Episode: 487 |
Nick Gray:
Author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party:


Nick Gray

Author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party

Show Notes

Nick Gray is an entrepreneur and the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. He is the founder of Museum Hack. Nick started a web hosting company called vs3 Web Services in high school, and he has sold two multi-million dollar businesses. In this episode, Nick talks about his new book and shares the secret to the success of the 2-hour cocktail party. To learn more about Nick and his businesses, check out  the following links.

How to Host a Party Website

The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: Website

The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: Amazon

How to Host a Clothing Swap

How to Plan a Networking Event

How to Host a Happy Hour

My Parents Hosted a Party: Here’s What They Learned

Mocktail Party: How to Host When You Don’t Drink Alcohol

If I Had $10 Million Dollars, How Would I Live Differently?

Nick Gray’s personal website

Nick Gray’s blog


Key points include:

  • 06:05: The NICK formula
  • 18:08: Icebreakers
  • 27:07: Cocktails and concluding the evening


One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:




Will Bachman, Nick Gray


Will Bachman  00:01

Hello, and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional. I’m your host will Bachman and I am thrilled to be here today with Nick gray. Who is number one, the founder of this is a company that I love called museum hacks. He’s now sold it. We’ll talk about that a bit. And that’s absolutely awesome. I totally recommend museum hacks. And he’s also the author of the two hour cocktail party, how to build big relationships with small gatherings. Nick, welcome to the show.


Nick Gray  00:38

Thank you. I’m so happy to be here and to speak about sorry, Museum Hack in my book. I think it’s so cool. You heard about Museum Hack that makes me so happy.


Will Bachman  00:46

Oh, man. And we got to get into we’ll get into that. But I’m gonna talk about your book first. And then we’ll talk about museum hacks. Because I’m really curious that the story there. So let’s start with you recommend the best nights to schedule a party are not Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday is not a good day, because that’s people’s. But Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Tell me about that. And tell me about how you got into scheduling and organizing cocktail parties.


Nick Gray  01:15

Yeah, it’s totally wild. The best day to host a party is probably not the day that you think. Because I’m gonna put you on blast here for a second. I’m gonna do a pop quiz to you. All right, because a lot of my money. Okay, good. A lot of my work. I’m working with people to try to get them to host their first party, because most people don’t host parties. So they do but it’s for a birthday party or something. What do you think, is the number one fear that somebody has before they host a party?


Will Bachman  01:46

No one will show up. That’s my fear.


Nick Gray  01:49

Right? That nobody else show up? That’s, that’s exactly right. That’s everybody’s fear. Sure. And when you host a party, here’s the secret. Here’s the hack. When you host a party on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night, what I call non red level days. Those days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night are not socially competitive, people’s calendars are more free, they’re more flexible. And you also get to end the party early because it’s a school night, right? It’s a work night. And so that’s part of one of my secrets as well that these parties are only two hours long.


Will Bachman  02:25

That’s right. So I’m totally on board with that. And I felt sorry for your acquaintance you talked about in the book, who their first party they scheduled for the first cocktail party, they tried to organize it schedule it for New Year’s Eve. That’s yeah. Like I’m gonna go learn how to play football. And I think I’ll start by, you know, playing in the Super Bowl.


Nick Gray  02:47

Isn’t that crazy? And and, you know, some people do that, because they’re talking to their significant other and they say, You know what, honey, we should host a fourth of July party this year. We’ve never hosted a party before. But we’re gonna host a fort and like, you’re you’re trying to go right from high school football straight to the Super Bowl. That’s crazy.


Will Bachman  03:07

Yeah. So baby steps. Try maybe a June 4 party, right? Yes, yes. I’m not even a May the fourth party because you know, that’s like a whole Star Wars thing going on. But like June 4, no one does


Nick Gray  03:19

June 4. That’s funny. May the fourth would be good. It’s right next to Cinco de Maya. Yeah,


Will Bachman  03:24

so Okay, so let’s talk a bit about, you know, the obvious question I got to start with here is, you wrote this whole book, I don’t know, when you started writing a book. But I mean, you really kind of launch this into a bit of a challenging little up wins market here with COVID. Yeah, and what is your take? We’re gonna get into the, you know, mechanics of parties, and why to do parties. But let’s start with the thing people are probably on people’s minds is, how are you handling COVID giving people a COVID test or something, you know, parties in the area of COVID?


Nick Gray  03:59

Great question. Well, COVID is definitely real. And it is something that should be on people’s radar, but I’m leaving it up to everybody to make their own individual decisions about how they want to handle that. I think that yeah, I think that’s what I’m gonna say about it, because some people are very sensitive and, and very sort of careful. And they prefer to host a patio outside in their backyard or sort of on a patio, other people like myself, I’m vaccinated and boosted, I got all that stuff. And I’m happy to gather indoors and have my friends open. But maybe I will crack a window or leave a fan on to make sure that there’s ventilation. Suffice to say, the bigger problem is that we’ve forgotten how to gather and that we’re awkward. And that post COVID People are just a little awkward and we’re more lonely, and we’ve forgotten how to make new friends. And that’s what I hope my book can really help people with. You know, nobody teaches adults how to make new friends. That’s crazy. Is it?


