How to Host a Two Hour Cocktail Party

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Welcome to episode 890 of the Boostly Podcast, where we explore the art of hosting memorable events with Nick Gray, an expert with a track record of over nine hundred two-hour happy hours. In this episode, Nick shares his unique approach, emphasising the importance of engaging guests over elaborate meals, and introduces his successful NICK party formula – Nametags, Icebreakers, Cocktails/Mocktails, and Kicking out guests after two hours. Host Mark, inspired by Nick's insights at the BiggerPockets and HostCom events, recounts how he applied these principles to his own event, the Big Bash. The discussion also delves into Nick's journey of mastering event hosting, starting from his aversion to traditional networking events, and culminating in his successful and diverse intellectual salon in Austin, Texas. This episode is a rich resource for anyone looking to create impactful and enjoyable events, whether for business networking, social gatherings, or personal milestones.

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Timestamps (audio)


The Art of Hosting Memorable Events

[00:00:00] Nick: I'm focused on people learning how to host their first event. And if I tell you what I did as an expert, I think I can call myself an expert. I. Have literally hosted in the upper seven, eight, nine hundred, two hour happy hours. If I tell you what I did for my birthday, I'm worried it's gonna blow people out of the water and they're gonna be like, I can't listen to this.

[00:00:21] Nick: I gotta stop. That's way too advanced. But I'll tell you if you wanna know. Do you wanna know? Here's what I believe. I would rather someone leave my party hungry rather than bored. Okay, because my friends are adults. They can feed themselves, but I am the host and I want to introduce them to new people.

[00:00:56] Mark: Alright, good morning, good afternoon, good evening.

[00:00:59] Mark: Welcome to a brand new Office and a brand new camera. I've gone for the one where it's a bit, bit wider, 11 millimeter lens on here. So you get to see everything, including my new tropics and my floor and my radiator. So anyway, welcome back to the podcast. Uh, this is a very special recording that I did at the end of December, 2023 and.

[00:01:22] Mark: The story behind this is that I went to two events in the USA this year that, um, was around BiggerPockets and HostCom. And at this event, there was a chap called Nick Gray and Nick Gray was talking about cocktail parties and how to host a two hour cocktail party. I was fascinated I loved his talks. Um, such an engaging chap and While I was at the event, I downloaded the book, listened to it.

[00:01:52] Mark: Also what I read it on the plane on the way back. And then I went and got the print version. Two weeks after flying back, I was hosting the Big Bash and I instantly implemented the NIC formula into the Big Bash. And in this episode of the Boosted Podcast, you are going to find out what the NIC formula is, but most importantly, why you should be hosting a two hour event.

[00:02:15] Mark: In 2024, it is going to be key and this podcast is going to delve into that. All right. Brilliant. Everybody, thank you so much for tuning in. Um, we have got the fantastic Nick Gray with me. Nick, the question I love to ask all of our guests is how did you get this job?

[00:02:29] Nick: I hate networking events. I moved to New York 15 years ago, and I tried to go to these events to make friends, to meet people.

[00:02:38] Nick: And I found that they were oftentimes held in a big, loud bar that was way too dark. And the only people I met were like swarmy, transactional, just not the people I wanted to meet. And I would leave the event feeling like a loser, like it was my fault. I ultimately figured out it wasn't that I was bad, it's just that I was going to bad events.

Overcoming the Challenges of Traditional Networking Events

[00:02:59] Nick: And I said, well, I'm going to figure out how to host good events. And that led me down a path over many years hosting hundreds if not thousands of events. Dinner parties, cocktail parties, happy hours, networking events. And now I've become something of an expert in teaching people how to host their own meetups and gatherings.

[00:03:19] Nick: So

[00:03:19] Mark: very recently you hosted, uh, an event around your birthday. Can you just, uh, I saw this on Instagram and looked at it. No! Can you just tell me a little bit about it and the idea? Oh my God.

[00:03:31] Nick: Look, I hesitate to talk about this because I'll tell you why. I'm focused on people learning how to host their first event.

[00:03:38] Nick: And if I tell you what I did as an expert, I think I can call myself an expert. Have literally hosted in the upper seven, eight, nine hundred, two hour, happy hours. If I tell you what I did for my birthday, I'm worried it's gonna blow people out of the water, and they're gonna be like, I can't listen to this.

