How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings


Clint Murphy Nick Gray


Clint Murphy, Nick Gray


Clint Murphy  00:15

Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host, Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better achieve more and become financially free.


Clint Murphy  00:37

Today, I had a conversation with Nick Gray, author of The Two Hour Cocktail Party, how to build big relationships with small gatherings. And Nick provides a simple formula with step by step instructions to host small gatherings that will help you meet new people, strengthen your existing relationships, and make you the person everyone wants to know. Enjoy this conversation.


Clint Murphy  01:09

Nick, welcome to the podcast. And now you are the second guest that I’ve had who’s on a walking treadmill while we talk, love the habit stacking. For our listeners who don’t know you, can you give them a brief bio of your background, up until the writing of The Two Hour Cocktail Party, which is what we’re going to talk about today.


Nick Gray  01:31

I moved to New York in my mid 20s, because I didn’t have any friends and I was like I should move to a place to meet people. And when you’re in New York, I would easily crack 10,000 steps every single day. And you’re going upstairs, I lived on a fifth floor walk up. And now I moved to Austin, Texas two years ago. And you know, I ride my bike, I bought a car, I just don’t get the steps in like I used to. So I’m on this walking treadmill, just try to keep active. The last thing I did that I think I was like famous on the internet for was I made a business called Museum Hack. And I think museums are terribly boring. And so I started giving these renegade museum tours in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that were not sophisticated. I’ve never taken an art history class. They were basically just fooling around with friends late at night. And they became popular and famous. And I built a multimillion dollar business out of hiring standup comedians and Broadway actors to lead these tours. They were my tour guides. And we started working at all the major museums across America. And companies would hire us for these team building activities to come and bring their employees to the museum. So that’s really how we made our money was by selling to businesses and companies. That’s a little bit of like the last 10 years for me that I started that company as a hobby, as a passion project, never wanted to make it a business and then started a company created out of that.


Clint Murphy  02:59

Which can often be s businesses because then it aligns with your passions, which is exciting.


Nick Gray  03:05

It truly was. And I didn’t leave my job to start this right away. I really worked on it on nights and weekends. And that’s the best advice I have for somebody who wants to start a business. Really work on it on your nights and weekends, grind away and don’t quit your day job until people are begging you. Until you’ve got people literally pounding down your door, raving fans and come on. We need this product, we want you to start this company. That’s my advice.


Clint Murphy  03:31

And then when did cocktail parties become part of your repertoire, to grow your circle and to network for you?


Nick Gray  03:40

When I moved to New York, like I said, I didn’t really know anybody. And I knew that I wanted to meet people, but networking events to me just felt slimy and gross. And I wasn’t successful at them. To be honest, I’ve never done well at nightclubs and bars. So I decided instead of going to these bad events, I would start to host good events. I would learn how to bring the party to me. So I started experimenting with different party formulas. And I learned through trial and error hosting hundreds of events that there is a way to make an event successful. And then when one of my friends, his name is Tyler and he moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. And Tyler didn’t know anybody. Same same situation. He moved there for his wife, all he knew his her family. But he was like, hey, can you help me make some new friends? I was like, yes, you’re gonna have to start to host events. I’ll show you exactly how. And I wrote a Google Doc for him that got shared around to people over the years. And that’s how my book started.


Clint Murphy  04:35

Oh I love it. And so that’s mostly what we’re going to talk about with people today is how they can throw cocktail parties and grow their circle in network, which is such an important part of growing your career and your happiness, having friendship circles, not being lonely. And one of the things that you you highlight let’s start with the problems before we jump to the solutions.  It’s so hard to make friends, as adults. So why is that?


Nick Gray  05:07

You know, nobody teaches adults how to make friends. As we get older, most of us make the most friends in college or at a new job. And as you get older, I think people retire to the suburbs, they get busy with work, they have kids, they enter relationships. And it’s really hard to meet new people, I think. I think I found a way which is building your network of acquaintances, which we can talk about that. All friendships and big relationships first started as acquaintances, and that there’s a benefit to building that network of acquaintances I’m just really passionate about. I think that there is something happening now whether you want to call it a loneliness epidemic, or a friendship recession. There’s something happening that over the last years of COVID, and lock downs, and isolation and work from home. It really has shifted where we are much more comfortable being alone. And that can be good at times. But it’s not always good.


Clint Murphy  06:02

I would almost challenge that part of it. Where I don’t think we’re more comfortable being alone, but we are more alone. So it’s that interesting dichotomy where we’re the most connected we’ve ever been superficially, but we’re disconnected in the ways that it matters most and COVID, you’re right has made it an epidemic. I have a guest coming on Sunday. And he wrote a statistic that kids, from the APA, American Psychological Association, kids today have more anxiety than psychiatric patients in I think it was the 70s. So you will look at that and say, well, why, if we’re so connected, why are we so lonely? Why are we so anxious? And so I think, this idea that you have of building acquaintances, building our networks, that seems like the solution, or a solution to the loneliness epidemic,


Nick Gray  07:12

Yeah, to truly hang out and to just connect and to rap, you know, I was saying that sometimes I feel like I’ll have an event scheduled, somebody’s hosting something big oh, man, you know, I can just use that time to stay home and be productive and work and catch up on emails. But inevitably, I dragged myself out, and I go to the event, and doggone it, every time I meet somebody interesting, and I come home, and I say, I’m so glad that I went to that. It’s that mental effort and exertion, to get in the car, to get dressed, to go out to the event, to strike up a conversation with someone new. That is harder than just opening my phone, to social media, which by the way, I don’t want to stigmatize the use of social media, I use it more than anybody. I’m addicted to my phone. But I have found such quality connections through these in person events. And it has monumentally changed my life. My last business Museum Hack was launched off of my network of acquaintances. And I’ve seen all the benefits it’s brought to other people that have hosted parties. They’ve been invited to incredible things. They’ve met business partners, new clients, customers, romantic relationships, all come in from hosting these gatherings. And the power that comes from being the host, maybe just like you’ve seen from being a podcast host. The power that comes from being the host is incredible, and anyone can do it.