Will Bachman  05:01

You know, I think you’re right. In fact, a lot of adults, you know, people I’ve spoken with tons on this show, and just in personal conversations, I think people, you know, people, particularly as people get into middle age, they start realizing, they spent so much time on either their career focusing on family that they’re not spending as much time and you know, I’ve lost touch with a lot of their friends, and the number of friendships is declines. It’s a it’s a problem for a lot of people. So, let’s say so, you know, the audience of this show is primarily independent management consultants, some people might be thinking about, how do I organize an event that might, you know, be good for business development, or might connect me with, with clients, or, you know, just other potential, you know, useful connections. But let’s get into some of the basics of you want to organize a party, for whatever reason, talk me through your sort of three week checklist and preparing and just how to go about doing it. And you have a whole kind of methodology that you’ve tested in your book?


Nick Gray  06:05

Yes, yes. And I know that your listeners are business focus their career, business owners and executives. So I’m gonna give them an easy way, because they’re busy. And I’ll tell them the easy way how to remember what my party formula is all about. And that’s the Nick party formula like N I C, K. N. stands for name tags, you always got to use name tags. I can talk more about that. But I feel pretty strongly about name tags are necessary.


Will Bachman  06:34

I am a fan. I’m a huge fan of name tags. And


Nick Gray  06:38

oh, yes, yes. Yeah. Can we talk about it? Why? Why do you like name tags.


Will Bachman  06:41

So I historically was not like a big going to party kind of person organizing party. But my wife is much more social. And roughly 20 years ago, we started, you know, organizing gatherings. So personally, on our personal side, we organize gatherings. Yeah. And then for Umbrex, we organize a lot of events, organize in person mixers throughout the world, we do that 40 a year. Name Tags are huge, because they help. They just sort of take a lot of the pressure off. Particularly if you already kind of know the person that you forgot their name. It’s super embarrassing. It helps reinforce it, you see their name, you can say their name, people love to hear their name. And yes, I will put in the show notes. Yeah, we have, we can have competing ones. If you have a favorite name tag, Nick, I can put in, but I have a favorite name tag. And people always say, Oh, I love this name tag, it’s a con you can get that has this little tiny magnet that puts in behind your shirt. So you don’t have to put a pin through your shirt. And you’d also don’t have this stupid looking thing over your neck right like this is and it’s not like a crappy little thing that sticks on your shirt. So this is the nametag to get my friends and you got to print them out ahead of time, not handwritten. So print them out and make the first name a big, big font, and last name a tiny little font. That is my nametag.


Nick Gray  08:01

I can tell that you are an expert because you have an opinion and a strong opinion.


Will Bachman  08:07

I’m a net connoisseur, my name tag connoisseur. So


Nick Gray  08:14

that is a pro move. I love this. All right. I have a question. I know the podcasts about me. What can you tell me about those events? You host for Umbrex? You said your host dozens of them?


Will Bachman  08:26

Yeah, we’ve hosted hundreds of events. So sure, I’m happy to share. So we do. So we’ll do Umbrex events, for members of our community will also invite some folks who have not yet joined, it’s free to join Umbrex It’s for independent management consultants. And we’ll organize an event in Atlanta, DC, London, Munich, Berlin, Paris all over the place, you know, San Francisco, LA. And we typically for those will invite people who are in the local area, at least our experience, which is different than than what you’re recommending, because of our unique crowd, is historically we’ve usually done them on a Thursday night. Usually, yes, because a lot of our crowd is traveling Monday through Thursday, at least historically pre COVID. Right. And then Friday and Saturday they want to spend with their family because maybe they’re on the road but Thursday seemed to be the best night for my you know, my kind of people, right? So we do it Thursday night for New York, which is our biggest concentration of folks. We will usually rent a space. Wow, you know, we’ll rent a space. Recently we did a nice rooftop event we’ve done that was pretty awesome. Actually when nice rooftop people you know, open air people feel more comfortable. And then we normally will not get professional caterers but we sort of do do it yourself catering. So we hire someone who just can, you know, be like a bartender will go out and go to Uh, you know, Costco or some Italian place and buy a bunch of just hors d’oeuvres I’m a big, you know, agree with you on not serving dinner, but just you want to pet people around. So the big point is, I totally agree with you, you want to have people moving around not seated at a dinner, because that’s super boring. So particularly a larger event, you want people to circulate. So we always try to make that feasible. And we definitely do name tags, in smaller cities, what we do is, if you’re only going to have like six 810, people, it doesn’t really make sense to rent a whole space. So we’ll either try to get a private room, at a restaurant, or what often works well, as well, we’ll try to get like a high table, at a like a wine bar kind of place, it’s not loud. So we really try to focus on finding one place that’s going to be, you know, quiet enough. And if it’s a high table, where there’s some hors d’oeuvres, people can still stand around and mingle and, you know, talk to each other. So that’s sort of the most practical thing we found for smaller cities, because you know, your book, you recommend doing it at your house, which I totally love. But if you’re going to try to organize an event in DC, or Chicago or San Francisco, you know, live there, that’s, that’s one way to do it. Right.


Nick Gray  11:15

Right. And you’ve got a good system and a good process, I’m not going to tell you definitely how to change what what do you know that works. But what I hope that both you and I can share is that for the average listener listening to this, you’ve seen how it can help grow a business by hosting these events. Now, just imagine what it can do for you personally, when you host an event for your friends and neighbors, even for your colleagues. This is an easy formula. So you are like the advanced reader. This book was not written for you. But I’m willing to bet that most listeners do not host as many events as you do,


Will Bachman  11:56

and more people should, because it’s a lot of fun. Yeah. And they really should write Yes, it’s, and it’s a bit of a muscle, I’d say don’t start with the big thing. But we started, you know, you mentioned New Years, as we actually started doing a New Year’s Eve party, my wife and I, when after our son was born, and we’re not going to be able to go out because he’s nine months old. Right? And and this was back in 2005. So we said we organized a small gathering for New Year’s Eve, when people came, it was nice, because it was other families with kids, young kids, that didn’t also go out right, no babysitter on New Year’s Eve. And then the next year was a little bigger. And then like the following year, we started renting a space. And we did it for about 12 years. And you know, there were usually 100 plus people on New Year’s Eve, but you want to work your way up to something like that, and not just say, the very first time because there’s all these little things like, what kind of food do you serve? And how do you keep it fun? And how do you have some, you know, things for people to do and make it exciting. So anyway, over to you. You’re the expert, lead us on? We only got through.