[00:03:56] Nick: I gotta stop, that's way too advanced. But I'll tell you if you wanna know. Do you wanna know? Let's

[00:04:01] Mark: just have the 60, 000 foot overview of what you did so then we can delve into newbie sort of territory if you don't mind.

[00:04:09] Nick: 60, 000 foot overview for my 42nd birthday, I invited 42 of the most interesting people I know all around the world.

[00:04:18] Nick: Uh, ultra successful content creators, super successful business owners, teachers, people that work in oil and gas, a neuroscientist, a private tutor, all these random people I've met over the last 15 years, I invited them to come to Austin, Texas for an intellectual salon that I hosted on my birthday. And it was the most challenging, most difficult event I've ever hosted.

[00:04:42] Nick: And it was the best birthday ever.

Introducing the NICK Party Formula

[00:04:44] Mark: The first one I wanted to delve into is the NIC party formula. Um, this in itself, these four little acronyms that we're going to talk about. I implemented these into the big bash and they were a huge success. So could you just delve into, um, the NIC party formula, explain what they are, each one, uh, for

[00:05:02] Nick: everybody that's tuning in.

[00:05:04] Nick: I'm smiling right now because the N in Nick is nametags. And I want to know at the Big Bash, did you do nametags?

[00:05:10] Mark: We did. We, we, we basically what we did last minute, I messaged a printer and I'm literally flying back from America, bearing in mind two weeks away from the event. And I, and I've got your book, uh, and I've got the Kindle version of the book.

[00:05:23] Mark: So this is before I even went and got the, the, the print version. So I'm like, Hey, we need nametags. Could you do a nametag? That's like the. Hi, my name is, but with boostly colors and my face on it. And it was like, yeah, no problem. So we, we, we, we got the name tags. We, we, we got the name tags. The one mistake that I made though, is the name tags didn't stick to all material.

[00:05:44] Mark: Um, cause I, do you know the ones you peel in your stick? But then I should have got the lanyards. Uh, I saw yours with the lanyards, so it was cool, but yeah, people were putting it on their real nice, like, frocks and gowns, and they were just going straight off,

[00:05:58] Nick: but name tag. Your event was fancy. Frocks and gowns.

[00:06:02] Nick: Dang, dude. Respect. It

[00:06:03] Mark: was a party. The Big Bash. We called it the Big Bash. It was, uh, it was an event. We had ABBA. That's cool. We had Robbie Williams tribute acts. It was, uh, stand up comedians. It was, it was a gig, but yeah, name tags, a hundred

[00:06:16] Nick: percent. You did something great, which was you use some of this framework to host a huge event.

[00:06:22] Nick: And I want your listeners to think about how they can host an event for other short term rental hosts. I know you and I are going to talk about that. Why later, but just plant that seed. That this is meant for you to host, let's say 15 to 22 people in a casual happy hour format that would cost you less than a hundred American US dollars.

[00:06:48] Nick: So it doesn't have to be complicated. You don't need bands or catering or anything. I'll talk about that later. But first, let me say what the NIC method is, and that's N I C K. N stands for name tags. Even if it's your neighbors and your friends, you have to do name tags. I'll tell you why. Because the reason we want to host is to bring new people into our world.

[00:07:13] Nick: You want to host to build your network of loose connections and acquaintances. That's what I found. All big relationships, whether it's business partners, new tenants, new real estate, whatever, everything starts in this acquaintance network. It's what salespeople maybe call a cold lead or top of the funnel.

[00:07:32] Nick: We want to bring a lot of those top of the funnel people into the gathering, so you can figure out who you want to build a relationship with. To make them feel comfortable, you need to use name tags. I'm curious at your own event, Mark, did you notice or hear any feedback? I'm guessing that the name tags help people start new conversations.

[00:07:52] Nick: Yeah, no, 100

[00:07:53] Mark: percent because. People that were attending the event had seen everybody for like the last three, four, five years, but with Facebook profiles and they use the name tags as a way to go, Oh, you're. X, your last name, for the first time after four years. And the name tags really does help because you can go, Oh, your thing, instead of looking from the other side of the bar, thinking, Hmm, are you that person?