Clint Murphy  08:39

And what jumps out at me is you talked about the power of throwing them. And then you mentioned that you always have that challenge of getting ready for wanting to go to it. So one of your solutions for us as a host is to not go during, not throw our parties during the heavyweight days. And let’s start to work our way through formulating these cocktail parties. Why not these heavyweight days? And so what days should we throw the cocktail parties and you even right down to here’s the hours that you should throw them, which I found interesting.


Nick Gray  08:40

So let me say first of all, that my goal is to make it as easy as possible for anyone listening to this show to host an event that will be successful and that you will want to do again, because anybody can come on the show and try to convince your listeners to host a one time birthday bash blowout that they spend too much money on, they stress too much about and they wake up with a hangover the next day. By the way, I don’t drink alcohol. I use that phrase cocktail party, because it represents a lightweight social gathering with low commitment that people know they’ll have A lot of little conversations, it’s very different from a dinner party. A dinner party, the expectations and the requirements on the host, are exponentially greater. And so I do encourage you to think about a cocktail party because it’s easier. And you can get 80% of the results with 20% of the work.


Clint Murphy  09:22

And let’s expand on that a bit before we come back in to dates and hours. Because that dinner party element, you also then tend to if you’re hosting it, to some extent, you actually don’t get to be a person who’s connecting, because you’re so busy making sure that everything’s good. Unless you were to cater the event, you’re really spending your time getting it ready.


Nick Gray  10:44

Dinner parties are way too much work and way too much stress. And the average person I talked to and I talked to a lot of people say that they spent too much time and money on the food and the drinks, and not enough time on the questions and conversations. I would rather have somebody leaves my party hungry than bored. Okay. All my friends and people I know are adults that can take care of their own food, let them do that. Do not host a dinner party. Okay, I can’t stress this enough. It is a very advanced level move. You will stress about the food or if you’re going to pay to cater the food that can be very expensive. People don’t, the one sort of advice that I do have for people who are thinking who insist on doing a dinner party, which is just get some Thai food and serve it all family style. I used to host these masterminds in New York City and I’d have to get dinners. Let me just riff for a second on why the dinner parties are bad. If you have more than six people who attend a dinner party, your conversation will naturally bifurcate into smaller groups. If you have eight, it will split into two groups of four. If you want to maintain a solid Jeffersonian dinner style conversation of all 1-, it requires an extremely advanced level of leadership and hosting that the average individual does not have. It would take a lot of experience for you to pull off a very well run dinner party. A cocktail party However, anyone can do, and I figured out the exact formula for how to do it, you have to think about the letters of my name Nick, N I C K. N stands for name tags. I stands for icebreakers. C stands for cocktails only, no dinner, and K stands for kick them out at the end. Now, because your listeners are interested in growth. I’m going to tell you all that you need to know from my book. What time is it? Usually it’s two hours. What day is it? It’s only on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night. I find for my events that seven to 9pm works the best. But that’s in New York where things started later. In Austin, Texas, I was shocked to find that people here did happy hours from five to 7pm. They tend to start earlier and earlier. Use your own judgment based on what would work well for your community. But you need to have both a start time and an end time. Many events never list an end time. When you list an end time, it encourages your guests to actually show up on time. Because how many events have you been invited to that start at seven and you’re like, Okay, I’m not going to show up till eight. And then that first hour is terribly awkward and wasted. When you do a two hour party, more people show up on time, they will thank you at the end of the party for respecting their schedules, and they’ll just have a better event that you’re more likely to do. So that’s a top level overview. And I’m happy to dive into whatever else you want.


Clint Murphy  13:38

Yeah, we’re going to work our way through all of those. I love it. And you highlighted that Austin is different in terms of time. The other thing I want to check in with you is coming from a big city like New York. How is Austin in liveability for you and how do you feel it is in the differences coming from that big city? Are you glad you made that move?


Nick Gray  14:04

I love Austin but I also think everybody should live in New York at least for a year in their 20s. I lived in New York for 13 years and it’s a really intense place to live. You know, it sounds silly. I have money, but for 13 years, I lived in an apartment with no washer dryer, with no dishwasher, on a fifth floor walk up. Rather small by everybody else’s standards. I mean, my kitchen was the size of a small you know, boat kitchen. It was tiny. My refrigerator was like as small as an Amazon box. It was tiny. I didn’t have a freezer. And that is not really conducive to lock down or, or just sort of quarantined living but I loved it. I loved it in my 20s and in my 30s. I’m really happy here in Austin, Texas. Now I feel like my quality of life is higher. I spend more time outdoors. It’s a little more balanced. So I like it here. Where do you live?


Clint Murphy  14:55

I’m in Vancouver BC and Austin is one of the places I’m considering in, I’ll put retirement in quotation marks. So I’m heading there for spring break to test it out to see what it’s like.


Nick Gray  15:08

That’s fantastic. There’s a new direct flight between Vancouver and Austin, that I don’t know if you booked your flights yet, are you in downtown Vancouver area or the suburbs?


Clint Murphy  15:18

We’re in. So we’re, we’re in between, it takes me maybe seven minutes to drive downtown, maybe five to seven minutes, but we’re in the Single Family Zone. So we have that benefit of living in a house, having that space in technically, I could walk downtown if I wanted to.


Nick Gray  15:36

Yeah really cool. Well, there’s an incredible food scene in Vancouver. And I’m just going to warn you to mentally prepare that our Asian food is not nearly as good as it is in Vancouver. I love the food scene in Vancouver,


Clint Murphy  15:51

And my family’s half Asian so that does present some challenges.


Nick Gray  15:56

Yes, yes, I’m warning you.


Clint Murphy  15:58

Yeah, we’re gonna check out San Antonio, Dallas. We have to hit Waco to check out Magnolia, and then we’re gonna finish it, Austin.


Nick Gray  16:08

Oh, that’s perfect.