Nick Gray  13:06

Yes, yes, yes. Sorry. I’ll go back to the forums. I’m so glad that you mentioned that hosting is like a muscle, because I think you nailed it. And you are you clearly know, I’m focused on. And I’m trying to reach people who really don’t have any hosting muscles who actually are a little bit shy or anxious about the idea for hosting. Because one thing that I’ve found and the reason I wrote this book was I got so many benefits from hosting these little gatherings from bringing people together, it helped me grow my network, get more clients and even launch my business. And the secret is anyone can do it. All it takes is you know, a two hour cocktail party. Now, you may be listening to all of Will’s events and saying I’m ready to do what he’s done. For Umbrex for my business, my suggestion is yes, absolutely do that. But start by hosting something small for your friends and neighbors. So you can build that muscle that he talked about. Yeah, what do you think about that?


Will Bachman  14:06

No, I totally agree. Just, you know, start start small. And I might actually argue, start even smaller than the new suggests we can get into your suggestions of doing something in your living room in your house. I mean, an even smaller step would be to say, hey, let’s, you know, pick a breakfast place and organize a four or five people to meet up for breakfast or something. So you could start even smaller and just get the mechanics of sending out events, sending out invitations and curating groups. And just like the mechanics of letting people know, okay, you’re confirmed or not and, but, but let’s get into your recommendation. I totally am supportive of this. And, and I’m okay, before we before we get it, I did I do gotta ask you one question, though. You know, people write books for all different reasons. What, you know, it’s not a clear I mean, what What’s What’s the benefit for you of being known as like the party guy? Like, you know, some people write books so they can get be an expert on a space and then get hired to be assaulted or something. So, I mean, people aren’t gonna be hiring you probably as a party consultant, I guess. Right. So what? What drove you to put this I mean, there’s a lot of work this books pretty good. And a lot of work went into it all these checklists and nice drawings and comics and, and quotes and stuff. So what what was, what’s the story behind it?


Nick Gray  15:26

Yeah, I Yeah. What is the story, right? I spent over $40,000, producing this book, and writing it and working on it over five years, and countless hours and weeks and months. Why am I doing this? Well, to tell you why. The short answer is, is maybe I’m just like, I’m crazy. I don’t know exactly why I’m doing it. I’m not trying to sell anything. But in order to talk about why I’m doing it, I have to go back to Museum Hack, and just make that as a reference, because my last company was called Museum Hack, and you had heard about it through your wife. But Museum Hack for those who don’t know, which is most people Museum Hack did renegade museum tours. That means that we did non traditional live museum experiences. And here’s what made them renegade was that instead of going with a regular museum tour guide, you would go with one of my tour guides, who was a stand up comedian, or a Broadway actor, or a science teacher, somebody very different, that would tell you the juicy gossip and the back stories. And this became a multimillion dollar business, we had about 50 employees. And we worked in major museums all across America. So I don’t say that to brag, but just to put it into scale, that it turned into a mega million dollar business. I mean, for me, it was a nice little thing, right. But here’s the important part. It didn’t start because I wanted it to be a business. It started from a passion project, it started as a hobby. And for two years, for fun for free. For my friends, I was just giving museum tours, because I wanted to be the best museum tour guide and the whole world. And out of that passion, and out of that excitement, somehow a business formed. Similarly, I don’t know if you can see the thread I’m trying to draw. Similarly, I made this book because I’m so passionate about it. And I saw how many benefits I got. And now I’m obsessed with trying to get 500 people to host a party to read my book to use my formula to make new friends. And so that’s what I’m focused on. I’m trying to get to that 500. And maybe some business will come out of it. Maybe we’ll start a conference. Who knows. But for now, I’m just focused. It’s just my passion. It’s my hobby. And that’s what I’m obsessed with.


Will Bachman  17:48

All right, we need a few listeners to organize a party so Nick can hit his number. Yeah, no. Please,


Nick Gray  17:56

please, please send me an email and send me your group photo afterwards. I’m upset.


Will Bachman  18:00

Alright, so we go through in which is name tags, which we’ve covered in depth, okay. We didn’t ever get the eyes. So let’s go on to I know,


Nick Gray  18:08

sorry. I stands for icebreakers, to do three quick icebreakers during the party to help people create new conversations and meet new people. But there’s a secret because icebreakers don’t just help people start new conversations. They also help people and their conversations. Have you ever been at a party or an event and you talk to somebody for two or three minutes, maybe five minutes and you’re like, oh, boy, I’m done. I don’t want to talk to this person anymore. But you’re too nice. You’re too courteous you keep talking to them and talking to them well, when you run icebreakers, it gives you an excuse to end the conversation. Does that make sense?


Will Bachman  18:51

It does. And listeners, I will also refer you to Episode I forget which one but I’ll put it in the show notes with Jean martinet, the author of The Art of mingling. And that was a fantastic episode where she shared some of what she’s learned about exactly how to mingle. I read her book, and I was, it was so helpful because she talks about this specific point, some ways to, you know, there’s 50 ways to leave your lover. There’s 50 ways to get out of an awkward or boring, you know, conversation when you’re at a cocktail party, but the icebreaker gives everybody a chance to break away, and the whole point is to mingle, right? So, I love the icebreakers. Okay, so that’s amazing.