[00:08:20] Mark: You know, a bit awkward. They use that as a way of, Oh, your. that person I remember seeing your Facebook page or etc,

[00:08:27] Nick: etc. I in the formula N I C K, I stands for icebreakers or introductions. Now at a very large event like Mark hosted, it can be hard to do introductions. You have to split people into small groups like he saw we did at HostCon.

[00:08:43] Nick: But when you host 15 to 22 people, you as the host want to lead two or three rounds of intros. to simply let people sound off and know who is in the room. Okay, so what does that look like? It looks like saying, Hey, everybody, I got a bunch of really interesting people here in Nashville that are all doing short term rentals.

[00:09:05] Nick: We're going to go around the circle real quick. Say your name, say a little bit about your business. And tell me one of your favorite things that you like to eat for breakfast. Okay, that may seem like a stupid question. You're rolling your eyes. Oh my gosh, am I in primary school? But what we're trying to do at the beginning when there's no rapport built up is just get people talking and comfortable.

[00:09:30] Nick: If you know, social skills, you know, that at the beginning of an event is where it's the most awkward. So we use a easy icebreaker. What I don't want is a brain teaser icebreaker. That's the icebreakers I hate. They give them a bad reputation. N I C. The C stands for cocktails or mocktails only. This is drinks only.

[00:09:52] Nick: I do not want you to plan a dinner party. Many people think, Oh, I have to host a mastermind dinner. I have to invite these people out for dinner for the thing. Don't do a dinner. And here's why the best people that learn how to host make hosting a habit. They do regularly what others only do. Occasionally a dinner will suck the life out of you for new hosts.

[00:10:20] Nick: The dinner's too expensive, too complicated, too hard to say yes to. And you don't get the same amount of connections that you can when you host a happy hour. Dinner is advanced. If you're listening to this and you've successfully hosted dinner parties, congratulations, good for you. I would encourage you to try something simpler.

[00:10:40] Nick: Because I talk to people, Oh, I love to host. I host all the time. I ask them, When's the last time you host? Well, since COVID, you know. Things haven't been, I'm like, okay, put your money where your mouth is. Show me your calendar. When did you host? Because you should be going through life. As a short term rental host, as a business operator, whatever.

[00:11:01] Nick: Collecting the interesting people that you meet in your town. You need to think about that top of funnel. How do I build a relationship? Do I want to build a relationship? And the reality is, you may meet all these people and be like, let's go out to dinner, but you never do. Here's what I believe. I would rather someone leave my party.

The Importance of Engaging Guests at Events

[00:11:21] Nick: Hungry rather than bored. Okay. Because my friends are adults. They can feed themselves, but I am the host and I want to introduce them to new people. So I spend all my time and almost all my energy on the people, the introductions, the conversations that happen. And last time on the food, oh my god, though, for my birthday, I had to do catering because it was like a one and a half day event, and you know how expensive that is.

[00:11:47] Nick: It was IN SANE. And everybody has these dietary requirements, which I'm not gonna judge, but it's like, dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, then one, one night, we set out all the food, and it's my first time catering, I don't know, so I set the salads out. And all the stupid meat eaters thought that the salads were for them.

[00:12:07] Nick: And so they took the salad. And by the time the vegetarians got there, there's like no salad. I was like, you idiots. I mean, it was my fault, but still the K stands for kick them out at the end. This is really only a two hour gathering. And I'll tell you why. One of the reasons why is that I want you to host this on a Wednesday night, probably a Tuesday or a Wednesday night.

[00:12:30] Nick: Because when you're not doing what Mark did, look, Mark did a 7th anniversary huge blowout, he did everything. Fine, someone will clear their calendar for that, they're not gonna miss that. But for your just casual happy hour with other short term hosts, I want you to do it on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, because you're less likely to get no shows and cancellations.

[00:12:51] Nick: It's much easier for somebody to swing by at the end of the work and make a pop in. The number one fear for a new host is that nobody will show up. And you can reduce that fear by hosting on what I call green level days. Green levels Tuesday, Wednesday, a red level day would be a Friday or a Saturday night, everybody.

[00:13:13] Nick: Come on. It's holiday season. When we're recording this, everybody's planning events on Friday, Saturday nights, it also assumes that you'll be hosting a big, more traditional party focused on alcohol, music, dance. That's not what this is. This is a connections party.