Clint Murphy  16:10

Yeah, it’ll be fun. So you talked about the size of the house you had in New York. And a lot of people are worried about, well, I can’t have people over to my house and because it’s too small, or this or that. But one of the things and I’ll read a quote that you had, which was “when you invite people into your home, you offer them the chance to visit your personal space, you reveal more about who you are, especially in a world where digital interaction dominates. A lot of people appreciate this vulnerability, and feel more relatable to you.” Now, can you dive into that, because you were saying you were hosting in a very small, intimate space. Why does it still matter that we want it to be in our house and not a Bar-ty.


Nick Gray  16:58

Not a Bar-ty. whenever I get invited to a Bar-ty. So a Barty is a birthday party or other special event like a party that’s hosted at a bar. And I found for myself, it’s a little life hack, that when you invite someone into your home for a party, it turbocharges the connections. Why is that? Well, number one, you get to be generous in the hosting for $50 to $60, I can buy some alcohol, some mixed drinks, some seltzers. And I can be generous in a way that would be extremely expensive at a bar or at a restaurant to sort of provide for everybody. Number two, when you invite them into your home, it’s almost like they’re going on a little date with you. They’re coming into this private, almost sacred space. And I don’t know what the psychology is behind it. But I can tell you from experience that it turbocharges the relationship that the difference between hosting a cocktail party at a bar versus at your home, is massively different. Now, many people do have concerns about inviting people into their home. Oh, my home isn’t big enough, my home isn’t nice enough, it’s not in a nice enough neighborhood. I can say after working through hundreds of people on these issues of not wanting to invite people into their home. I always hear from them the same thing. They basically say, look, people actually respected me more that I had the confidence to invite them over. I also hear especially from younger people, that the energy level in small apartments is actually better than it is in enormous mansions in small apartments. The energy, and the excitement of kind of bumping into people is just palpable. I mean, you can just feel it. And it’s very exciting. So for those reasons, I am very adamant that for 95% of people hosting at your home is really the best thing to do.


Clint Murphy  18:53

So then I’m going to host at my home. And we’ve got a lot of listeners who are listening in. They’re like, Nick, but I’m an introvert. And I can invite 15 people to my home, and you have a little bit of a hack for that. You say, hey, let’s start with what we’re going to call a core group or a nucleus of close friends, family colleagues, before we expand to other great guests. So some things we need to unpack there. What is that core group? What are the great guests? At what number do we pivot in start going to great guests because we have enough core group. And when we are starting that invite process, in what order should we be doing it? And when do we want to extend it to the great guests, because you have an excellent example of a time that you invited a young lady over to your place, but you hadn’t invited anyone else yet. So it may have come across with a bit of the wrong vibe, Nick. So can you take us through what that looks like.


Nick Gray  20:23

When I first started to host parties, I was always worried the number one fear that all new hosts have is that nobody will show up. And so in building my perfect party formula, I found that I need people to have the confidence that at least some people will show up. It also gives them the confidence to invite other people. So we start with what I call your core group.  These are your close friends, your neighbors, maybe your work buddies, typically you feel safe and comfortable around. You will invite them first and test the waters for your date and time of your party. I do that by sending them a text message saying, hey, I’m thinking of hosting a cocktail party on Tuesday night, February 13. If I do it, would you come? And I don’t plan anything until I get five yes’s from that core group. It is only when I get those five yeses that I’ve unlocked and say okay, this party is now happening. And that’s when I get to work. I build a little page from a free online event platform to collect RSVPs. And I start to think about inviting what I then call my great guests. That’s everybody else who I want to show up to the party. Now, a small warning. For listeners of this Growth Guide podcast, you are overachievers resist the urge to make your first party, your best party. What do I mean by that?  Don’t reach from the top shelf. Your first party should be people you feel comfortable around: your neighbors, your old friends. Do not try to invite that person you have a crush on, that boss that you really want to get a promotion with, that neighbor who’s angry at you. Wait until you learn the methods and the formula for hosting a well run event. You know, I worked with this kid who’s in St. Louis about three months ago and he’s like, oh my god, I’m so excited for my party. It’s my first one. Because this girl he had been on two dates with and I invited her I’m so nervous. I was like, oh god, oh, no, please, please uninvite her. This is a terrible idea. And he said why? Why should I uninvite her? I said, because now you’re going to be so worried about how she thinks about your party that you won’t be willing to do some of the riskier aspects of my party formula. Things like using name tags, things like using icebreakers to stop the party and interrupt to run a group activity, you’ll be so nervous that you will want to impress her that you won’t be willing to take the risks to pull those off. I’ve worked with enough people to know that that is a key piece of advice. Do not make your first party stressful, keep it a low stakes affair. Is there some psychology behind that, Clint that you’ve heard, whether it’s from Atomic Habits or habit stacking or something that basically just says, look, let’s get our wins early?


Clint Murphy  23:13

Yes, absolutely. So I’m going on a podcast later tonight to talk about resolutions and goal setting and habits. A number one rule of everything is you always start small. And so I haven’t read Atomic Habits yet. But I did a quick little bit of research, and it aligns with everything I’ve ever done in life and learned about growth and habits, is you start with the smallest increment you possibly can, and you grow incrementally slow. So absolutely, it makes sense we start with, because what you want to do is you want to succeed. So you start with that easy party, you succeed. And now what you’re done is you’ve told yourself, subconsciously, I can throw a cocktail party. So you throw a little bit of a better one, then a little bit of a better. 10 later, people look at you and they’re, you’re the cocktail party guy, or you’re the cocktail party gal, because you’ve now done it 10 to 20 times. But that first one, to your point, I wrote down start small. You always you play small ball until you can play big ball and you just grow it incrementally until it snowballs into a big ball


Nick Gray  24:29

To give yourself that confidence to start small and to keep it easy, right?