Nick Gray  19:33

And, by the way, for listeners, that was episode 1033.


Will Bachman  19:41

Okay, so icebreakers. Alright, so, that’s, and like, so give us some examples of some good icebreakers?


Nick Gray  19:48

Well, a good icebreaker for me is just a successful icebreaker and that means that it moves fast. It doesn’t make people feel anxious and it just circles around the room quickly. One again, remember the I’m not trying to think of a creative icebreaker I’m not trying to think of what’s the most creative, amazing icebreaker? No, I just want one that will work well and work all the time for someone hosting a party. So I think about icebreakers as green, yellow, red level, a green level icebreaker would be something simple, like, what is one of your favorite foods to eat for breakfast? Now, when you do an icebreaker, all these icebreakers have three parts. So your name, say what you do for work, and then say your answer to the icebreaker question. So an example of how I would use that that one of my parties would be, Hey, let’s go around the circle, say your name, say what you do for work, and then say one of your favorite breakfast foods, I’ll go first, and then we’ll go around the circle this way. So that’s an example of a green level. And then later in the party, once you’ve built up some rapport, and everybody’s mingling, then you could ask something like, one of my favorites is, say, a favorite piece of media that you have consumed recently, that could be a podcast like this one, it could be a book, a Netflix, show, a YouTube video, or even an article, a movie, say, say, say a great piece of media that you’ve consumed recently. And that is really exciting, because everybody shares these awesome suggestions for cool stuff they’ve read and seen lately.


Will Bachman  21:31

What’s a read level?


Nick Gray  21:34

Read level, I never do read level read level would be like, what’s the worst first date that you’ve ever been on? I think that’s a terrible icebreaker.


Will Bachman  21:42

Okay, so some are just like, avoid them completely. And paint us a picture here. You know, this is not six people standing around at your cocktail party, but it’s not 40. Because that would take like an hour to do this icebreaker, what’s sort of the optimal level of people that are at your cocktail party that you do this icebreaker with?


Nick Gray  22:03

The optimum level of people is between 15 to 20. If you have less than 15, then your party, it’s a little bit flat, it’s there’s not enough energy and excitement in the room. If you have more than 20, it can be too much for a new host. It’s too loud, it’s too busy, it’s a little too much the icebreakers can go too long. 15 to 20 really is the sweet spot. But for someone like you who’s an advanced host, I mean, you could cruise it with 35, probably.


Will Bachman  22:33

So I actually am a little surprised by your icebreaker advice. out so I’ll kind of very, very gently very, very gently, just challenging, which is why it’s, it can be I mean, so I, on the one hand, I like the fact that you kind of get a sense of who everybody is. That’s nice. But on the other hand is boring. I find if a group of 15 people when you’re doing one of these, okay, let’s go around the room and everybody like say your name, because then people are thinking, mostly thinking about, Okay, what am I going to say when it gets to me when they’re not paying attention to the 14, right? So, the icebreakers that I tend to favor are things that are more like interactive, like, Okay, I want you to go to three people and find like, five things that you have in common, you know, something like, right, and then that forces those 15 people to break up and like split it into pairs and be talking to each other more. So that was pretty cool. Yeah, or, you know, some kind of thing like that, like, okay, you know, go to three people, you know, one person three people and do two truths and a lie or three people and, and share what you have, like for breakfast, lunch or dinner or something. But you can’t be the same thing with each one. And, you know, you know, or find, see if you have the same birthday as the someone else in this room, or something like that, that forces like everybody to talk to someone different quickly. And then it gets it going again, you know, so anyway, that’s maybe where I slightly differ for you. That’s a


Nick Gray  24:05

neat idea, though, to really mix it up. And I like that, but I’m gonna give you some pushback that’s appropriate for you as an advanced host, but not for a first time host. All


Will Bachman  24:16

right, fair enough. Okay.


Nick Gray  24:18

See, because you are an advanced facilitator, you are an expert facilitator,


Will Bachman  24:22

I would not say very generous Well, you’ve hosted hundreds of


Nick Gray  24:25

events, you know, and you feel comfortable. You have to remember my book and my advice is literally about people who are so anxious that they’ve never hosted an event. Something is holding them back from doing that.


Will Bachman  24:37

Okay, so I got a question for you, by the way while we’re going through icebreakers. Have you heard of Project exponential? It’s no, no. What is that? Okay. So, it’s a little bit defunct, unfortunately, because the woman who runs it I interviewed her on the show, actually, a long time ago, Michelle Welsh, she works for Seth Godin. I met her when she organized still a big event in New York City for Seth Godin, I think in 2010, doesn’t 11 or 12. Anyway, so for number, she’s now working in Nepal for the last seven or 10 years. But she used to run this thing in New York where she would organize these incredible dinner, she called them project exponential dinners, she get 12 people together, and it was so well organized to do it at a restaurant, there’d be a seating chart. And then what she’d do is she would have these really beautiful, like printed cards and collateral, like some little envelope with a tie on it. And so and then you would, it was very curated. So it’d be a first course and then there would be an assignment. So you would get Okay, break up into fours. And she would say, Okay, you’re talking down to the person on, you know, those three people, those three, and an each group would talk about a specific question that she had given out to you, right, and then you talk about that question. And then there would be like a group discussion about that question afterwards. And then second course comes in, everybody gets up and moves to a new seat, new seating chart, and there’ll be a different question. And sometimes you’d break up into pairs, or groups of four or six. And you really got to know other people at the table. So that was, like a different thing. It was a seated dinner, but it’s a way to do a seated dinner that really drives the thing. I don’t know if our site is still live, Project exponential, but you can hear some more about it in that episode I did with Michelle Walsh.


