kind of signal and say, who’s there, so you can go up and talk to somebody new.
That’s the whole purpose of my party formula, is to encourage as many little connections as possible.
Host: We’re talking a lot about having structure to the party is spontaneity over.
Nick Gray: No, I love spontaneity, especially for advanced hosts, right? See, and an easy way to remember what goes into the party formula is to think about my name.
My name is Nick. It’s spelled N I C k. The N stands for name tags. Every one of my parties always has name tags. When you use name tags, it shows that there’s no clicks at your party. Everybody’s on the same level. It’s a safe space to go up and start new conversations, and so the name tags really help to the spirit of having new conversations.
That’s what I’m obsessed with.
Host: I am assuming the other three letters in your name are part of the acronym also?
Nick Gray: the I stands for icebreakers, and what you would do is you’d circle everybody up, maybe give ’em a five minute warning. Hey everybody, in five minutes we’re gonna do a round of icebreakers. By the way, that gives them an excuse to end the conversations.
Because again, we want a lot of starting and stopping of new conversations. You’ll circle everybody up and say, all right, everybody, we’re gonna just go around the room real quick. Say your name, say what you do for work. If you don’t wanna talk about work, you can say a hobby that you do, and then say the icebreaker.
And so that’s the last one, right? So all of them have name what you do for work, and then the icebreaker question at the beginning of a party. There’s not. People aren’t ready to be vulnerable. They’re not ready to share. Please keep in mind a good icebreaker is a fast icebreaker. It’s not a brain teaser.
It’s why I don’t like the question of what’s your favorite book that’s definitive. It might elicit judgment. People are like, oh my God, what are they gonna say? What can I think to sound the smartest? It’s hard for people. You put them on the. Now about an hour later at your party, that’s when I suggest doing an advanced icebreaker.
The Advanced icebreaker. The purpose is to add value to the room. We’re gonna ask you what’s the best piece of media. That you’ve consumed recently. It could be a podcast like this, a movie or a TV show you binge watched on Netflix because everybody’s gonna go around the room and give good recommendations in a peer group, a group of neighbors, or people in your community.
Sharing those recommendations is so powerful cuz everybody gets ideas of new stuff that they might wanna watch, read, or listen to, and it will make your party seem like a gathering of very smart people. That’s what I love.
Host: So what makes two hours the sweet spot?
Nick Gray: I think two hours is great because I suggest doing my parties on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday nights only.
Why is that the number one fear for a new host is that nobody will show up or worse. Only two or three people will show up and it’ll be awkward. So I tell people, only host your parties on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights, cuz they’re not socially competitive nights. Two hours shows them this isn’t a crazy drinking bender.
Wild rag party in and out. It’s an efficient social gathering. Two hours also helps to get people to show up on time. Always list the start time and the end time. It gives people an idea of what to expect, and it encourages more people to show up when it’s only two hours. They’re like, oh, this is easy. I can do this.
Host: So now we know how to throw the perfect party, but how can we be a perfect guest at other people’s parties?
Nick Gray: A pro tip that I have is if you’re truly looking to build a relationship with the host, you know, a host is pretty busy at the party. Number one, you could ask the host, Hey. Do you want me to help people serve drinks as they arrive?
You could ask the host, say, Hey, would you like if I just took some photographs here at the party, just some like candid, fun photos. I could take a group photo as well. I’ll send ’em to you later that night. Oftentimes, the host forgets to take photos during their own party, and yet they can be a really positive, happy memory during the party.
You can help by tidying up. Oftentimes there’s party shrapnel, there’s empty cups, there’s beer bottles, there’s cans, there’s plates, there’s just garbage that accumulates. You can help the host by doing that to sort of, um, tidy up. You can help create new conversations and merge groups. If you notice somebody that’s not included, bring ’em over.
Say, Hey, please come on over. Here’s what we’re talking about, by the way, for a guest, one of the. Things that you can do is when you join a group, remember these two words. If you walk up to a group and you wanna join it, simply say, please continue. Don’t make them feel like they have to go around and everybody introduce themselves.
Just join the group. Say, please continue. Listen, and when it makes sense to naturally join the conversation and introduce yourself, you can do that.
Host: Of course, we have to ask, what’s the best party that you have ever thrown?
Nick Gray: I hesitate to share this because it’s not helpful for me to share the big, crazy parties that I host.
But I’ll tell you what I did anyway, last year for my 40th birthday, I rented out America’s largest, uh, indoor water park for all my friends, and I invited about 40 of my friends and we all just rode water slides all morning. It was a lot of fun, but the next day we were all like limping and hurt. It was pretty funny.
So where can listeners find the. I can find the book wherever books are sold online, and you can use these tips and techniques to make any social gathering better.
Host: Thanks for taking the time today.
Nick Gray: Thanks for having me.