Clint Murphy  24:34

Yeah. And it’s in everything you do when you want to become a runner. You run for five minutes, and then you walk. Right? You don’t start with a marathon. When I started, eventually I ran an ultra marathon, but the first run was a run around the block.  It’s like okay, I’m chubby, I’m overweight, I’m out of shape, I want to run. I’m going to run around the block, and then I’ll walk home. See you start as small as you can.


Nick Gray  25:01

Someone gave me some good advice. They said, if you’re trying to get people to read your book, tell them just to read six pages. Anybody can read six pages, right? And the psychology behind that is like, oh, yeah, like I can do that. And then inevitably, they’ll keep reading. But the idea just read six pages, I’m going to challenge myself to try to read more books this year. So I’m going to think about that for myself, let’s just sit down and read six pages now. Can I read six pages, I’m going to think about that myself in the start small concept. So do that with your party, start small.


Clint Murphy  25:37

I’m trying to recollect her name, there’s a woman who’s famous now. And she said it at the end of her TED talk, she threw out this concept of the two minute rule. And it was at the end of her talk, and it was just an add in. And it was, if you want to do anything, you do it for two minutes. Because the idea is, at the end of that two minutes, you keep doing it. You don’t want to work out, just go to the gym, do two minutes, you’ll do your hour long workout. Just read for two minutes, you’ll read for half an hour. So it’s an absolute winner of a plan or book guests on the podcast who wrote a book, because while you should, I’ve heard that not a lot do, but you should read the book before they come on the podcast. So you automatically have more books you’re going to read during the year. That’s my hack.


Nick Gray  26:25

That’s smart. I like that.


Clint Murphy  26:27

So you said two things in there that we’re gonna dive into. And one thing that you just passingly said was, this is the message I send to friends. And I want to hone in on that message because it was short, tight and it was very specific, which seems to be an important key to that message. So can you share again what that message to your core group is? And then we can break it down into why it’s that message?


Nick Gray  27:02

Yes. So the message I would send to my friends. And by the way, within my book, there’s a series of many scripts, the exact words and language that you can use for all these party invitations. From what to say to your first guest who arrives to how to kick people out at the end. The message that I would send to my core group would be the following: I’m thinking about hosting a cocktail party on Tuesday, February 13 at my house. If I do it, would you come? There are several things that are happening, but I’m listing the specificity. I’m listing the date, I’m listing the location, I’m telling them what it is. And then it’s a direct ask, if I do it, would you come? That’s really important. That is the commitment that you’re asking for?


Clint Murphy  27:51

If I do it, would you come? I’m hosting a cocktail party. And the key there is this is your core group. So they’ve likely been to a lot of your cocktail parties. They know that what they’re in for, they know what the experience is, or they’ve never been.


Nick Gray  28:06

For most of the readers. You know, my book was built for people that are never hosted before. It’s a very first event that they’re ever hosting.


Clint Murphy  28:15

That’s true. Yes. So the first time we do this.


Nick Gray  28:18

So we only ask our core group and our close friends, that idea of if I do it, would you come? The message changes when it’s for your great guests, then you’ll say I am hosting a cocktail party because now you’ve gotten your five yes’s. You have the confidence, you know that you’re actually going to host. So the message for your great guests changes, as I am hosting a cocktail party, on this date, this time, this location, can I send you the information? It’s not will you come, it’s not do you want to come, it’s not are you available? It’s can I send you the information? Now, most everybody will say yes, you can send me the information or if they’re not available for sure, they’ll say no. But if they’re on the fence for a maybe then they’ll say yeah, send me the information. That’s when you send them a link to the RSVP page, which through a variety of things like social proof showing the other attendees, things like that, they will be very inclined to say yes, and then to come and show up to your party. But the wording changes. There’s little tweaks that we do. For example, one is that if you’re struggling with people, and you can’t get enough, you can’t get to 15 yes’s, then I will have people ask people and say, hey, I really need your help. You’re one of my core group people, you’re a close friend. Can you bring somebody?  Who will you bring to the party? Not who will you invite to the party? Who will you bring to the party? There’s a difference and can you invite someone else. You know, of course I can invite but can you bring someone. The action that they want is for them to bring someone not to invite somebody. It’s a small thing like that, but through testing hundreds and hundreds of parties and helping almost 180 people now host their own party, I found that those words do matter.


Clint Murphy  29:59

Yeah, it’s much more action oriented. It’s direct action versus passivity. So someone can be passive and say, Yeah, sure, I can throw three invites, but I’m not promising anything where you’re saying, who will you bring and now they’re saying, okay, that’s, I’ve got to get, I don’t have an ask, I’ve got to get. Love that. So we’re going to have no shows. So that always happens. How do we use reminders to reduce the no shows? And like, if I want 15 people to come, how many invites do you estimate I’m going to have to send out to get 15 people to be at the party.


Nick Gray  30:37

I’m so passionate about this, about the attendance rate and the no shows and things because I’ve really worked hard to boost that. So first of all, how many do you have to invite. even myself, I tell you, it varies from person to person and town to town, a town with not a lot going on, you have an extremely high hit rate. In busier towns like New York, Austin and Vancouver, people are busy. And so things will happen. Even in my world. If I want 15 people to come, I have to invite 30. That’s just how it works. I need to invite twice as many people. However, I’ve talked to people in Waco, Texas, in Dallas and other places across the country. They’ll say, yeah, you know what I invited 18 and 21 showed up. Everybody said yes, and some brought a friend. And so that does happen, and especially in sort of older communities and towns with not as much going on, especially when you give people the full three weeks notice, what I call the party runway, giving people plenty of advance notice to make it easier for them to say yes, then you do have a much higher number of people who will say yes. Now about the attendance rate. Readers of my book, based on the surveys that I’ve done are reporting a 93% attendance rate.


Clint Murphy  31:52

Well, that’s pretty good.