Nick Gray  26:25

Thank you for that. That’s really cool. Project exponential. I’m gonna look it up. And I love that idea of switching it up at the dinner party to move seats. That’s the biggest thing.


Will Bachman  26:36

Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I have done that. Not as you know, coordinators sophisticated. But if you do have a situation where you, you kind of forced to do a sit down thing, then think about being very explicit about just okay, you know, second course coming, let’s move to different seats, half the people rotate. And it gives people new kind of partners to talk to and changes the dynamics. So anyway, let’s keep going. So we got, we went through name tags went through icebreakers. I keep interrupting you. Are on See All right. What’s the all that?


Nick Gray  27:07

No, no, that’s problem. This is the NIC party formula. Nic K C stands for cocktails only. No food. This is not a dinner party. Snacks are okay. But this is not a dinner party cocktails only I agree with you there. Yeah, yeah. Simple enough. We’ll move on. And then k for the end. K stands for kick them out at the end? Yes, it is only a two hour party. How do you do that for your events, by the way.


Will Bachman  27:34

So there’s different ways of doing it. I mean, if it’s at my house, which we do events at my house as well, but like different events. I start cleaning up, people get the hint. And or we just say, you know, we’re setting some cases depends on the specific event. But in some cases, hey, we’re ending at 10. And then it hits the 10 or nine or whatever. I love. I love that thing in your book about scheduling it not from seven till nine, but 658 to nine oh, I love that. I love that. So you know, you just tell people like, Hey, we’re gonna wrap up. And people, zero times are upset that you do that. I mean, everybody wants an excuse to leave. So they’re perfectly happy. Don’t feel embarrassed about kicking people out there, they’ll appreciate it. So that’s how we that’s how we do it.


Nick Gray  28:27

And that’s one of the most important things that a new host isn’t going to tune into. They’re going to think, well, people aren’t talking, I haven’t seen this person in forever. And what do they end up doing? They end up spending, you know, five hours, and they finish the night and it’s midnight, and it’s a Tuesday, and they don’t get enough sleep and they wake up and their house is messy. And that may be fun in the moment. But it’s not going to set you up for success to do these all the time. And you may have found this that the real benefit that you unlock in your career, and in your social life. And in growing your business, is when you make hosting a habit there is you become the person that can do that. I’m sorry, I cut you off.


Will Bachman  29:08

No, no, I get you up. There’s big diminishing returns after about two hours and they get negative returns right people? Yes. I mean, think about the reverse. When you’re at a guest at a party. Usually you’re not saying Oh, I really want to stay till 11 or midnight, you’re kind of looking for an excuse, but you don’t want to be the first to leave. Right? That’s embarrassing. So it’s a gift. It’s a gift to your guests to say hey, time to go. You know, yeah, time for bed. And you can make up whatever I mean, you can just say we’re closing it and we’re finished at nine and say, Hey, I gotta go get my kids. So you know, they’re the sitters or whatever, come up with some excuse or I gotta get to bed so everybody has to leave. I want to ask you about the cocktail. So in terms of I think that’s a general idea, like needs a shorthand for saying you’re not going to have dinner, right? But we’re not saying it’s just alcoholic drinks alone, obviously. Other kinds of drinks? Yeah. Let’s get into some specifics. So what are some of your favorite foods to serve? At a party? What some, what are some things that you’ve tried that worked that worked? Well.


Nick Gray  30:15

The my favorite things that I find that work well are the things that take the least amount of preparation. And that includes baby carrots and hummus, chips and guacamole, salted peanuts, little snacks like that, that you can buy days or even a week in advance, that do not require a lot of preparation. Because remember, my whole formula is basically the MVP Minimum Viable party. I love it. So that whole Minimum Viable party thing is what I’m trying to show people. How can you make this easy? How can you make it simple, so that’s big for me, for the snacks, I gotta say, and the drinks even for the drinks these days. I’m telling people, you don’t even have to serve beer. And I want to hear your thoughts on that. Is that too controversial?


Will Bachman  31:13

It’s not controversial with me. So I would say I mean, it depends on the crowd you run in, I suppose. Now. Yeah. Personally, I’m not like some anti alcohol zealot. But I stopped drinking two years ago, just because like just I just cost benefit analysis. But, but we typically would serve wine, you know, like, have some warm Epsom bread. Maybe some Prosecco. It’s not that expensive. You know, some sparkling makes it feel fancy. And then some sparkling water is nice. Yeah, water, like soda can be a little bit. You know, some people want to expect it. It can feel a little downmarket can it sort of depends on what your vibe is at the thing. If you’re, you know, maybe serve something that’s like soda, like but maybe feels a little bit fancier, perhaps like cans of what is it that Italian soda company thing that just feels a little bit more special? But basically agree now maybe yeah, like, but no, I was thinking is it the Pellegrino that’s the, like, the orange Chateau whatever, you know, that kind of thing. So it feels like oh, it’s a soda. But it’s, it’s like not just, you know, Coke or something? Yes. And then I agree with you. I like do. I don’t like to serve food that you have to, like, eat with a fork, because then you’re holding a little tiny plate in your hand thing and you’re eating it. Yeah. Stay away from lasagna or any kind of thing like that. Typically, more. Yep. Like maybe empanadas can be nice. If there may be tiny empanadas. Because then you can eat those with your fingers a finger food finger foods? Yeah, makes it easier because people and people will eat less than you expect. I find. They really do don’t think because they’re they’re out there to get like dinner, right? They’re there to interact with each other. And so, right, you know, I mean, you can have some sweets as well. But they’re not really there to chow down and have a full meal. So don’t feel you have to provide that. I would say you know you don’t mention it. But if you can afford it, it is nice. If you hire a helper for your part. Yes, who can be there? So you as the host are not distracted trying to fill the nacho bowl or add more peanuts or whatever. Have someone else doing that, you know that, you know, going around picking up the cups and everything, you know, for three or four hours of help, it makes a big difference.


Nick Gray  33:31

Yes, yes. And you can even hire somebody like that. I’ve done it before for $20 an hour to hire somebody for two or three hours to have a spare set of hands. It’s the ultimate pro move. One Note that I just want to say about the Booz about the alcohol now, I too, I don’t drink alcohol. It’s ironic that I wrote a book called the two hour cocktail party, and I don’t drink alcohol. I do serve alcohol. So I make it available. Many people have this as a social lubricant. They want it to cool down. Maybe they just enjoy the taste of alcohol. But I will oftentimes only have wine and liquor. And I don’t do beer for the following reason. Many beer drinkers are extremely brand loyal, or brand specific interest and they have very strong thoughts. And now the new host who doesn’t host they’re like oh my god, I have to get a pilsner. To get an ale, I need to get a light beer. Now I need to cool these beers. And then at the end layer is always beer bottles and beer cans everywhere. And so I actually tell people, you can host a good cocktail party with alcohol and not serve beer. In fact, I’ve done hundreds of them. So that’s something new that, you know, yes. If you want to get one beer, then maybe a regional beer that that that tends to be something you know, you can have a six pack for somebody who insists on beer but sorry I’ll tell you what I posted hundreds with no beer at all.


Will Bachman  35:02

Yeah, and I, that’s an interesting point about the specific brands and types that had not occurred to me like, you know, usually if you get a white wine, red wine, people have something they’re fine. You know, they’re not there to get, you know, to have a drink. Really, they’re there to meet other people. So,


Nick Gray  35:20

exactly. It’s not about the drinks, right? Absolutely not about it’s about the people. Yep,


Will Bachman  35:25

yep. Okay, so let’s get into some of the pre party stuff, which is some of the most important that you have a ton of experience experimenting with, on the invitations. So when do you send invitations? How do you send invitations? And who do you invite when?


Nick Gray  35:45

So the first thing that you need to do if you’re listening to this podcast right now, and you’re saying, I want to do this, what do I do, you need to pick your date. And I suggest you choose a date three weeks in advance, on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. Why three weeks, because that leaves you plenty of time for what I call the party runway, so that you can take off with success, you can fill up your guest list, you guarantee, you know, you’re going to have at least 15 people. Now, once you pick your date, and your time, like we talked about a two hour window, you need to start time and an end time, then you’re going to think about and right now, you can do this, write down a list of five to 10 people who you would invite first, that’s what I call your core group. Your core group are people like your neighbors, your close colleagues, your best friends, they’re people that you feel safe and comfortable with what you’re going to do with those five to 10 people, you’re going to send them a text message, or shoot them an email or call them on the phone and say the following. Hey, I’m thinking of hosting a party on Tuesday night, September 10. from seven to 9pm, super casual app, my place, if I do it, would you come? That’s where you’re going to text, you’re going to send that to five to 10 people, and you’re going to try to get five yeses, five people to say yes. Once you get five people that say yes, then you know that your date and your time are good. And your party is now happening, then you’re going to create an event to have people RSVP to, I’m curious for you, what event platform do you use? Or how do you collect your RSVPs?


Will Bachman  37:34

Okay, thank you for asking, I want to hear about your favorite platform. Because I skipped that chapter in your book. So first, I actually am curious about your approach about the tentative nature of initial outreach as opposed to Hey, I am doing a party on September 10. I’d love to see you there. Can you come? Why the tentative approach about I’m thinking about it.


Nick Gray  37:59

The tentative approach, again, this is hard for you, because you’ve been hosting for, you know, 10 plus years, you know that you can throw a good event. Remember, we’re thinking about people that are terrified that nobody will show up. And so what they’re going to do is they’re going to test the waters to make sure that they can get at least five people to say yes, sometimes it does happen that they just have happened to choose the wrong date. Okay,


Will Bachman  38:26

fair enough. All right. So avoid the major holidays, look at the calendar, you know, it’s not some, you know, holiday that you might not be familiar with, that some people say, yeah. Oh, that’s like, yeah. Anyway, so Okay, so that’s, that’s an agenda. We


Nick Gray  38:44

also just want to make sure that, that they have a network where they can get at least five or six people who are going to say yes, okay, right. All right. So you guys, so you guys, since they get that confidence, then they have the confidence to know Oh, my gosh, this is happening. People are saying yes, is exciting. I’m now ready to start inviting more people. So once they get those five yeses, then they set up and they do a page to collect RSVPs the one that I like is a new platform. Now many people have heard of it, but it’s free and there’s no ads and there’s no spam. It’s called MC Sully am I XILY A lot of Gen Z now are using this platform called party full p a r t i f u l i personally don’t like that one. But a lot of Gen Z does. And then my parents just hosted a party and they used evite people use Paperless Post. People use Eventbrite. What do you guys use it? Umbrex.