Nick Gray  31:53

That’s pretty good for those that say yes, and no actually follow through and RSVP, 93% of them show up. And why is that? Because we use that first one. I’m thinking of hosting it, may I send you the info?  That weeds out a lot of those people from the very beginning who simply say yes, because it’s a Facebook invite, or they say maybe or something like that. And by the way, we count maybe it says no’s generally, and we don’t count them towards our goal of getting 15 yes’s. On average, though, you will boost your attendance rate when you do two things. Number one is send a reminder messages. And number two is when you use guest bios, which are my secret weapon to boost attendance and really get people excited. They’re just little blurbs. For example, I would say Clint runs a podcast. He lives in Vancouver, but he’s thinking about moving to Texas. Ask him about his podcast. They’re simple little blurbs about your guests that you may know simply socially, they’re not like Forbes 30 Under 30. You don’t have to ask for their permission to review or edit them. They can be as simple as John is my neighbor, he has two dogs. This is the first time I’ve hung out with him. Okay, there are little blurbs just to give people conversational access points. To get them excited to know the other people that have come in and attending your party. It is a secret weapon to turbocharge your attendance rate and the new connections that happen at your party.


Clint Murphy  33:21

And one of the things I appreciate how you’re doing this is similar to the specificity in your messages that you send people. You’re not using the spray and pray. I just put a Facebook event and send it to my 1500 Facebook friends. You’re targeting this many people in the core group. I got five, now I’m going to the great guests. And I’m targeting these specific people. So all the way through the right word that’s jumping out at me is you’re being very intentional each step of the way.


Nick Gray  33:56

Yes, super intentional, super intentional. And I’ve heard from people that say, Wow, this RSVP method that you have really works. It’s a complete game changer. What do I do? I never blast someone the link to RSVP before asking their permission. Hey, can I send you the info? Right. So I started even double opt in, I have them opt into receiving my party details. How often do you just get blasted with an invite, you haven’t heard from these people? I remember I heard from a friend of mine in New York City. And he had invited me to a big New Year’s bash and that he used one of these online platforms that I won’t name and it went to spam. And so it’s like three days before New Year’s he’s like bro, haven’t heard, are you coming to my party or not? I was like, what are you talking about? I have no idea we were talking about and it was in my spam. He just blasted out this mass invite to everybody I hadn’t heard from him. So by inviting people on a one to one basis, it also feels more personalized. They feel selected to be there. And that’s really special and it helps boost the attendance rate as well.


Clint Murphy  35:05

Has anyone ever said to you that you approach cocktail parties, the way a person who’s serious about their newsletters, approaches newsletters, like the open rates, thee hit rates, like the analytics, open rates, hit rates, acceptance rates, double opt in, like it’s very newsletter.


Nick Gray  35:30

That makes sense. I’ve run a friends newsletter that I send to my friends, I call it my friends newsletter, which by the way, everyone should have a friends newsletter I learned about because my parents send like an annual letter to their friends. Did you grew up in a household like that where your folks send out?


Clint Murphy  35:45

No, but it’s, it’s incredible hearing it. I love it already.


Nick Gray  35:48

Yeah, it’s just like, yeah, like a Christmas tradition, they send like a Christmas card. But with that card, they include a letter. And maybe because they were in the military, I was born on an Air Force Base, and they move around a lot. And so I started to send a similar letter to my friends once a year, and then I turned it to once a quarter. It’s just, you know, stuff, I’m reading, cool stuff, try to add value. But I’ve been thinking a lot about newsletters. And yes, we can apply that same level of intentionality and analytics. I’ve done all of that for you. So if you buy my book, or even if you just read my blog, you don’t want to buy my book, you can learn about how to host a good event. And through experimentation, I found that there are things that you can learn to do well, and nobody really teaches us how to host a good event. It’s hard for me to go to unstructured events these days, because I just get frustrated.


Clint Murphy  36:40

Well, I didn’t even notice. And I might have missed it when you said think of my name. And here’s the things we do. I might have missed that in the book. I didn’t miss the first two parts of it, though. So name tags, someone’s going to be like Nick like, I haven’t worn a nametag since kindergarten. Like we’re not at a convention. Why name tags? So why to you are the name tags so important at the event,


Nick Gray  37:06

The name tags serve like a sports jersey to show that we’re all on the same team. They show that there’s no cliques at the party. And they make it a safe space to go meet and talk to new people. It’s as simple as that. The name tag makes it easier to create new conversations. And even if you think oh, all my friends know each other, I can guarantee you that while you may know everybody, think about your friend who brings their partner, their significant other, they don’t know everybody. Think about that new neighbor that you want to be generous and invite. They don’t know everybody’s name. You’re only as strong as the weakest link at your party. And so we were the name tags, even if you know everybody’s names, it’s to make your guests feel more welcome. And especially for introverts. For people with social anxiety, the more that they can know what to expect, the more confidence that they’ll have and come into your party. So I like to tell them, I’ll even include a little breakdown of an agenda. I’ll list those guest bios to tell them who else is coming. And I hear from people that they say, wow, those guest bios are really helpful. You know, I got an idea of who I’d be talking to, who might be at the party. Giving and setting expectations is a pro move for professional party hosting, to build your network to make new friends. If you can set the expectations, you’ll be successful in your hosting journey.


Clint Murphy  38:39

And then the second one that someone’s going, the I in NIck. Someone’s going to be like, well, I haven’t done icebreakers since college, like icebreakers at a cocktail party, what are we doing here? But you have very specific reasons for why we’re doing them. And when we’re doing them and what we’re doing in each of them.


Nick Gray  39:00

Yes, I have a lot of thoughts on icebreakers. Now, I’ve led 1000s of icebreakers when I did my museum tours. The goal was for me to get people talking in a museum because the number one indicator of success as a tour guide, is do people ask you questions, right? Do I go from sage on the stage to like, trusted confidante, friend that you’re just hanging out with and hat would happen if I could get people to ask questions and talk. But in a museum, it’s stuffy. Nobody wants to talk. It’s quiet. There’s social ideas. So I learned that I had to run icebreakers to get people to loosen up and just start asking me questions and talking. The same thing applies at a party. I need to encourage people to strike up new conversations, I need to give them a conversational crutch, to go talk to somebody across the room and not just the person next to them at the bar. To do that. I found that you use a series of escalating icebreakers at the beginning of a party, you use a green level icebreaker, an easy one when there’s no rapport and the rooms not warmed up. The one that I like that I suggest is, say your name, say what you do for work or how you spend your days. And then tell me one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast. Now, that breakfast question works because everybody eats breakfast, or they don’t they choose not to because they do intermittent fasting. But it’s top of their mind, it generally has a positive connotation. It’s easy to think of, it’s fast to say, and most importantly, there’s no judgment. There’s no judgment around what you do for breakfast. And so I like that one, because it’s fast, it’s quick, and it’s easy, and it works well at the beginning of your party. Now, at the end of your party, I use a different style of icebreaker called an advanced icebreaker that’s additive to the room that makes everybody feel smarter, has new ideas and encourages discussion. But I only do that after you’ve warmed up the room, built up some rapport and trust. The icebreakers are really a conversational crutch. That’s what they’re for just to get people talking and meeting new people.


Nick Gray  40:06

And have the number of people that have answered with intermittent fasting gone up exponentially since you went to Austin?


Nick Gray  41:06

I think so. I think it probably is, you know, I saw it in New York about four years, five years ago, starting then, you know, I skipped breakfast. So, so I give a sort of acknowledgement. But the funniest story was this woman in New York, she was a grizzled fashion writer, you know, she had bangs, and straight black hair, she was wearing all black. And she was obviously like, she ran away from home at 13 and grew up, you know, on the main streets in New York. And we’re going around, say your name, so what you do for work and your favorite thing for breakfast, and it comes to her and she just kind of stood out at the party. And she said, my name is Diane, for work. I’m a fashion writer. And my favorite thing for breakfast is cigarettes. And everybody kind of laughed, and it really just showed that she was self aware. And she laughed as well. She kind of chuckled. But we do those icebreakers because they give an expression of somebody’s personality. The person who says I eat waffles with blueberries, you know, you might go to them for sweet dessert ideas. The person says, oh, I skipped breakfast, you know, I do intermittent fasting. Maybe you talk to them about health stuff. It’s just a way for us to signal a little bit to the room of who’s there. And I think that’s important when you go to a party. I don’t know for you, Clint. If you went to a party, and you never knew all night that somebody else hosted a podcast, maybe you don’t want to talk to other podcasters. But I think maybe I would want to if I hosted a podcast.


Clint Murphy  42:35

Yeah. Well, it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s Carnegie as soon as you know what someone else’s breakfast like, what someone else’s into. Those bios, it’s like, you’re gonna zone in and be like, oh, I want to go talk to this person about their thing. Because your thing is your thing. You don’t need to talk like, I’d rather go probe and ask questions and be like, oh, Nick’s into this. Let me go talk with Nick and ask him about that. Because he probably loves talking about it.


Nick Gray  43:05

Right. And it’s hard to find that out. I think that’s what I get frustrated about at a normal party. I’m left to bump into people by pure physical happenstance. That’s how the introductions happen. And I want to be able to know who’s in the room? Who should I talk to? I don’t know. Is that selfish of me? Is that weird? I want to know who to talk to.


Clint Murphy  43:27

No, I think it’s genius. And it’s setting everybody up for success. As opposed to coming in cold, like you’re coming in and being like, oh, here’s 10 people, 15 people, here’s five, who they have a passion that I find super intriguing. And I want to learn more, because you might talk to all 15. You might only talk to five people. If you talk to five new people, that’s a pretty successful night, I would think.


Nick Gray  43:54

Yeah, that’s huge. That’s crazy. And so that’s what happens at these parties. By the way, I want to, we briefly touched on the idea of building your network of acquaintances. The purpose of these parties is for your friends to meet new people, you’ll get to meet these new people as well. But your friends will have let’s say, 5, 7, 8 new conversations to meet new people realize that that doesn’t happen at most events, you will talk to two, three, maybe four people. At these parties, because of the icebreakers that break up conversations and start new ones. All the guests will talk to a lot of different people. That’s what makes these parties successful. That’s what happens at the party is there’s all these new conversations happening. And I think that that’s really important that you go to cocktail parties to meet new people. You can build those relationships in follow up later on.


Clint Murphy  44:45

And you mentioned something there. We talked it’s heard it a couple times now is network of acquaintances. How do you view a network of acquaintances and why is it so important that that’s what we’re building? Not just at the party, but in life.


Nick Gray  45:00

Yeah, science shows that we find out about the best new opportunities. Maybe you’ve heard this, not through our closest friends, but through our weak ties. That’s these social connections we have that are not our best friends. They’re somebody you worked with three years ago, the neighbor at the old apartment you lived in. They’re people that are loose connections. They’re weak ties. And they’re ones that often expose us to new jobs, new opportunities, and new partners, we find out about some of the best things in life through those people. And I believe that having a large network of acquaintances can expose you to more opportunities, you’ll get invited to more parties, your social calendar will fill up, you’ll find out about new job opportunities, everything. This is the benefit of building a network in an authentic way.


Clint Murphy  45:51

I love it. And now I want to build it so much fun. So now we’re gonna throw the party, we’ve got our guests, we’ve got our invites, we know we’re going to do icebreakers we know we’re gonna give name tags, how do we get through the awkward zone?