Will Bachman  39:43

So, for our personal events, just based on kind of historical lock in, we’ve used Eventbrite to schedule some of our personal family events that we do for like when we used to New Years and we do this book club thing for our kids. So that’s what we we use an evite for that for Umbrex events we historically used Eventbrite, nice. And that works pretty well, we my very first time I did a paid event, I was just having people like, email me RSVPing and then send me the funds because it was a paid event, it was three day weekend thing. And then that just became a total mess. I recommend against doing that, because, especially if it’s a paid thing, which this is not, obviously, but I mean, it was just a mess, keeping, like giving people money back and tracking who was coming and so forth. It’s just, it’s just, I mean, it was worth the fees to Eventbrite to have them keep track of it and be able to refund people and stuff like that. But Eventbrite it’s like a little bit of a hassle for people to if they if it’s just a casual cocktail party, it’s house, it’s kind of feels very formal, like, oh, you need to register and create an account and all this stuff. It’s just, you know, Paperless Post, we, I haven’t used it, but it’s probably a little bit more casual. If you’re just inviting someone to your house for a cocktail party. I mean, Eventbrite is where board like, you must now register, give us your home address and your email your phone number and stuff. Like, yeah, so I mean, a different. I haven’t used the I’m going to check out mixer Lee and particle. I mean, you could use like, I mean, I guess I guess, I mean, you could use like, Calendly, I guess. But that would probably not be like very full featured. So yeah, I like to, I’m going to check out the options you suggest. So mix Lee party full. And mix lately, I


Nick Gray  41:43

think it’s my favorite. It’s the one I liked the best.


Will Bachman  41:45

Alright, so that and tell us a little bit about that platform.


Nick Gray  41:49

It’s a free platform, it looks great on mobile, you have to remember that when you send a text message in by most all people are going to look at this on mobile, they’re not going to go to their desktop. And so thinking about that, all they have to do is their name, email address, they can list if they’re having a plus one. But here’s a hack. And here’s something that’s important. You need to enable the guest list to be visible, you want people to see the other names of the other people who are attended, I feel strongly about that, that it’s important to give the social proof to your party, and also to create the social contract to get people to show up and attend.


Will Bachman  42:27

That’s good. Okay. Good hack. Okay. And then we’re gonna get to that probably a little bit later as well, when you talk about sending out a list of who’s coming with short bios, and people know who’s coming, and then that really puts them on the hook.


Nick Gray  42:41

Yes, exactly. That’s a, that’s my secret hack. It’s called guest bios, and the guest bios, really make people excited to attend and to have new conversations, and they boost your attendance rates. Because a lot of people, you know, they’ll host something on Eventbrite or something. And the host on meetup or Facebook, and less than half of the people who said, Yes, actually show up, which, now I’m happy to say that most everybody that’s reading my book and follow my method, they’re getting over 95% attendance rate, when they follow these steps of reminder messages and using the guest bios,


Will Bachman  43:19

that’s incredible. I mean, that’s an incredible show, you know, show rate? Yes, particularly if people are not, you know, paying for something and they just casually say yes, then right, then it’s easy to say, oh, you know, something came up work, I, you know, if you’re not feeling the greatest, whatever, I don’t feel like it. So that’s incredible. So tell me some more of the tricks of getting people to show up and tell us about the BIOS.


Nick Gray  43:48

So the guest bios, it’s not like a Forbes, you know, 40 under 40 list. It’s simply a conversational access point. So maybe one example might be, you know, will loves to ride bikes and drink herbal tea. He’s a writer and an author. And he just moved here from London, asked him about his bike. That’s a simple little blurb about somebody that you’re just going to include, to make. The introverts also feel welcome and excited, and to know a little bit about who else is attending. So they actually show up and they start some new conversations.


Will Bachman  44:28

Yeah, that’s a big help. And maybe if someone has a link, a LinkedIn profile, or some kind of profile and put a link and then you can see their face ahead of time, and you get to know who’s, who’s going big time. Yeah. What about we didn’t really get into it, but I mean, other than mentioning the idea of getting some core group and friends and so forth. Who do you invite? So in your book, you’re talking about getting a diverse crowd you quote, quote, Joan Crawford, getting a diverse crowd, not all of the same, you know, not 15 bankers together, right?


Nick Gray  45:00

Yes, yes, yes, exactly getting a mix of people. That’s what’s so powerful. When you mix up your social groups, your friend groups, your colleagues, that is what’s powerful, because they’re gonna get a chance to meet new people. And that’s why you will become a super connector a turbo connector, because you’re going to be introducing people to new folks. And that’s what’s so it’s so valuable and missing these days.


Will Bachman  45:23

Yeah, I do want to give a shout out to Dorie Clark. And we did an episode with Dory earlier this year. And she talked about how she really did a lot building her business. Yeah, of being a consultant and an author by hosting parties as well, she, she doesn’t take your approach, she typically does it at a restaurant, but she gets a private, you know, private table, and she’ll do a lot of the same things of sending out BIOS ahead of time, and then connecting people afterwards, and so forth. So so you get a diverse crowd. And then tell me a little bit about the other pieces of preparing anything else that you want to do ahead of time other than getting the snacks getting the cocktail stuff, you know, getting the name tags printed up? I don’t know if you print them or hand people handwrite it but you know, what are the other preps it in under checklist?


Nick Gray  46:14

I’d say the last thing that folks should know and a key lesson are learning it seems obvious again, but it’s these obvious things, it’s to take a group photo, you want to take a group photo of everyone attending and having fun, because one, it’s going to be a great memory for you. And two, you can use that group photo to share it when you invite other people in the future to show them that you host great events and how fun it is. So that’s a key thing. And most people forget it, I can tell you because they’re in the moment. But taking a group photo is a key, it’s a big win. Alright, social


Will Bachman  46:51

proof. Fear Of Missing Out. So let’s kind of think about how could this cocktail party? You know, are there any adaptive actions that people would want to think about? If they’re saying, Okay, this is great, you know, I’d love to have more friends and so forth. But yeah, right. In the near term, I’m sort of more like stressed or focused on doing business development, building up my business, and I’m willing to make some kind of intermediate term investments. So what are your thoughts around organizing events that are a bit more I don’t want to say necessarily return on investment, but but either directly saying, Okay, I’m going to organize an event where I’m going to connect five different potential clients with one another, and so forth, or 15 of them. Or, you know, that’s a little bit more with some kind of professional angle to it. Talk to me about that.


Nick Gray  47:45

I think that you can host a networking event, and use the exact same formula that I have with name tags with group BIOS with rounds of icebreakers. But I’m even going to throw a curveball and say that I’ve written some articles which we can share in the show notes about, for example, how to host a clothing swap, super casual, but a lot of women love this format, or even how to host a book swap. These are popular people love these ideas. For the business purposes, though, hosting a networking event for your clients, your potential clients, your customers, your employees, maybe even their family to get together. It’s a huge return on investment.


Will Bachman  48:29

Yeah. And would any of your recommendations change? If it’s saying, I want to gather, you know, and I don’t want to, like promote it as a networking event? Because that sounds like kind of, I don’t know, you know, too much like passing out business cards. But let’s say you’re going to invite Oh, 15 business leaders together? And how might you structure that or, or tell people what the purpose is? And would you do different icebreakers? Maybe, you know, you know, I don’t know if you would make it more about business orders, or just still keep it personal, so it feels a little bit more social.


Nick Gray  49:08

I love that idea. Because people can when they curate their guests list, they can really get better attendees that can help them in their career. And in their business, my first piece of advice would be host a party from my book, that is simple. That’s a low stakes affair for your friends and neighbors so that you can see the format and formula and give yourself the confidence that you know how to run a well run event, because people are going to respect you when you know how to run a good event, which I think you’ve probably seen people respect you for that and they know that you’re going to do a good event. So first host it for your friends and neighbors. Second when you do it for business purposes. Maybe you will, for example, use the name tags that you suggested, which I think you’ll link in the show notes for the magnets. They’re more professional, they look crisp, they We’ll pre printed the names on the name tags, just like you said, maybe you’ll use a slightly more formal invitation message, where you say, Hey, I’m getting together some business leaders, business owners, and high powered executives, I’d love to introduce you to some of these people I’ve met. Those are all little modifications you can do to make it more professional and more business or career focused.


Will Bachman  50:26

Fantastic. Now, from this book coming out, Nick, tell me what has been going on with you so far? Have you been you know, now getting invited to some different kinds of parties and you had before of people asking you for help on organizing their parties? What, what’s been the impact so far?


Nick Gray  50:44

I have, um, I’m super lucky that I’ve gotten and I’ve heard from a lot of people, but I tell you the who’ve invited me to come and host events. For example, I’m, I think I’m gonna go to New York City next week to host this friend is having a meet up and over 900 people signed up on RSVP, and he wants me to help wrangle that. So I’m excited about that. But the things I get really excited about are hearing from people like just last night, I heard from a woman, Maria, who’s in Florida, and she hosted our first event. She said years ago, I I invited 15 people and nobody showed up, it was traumatic for me. She said, I read your book. And last night, my party was a huge success. Or this guy, Darren, who’s in the suburbs of Atlanta. I talked to him this morning to last night he hosted his first party, 19 of his friends and neighbors showed up. And he said it was so easy. He said it was so easy and fun. And I can’t wait to do it again. So having those conversations is really a big win for me. And I’m trying to have 500 of those conversations, just to help people make more friends. I feel like it’s what we need right now.


Will Bachman  51:50

Agreed. So where could people number one, find out more about you? I think you have a URL here you can share as well as where should people email if they want to say, Hey, I had a successful party. Thanks for the thanks for the help.


Nick Gray  52:05

Oh, my gosh, yes, the name of my book. It’s called the two hour cocktail party, the audio book just launched. And you know, it was really hard for me to write my book. But I tell you, the audio book was so fun to record. And you can find it online, anywhere books and audio books are sold. I have something called my friends newsletter, which I send out with just cool recommendations and neat hacks and business advice that I’ve found from starting and selling to multimillion dollar companies. And that’s on my website, which is Nick gray and I C K gra y.net. And then of course, if anyone listens to this, I hope you’ll host your own party, you can just send me an email, Nick, at party P AR t y dot Pro. Or you can visit my website to get a free checklist about 19 things you can do before your first event to guarantee that it’ll be a success. And that includes an executive summary of my book and all that stuff. That website is www dot party P AR t y dot CRO p r o


Will Bachman  53:15

party Pro. That is awesome. All right. We will include those links in the show notes. And if I had not made it clear earlier in the show, you were given me a lot of credit. I want to make it 100% clear that any party experience or successes that I’ve had is entirely 100% Due to my wife Margarita. And not none of it is a trivial it’s amazing. I am much much the introverts and Margarita is responsible for all our party party work. So Nick, it’s been great speaking with you and listeners. If you haven’t already, you can visit umbrex.com/unleashed and sign up for an email you get notified of the latest episodes of this show. And if you’re so inclined to give this show a five star review on iTunes. It helps others discover the show. Nick, thanks for joining.


Nick Gray  54:09

Thank you for having me. Party on

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