Nick Gray  46:06

The awkward zone is that thing that happens in the first 10 or 20 minutes of every party. And you get through it by number one, delegating duties. The first thing anybody says when they show up to a party and their earlier they say, oh, how can I help? By knowing as a host how you can assign duties to people, it will help you enlist to them to be invested in the success of your party. Things I like to ask people, the duties that I delegate are, I asked somebody, hey, will you help out at the self serve bar when somebody comes, can you help them? Just the first few people will you help them mix a drink or find some, you don’t have to know how to make a drink, but just help them get a cup and some ice. Number two, in the wintertime, put somebody in charge of coat checks, hey, when people come, can you help the first few people to hang up their jackets. Number three, assign a party photographer. Oh, you know what, I’m always so busy at parties, I forget to take photos, will you help me out and take a bunch of pictures and send them to me afterwards. Party pro tip, I will usually ask two people to do this, one person usually forgets so they get busy. And I love seeing photos afterwards. There’s a whole list of things that you can ask people to help you out with. But that’s one of the first things I’ll do for the first few guests to create like a team to help me out to make the party successful. So that’s number one. And then once there are about four or five, six people, that’s when I’ll do that first icebreaker that I mentioned, the practice icebreaker, where it’s almost like I let them in on a little secret. I say, hey, look, we’re going to do this icebreaker later. But I want to practice now. And I do a quick icebreaker with that group to take it from unstructured uncertainty to structured uncertainty. And then I break the ice and I let them go and new conversations start and new people arrive. And doing that icebreaker helps you break out of the awkward zone into the party.


Clint Murphy  47:59

And so in the book, you give an exact schedule on how to do that and what we’re doing in each one and what our three but three questions are, the three by three method. I love that. So now we’ve got our guests, we’ve had the killer cocktail party, and you said, hey, the K is kick them out at the end, which seemed really important. Because you want to be known as, hey, it’s seven to nine, like you show up, you have a good time, you meet people and then you’re out, you get to go home and live your life. That’s why these parties you want to come to them because they don’t get in the way. They’re efficient and a great experience. How do we kick people out in a generous way?


Nick Gray  48:42

So number one, just like the name tags on the icebreakers which you have to mention to people in the invitations and the RSVP and reminder messages. When you mentioned name tags and icebreakers, you won’t have any resistance to doing them at the party. Well, the same thing happens with the end time. Most parties will list a start time but not an end time. And when you list an end Time to your party and you communicate the end time, just you know, date, time, right you list the end time there. People have an idea, oh, this is different. This party will be ending at a certain time that helps them to have the expectation that it will be ending but here’s how to end your party. 15 minutes before the scheduled time to end, you will make a last call, right? Hey, everybody, party is scheduled to end in 15 minutes, grab a last drink if you want to, say hi to somebody new, we’ll start to wrap up, thank you guys so much for coming. At the scheduled end time, I turn the music off and I turn the lights up. I thank everybody for coming and I just start to tidy. I start to clean up my house a little bit and people get the point and they start to make their way out. Now a party pro tip is that occasionally you’ll have people who want to talk to you after the end time they say oh, Clint, I haven’t talked to you all night, dude, I would love to catch up, dude, I haven’t seen you in like a year, thanks for inviting me. Let’s hang out now that people are leaving. And what I say to them, is I say, George, I’d really love to catch up. I’m so glad that you came. Thank you so much. Look, I gotta stay on track for my goals tonight. And I need to tidy. But can I call you tomorrow, I would love to catch up. And I would really like to talk to you, may I call you tomorrow, please. That makes them feel seen. For anyone that’s trying to hold you down. Like, stay focused with your goals. And here’s why. Because the biggest benefits in life come when you can make hosting a habit. When you can start to host an event like this every six to eight weeks, you will go through life snowballing, collecting interest in new people who you get to invite to your parties. And I need you to end your party on time so you’ll want to do this again. So you’ll see that it can be easy, and that you can repeat it and make it a habit. That’s why it’s so important to me to end the party on time. So that you wake up the next day refreshed and energized and proud of all that you accomplished. Does that sound cheesy? Does that too cheesy? It’s just I’m so passionate about it.


Clint Murphy  51:07

No, I love the idea of making it a habit. And it’s something that I definitely, my wife stopped working full time for other people a few months ago. And so I think you know, we’re now at a point in our life where this would be a great thing to do every six to eight weeks with parents of kids that our sons go to school with, people that we find interesting, colleagues.  Just start to regularly every six to eight weeks, have a cocktail party, bring people over, network, build that. And it’s not just for you, it’s helping your friends build acquaintances and building a wider circle for everybody. So I think it’s absolutely good to be able to keep it tight, on point. And the key is with everything and you talked about with habits is you want it to be repeatable. And so if it’s easy to do, easy to set up, easy to be successful, you’re going to want to do it.


Nick Gray  52:06

That’s the key thing is how can we make it easy? And how can I make it fun? I don’t know, I feel a little bit cocky that these days, anybody can convince somebody to host one party. Anybody can write a book to say, oh my gosh, here’s how to throw the best New Year’s Eve party or something. But I’m truly trying to help people to learn that the biggest benefits come when you always have your next party on the calendar. The next person you meet, you’re like, oh, that person’s interesting, say, hey, I’m hosting a cocktail party in a couple of weeks. Can I send you the information? You have an easy, close and easy next step? Because Clint, I would guess that with you and your wife, you meet an interesting couple. And what’s the next step really, for couples, especially people with kids, the only next step that would happen is either one a play date or two, you go out to dinner with them. And both of those are scheduling and logistically complicated, I would imagine.


Clint Murphy  53:02

Yeah. Yeah. Like I just nailed it, like, I just had a walk this morning for almost three hours with someone who I probably haven’t talked to in 20 years. And someone mutual, reconnected us and said, hey, you guys actually live in the vicinity of each other? It took us like a month to schedule a walk and I had a blast. And I would love to have been able to say, hey, Mark, I’m hosting a cocktail party in three weeks, would you and your wife love to come over? And we can continue this conversation? Two hours. Now, if they have kids, this is a bit of a fun one. Because as we get older, there’s a potential for that. What do you say in that situation? How do you handle that, because that could be maybe the only wrinkle.


Nick Gray  53:56

So if there’s kids, I’ve written an article, which I’d love to include this in the show notes on how to host a party with kids. And I have a couple ideas. Number one, if you can afford it, the pro move is to hire a babysitter and offer childcare at your party. Number two, if that’s not an option for you, then to host a simultaneous kids party, where the kids are in another room watching a movie having snacks, but they are in a separate area of the home. Now that’s for younger kids. If your kids are older, then you can involve them in the icebreakers, perhaps you can put them to work with name tags, or something like that. But for younger kids, we found and I have a huge article on the website with all these pro tips that I’ve collected from people who have hosted parties with their kids and things that they have found that are successful. But I want to give the caveat to say that this book was written for me at a time when I and many of my friends did not have kids. And so you as a parent can use your own judgment based on what I found and and doing these interviews with others to make a successful event.


Clint Murphy  55:00

So we will link to that in the show notes. And then where can our listeners find you, Nick?


Nick Gray  55:09

So the name of my book is called the Two Hour Cocktail Party. And I’ve written articles which I’ll send these to the show notes: how to plan a networking event, how to host a happy hour, how to host a housewarming party, here’s what I want you to come away with this. Any social event that you host can benefit from a little bit of structure that will help the other attendees make new friends. And today, just like Clint and I were talking, we’re spending so much time we’re digitally saturated, that everybody can use a new friend. And you can learn how to help people do that and you’ll receive massive benefits from it. You can find my book online, they’ll tell you the perfect party formula. The name of my book is the Two Hour Cocktail Party. It’s for sale on Amazon, I recorded the audio book myself in studio. I’m really proud of the audiobook, available on Audible and Apple books. And then I post a lot on social media. So I’m at NickGrayNews on Instagram and all the social medias.


Clint Murphy  56:06

And do you have time for a Final Four question. What’s one book you’ve read that’s had the most influence on your life.


Nick Gray  56:15

I really did like Atomic Habits. I was inspired with my own book, though. I’ll give one other one called The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. Well, my book is extremely tactical and practical. Her book is more theoretical about why we gather and the things that we do.


Clint Murphy  56:31

Okay, The Art of Gathering. And then what’s on the bookshelf right now? What’s happening for Nick?


Nick Gray  56:35

What’s happening for me? What am I reading?


Clint Murphy  56:38

Yeah. You want to read more this year.


Nick Gray  56:42

So have you heard about the book, the Three Body Problem? The three body problem a lot of people talk about. It’s a fiction book that was very popular amongst folks. And the first few times I tried to read it, I was unable to, I just couldn’t get it to stick. Well, I forced myself to read it on vacation recently. And now I’m obsessed with the trilogy. I’m finishing up the third book in the series.


Clint Murphy  57:03

The Three Body Problem. Okay, I’ve got to look this up. What’s one thing you’ve spent less than $1,000 on in the last year that you wish you’d bought sooner?


Nick Gray  57:15

I recently got a robot vacuum, but not just any vacuum. It’s made by a company called Roborock. And I’ve had you know, iRobot and Roombas. And stuff like that, that just, they didn’t live up to the hype. I’m obsessed with this one. It’s the Roborock S6 or whatever it was 2 or $300 on Amazon. It has onboard LiDAR, and it maps my house and it’s just sweeps hardwood floors and vacuums the carpets. It’s incredible. I’m obsessed with it.


Clint Murphy  57:45

Does it do it by itself? Because we’ve had one of the ones you’ve mentioned, for three years. And I don’t think it’s come out of the box and my wife explained because you have to map the whole house yourself.


Nick Gray  57:58

No, this thing does. It’s a absolute game changer. I look at the reviews online. I’ve convinced several of my friends to buy it and they love it.


Clint Murphy  58:06

The name one more time.


Nick Gray  58:08

It’s RoboRock and they’re the ones who make it. And the one piece of advice I would say is do not get that. Well, you don’t have to but don’t think that you need the one that mops the floors. My sister bought the one that she thought, oh, I’ll get it to mop my floors. And the reality is she’s just too lazy to keep refilling the water. And so most people just use it for sweeping and vacuuming.


Clint Murphy  58:32

Yeah, just a simple sweep and vacuum is perfect. Okay, I’m on it.


Nick Gray  58:36

Simple sweep and vacuum. And it’s a great thing. It’s a game changer.


Clint Murphy  58:40

And it’ll map itself. I like that. And it won’t fall down the stairs,


Nick Gray  58:44

It won’t fall down. It’s very smart. It’s very good. It’s really good software. That’s what I love best about it that the software that runs it seems way smarter than all these other dumb robots.


Clint Murphy  58:55

Okay, I’m going to check that out. And because the show is The Growth Guide and that is new, we’re converting from The Pursuit of Learning to The Growth Guide. And what is a mindset shift a new habit or behavior that you shifted in the last year that’s been significant in your growth, Nick?


Nick Gray  59:15

There’ss two things I think about. Number one is the concept of giving before you ask for anything, and that’s at the core of the fundamentals of the two hour cocktail party is that you will build your network faster and bigger and better. By giving the gift of a party invitation, everyone wants to be invited to a party. When you can give that to build your network, you’ll build it faster, more than ever. The second thing that’s more recent for me is I’ve been trying to go outside to get sunlight within the first 30 or 45 minutes of waking up. Even if I just go outside for a couple sips of my green tea to get that sunlight in my eyes. I have heard that there’s big benefits to it.


Clint Murphy  59:57

Yeah, I’ve heard that as well. It apparently is one of the better things for then having a good sleep at night and regulating our sleep. So, and I have a sleep expert coming on in a few weeks or months, it all starts to blur together, Nick. But I will ask him if that is indeed true after I read his book. So we went pretty wide and deep on the book, don’t want to give away at all, because it’s literally a strategic tactical handbook on how to do this. Recognizing that is there anything that we didn’t cover that you want to make sure the listener gets today?


Nick Gray  1:00:33

I think the last thing I want to mention is that for any budget, in any home size, if you live in a small apartment, the parties are more exciting. If you don’t have a lot of money, no it can be done for under $75. These things aren’t expensive, and everyone wants to know someone who brings people together. And the secret is anyone can do it. It just takes a simple two hour cocktail party.


Clint Murphy  1:00:56

I love it. Thank you very much and we will end it there. Thanks for having me.


Clint Murphy  1:01:07

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