#124: Nick Gray – The secret to throwing great events (online or IRL)

November 01, 2022

#124: Nick Gray – The secret to throwing great events (online or IRL)
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Featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Nick has been called a host of “culturally significant parties” by New York Magazine.


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Nick Gray is the Founder of Museum Hack and author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. Nick moved to New York City with very few friends and less-than-stellar social skills. But Nick craved new relationships and exciting opportunities. He started hosting non-traditional parties—a move that opened doors he never could have imagined.

Today, after hosting hundreds of 2-hour parties, he counts business owners, artists, and inspiring teachers among a circle of friends that helped him launch a multimillion-dollar company. Featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Nick has been called a host of “culturally significant parties” by New York Magazine.

In this episode, you’ll learn Nick’s four-part framework for hosting great events, how to get out of awkward conversations, how to throw great ONLINE events, and why hosting gatherings is the best way to build powerful relationships.

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Nick Gray  00:00

What you don't know or realize, if you haven't hosted a lot is with like 8 or 10 people, you as the host have to do a lot of hosting and babysitting. And there's not enough energy and excitement in the room. With 15 like, the room is alive.


Jay Clouse  00:15

Hello, my friend. Welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. As creators, we spend a lot of our time online. But as human beings, we still exist in the real three dimensional world. We're social creatures and we crave human connection. And that is why today's guest spent the last several years building a foolproof system for making friends and hosting in person events. His name is Nick Gray, he is the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party: How to Build Big Relationships with Small Gatherings. And this book is totally based on his experiments, running hundreds of cocktail parties over the last several years.


Nick Gray  00:48

I like doing things well. And I like adding a sense of curiosity so I started to experiment with different formats. I hosted dinner parties, I hosted cocktail parties, I hosted picnics and meetups and lots of different things. For me, hosting a meetup was a way to connect with people. And I think importantly, it was a way for me to add value to my friend group and to new people that I met, I always say if you want to connect with cool people, you need to do something cool. And for me that was a way to do something cool was to host parties.


Jay Clouse  01:20

I read this book and genuinely enjoyed it. It provides a very practical step by step guide on how to make new friends, strengthen relationships, and be the person in the room that everyone wants to know. That is the power of being the host, when you are the person bringing people together and building new relationships, you become the most popular person in the room, and you build a very powerful network. In fact, that's exactly how Nick built his network once he moved to New York City. And he says that his 2-Hour Cocktail Party formula is so much better than traditional networking.


Nick Gray  01:50

Someone once told me about speed dating. Here's the deal with speed dating, it doesn't matter how good of an event you throw if you have the best appetizers, logistics, venue, music, everything. If you host a speed dating event, you will be judged on one thing and one thing only. And that is the quality of the other attendees. And I think about that with networking events that networking events tend to be largely transactional. It's you know, what can I get out of you, it attracts or has attracted some lower quality individuals in the past that are primarily looking to sell things, handing out business cards. And I also think they're not very helpful events. There's little structure, there's no intentionality on facilitating some new conversations.


Jay Clouse  02:35

Nick has been featured in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and was even called the host of culturally significant parties by New York Magazine. So in this episode, you'll learn Nick's four part framework for throwing great events, how to get out of awkward conversations, how to throw great online events, and why hosting gatherings is the best way to build powerful relationships. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this episode. As you listen, you can find me on Twitter or Instagram @jayclouse tag me, let me know that you're listening. And if you're here on YouTube, leave a comment, subscribe to the channel if you haven't already. Enough of me, let's dive in. Let's talk with Nick.


Nick Gray  03:24

I grew up in the South, in Texas and Georgia. And I went to school in North Carolina. And when I moved to New York, I didn't have a lot of friends. I didn't know how to meet people. I wasn't very social, I didn't have social skills. And I went to a lot of bad events where I wouldn't really meet anybody. And I think that instead of going to bad parties, I decided to bring the parties to me and to do it in an area where I could be successful or I could meet people, make friends. And then ultimately, I hosted hundreds and hundreds of parties. And I use those parties to build a network that I launched my last business with at a company called Museum Hack. And so that's how I launched it.


Jay Clouse  04:02

Do you remember the first party and was it a train wreck?


Nick Gray  04:05

I made a lot of mistakes. I've definitely made a lot of mistakes in hosting my parties. And I hope to help other people not make those mistakes. But I did have one, yeah. Where I spent so much time decorating and, and doing all this stuff. And I forgot to shower and it's like 10 minutes before. And you know, I hop in the shower. And sure enough, somebody shows up like seven minutes early. And it was this girl that I had just met. And I was like answering the door basically naked, dripping wet. I'm just like, oh, my god.


Jay Clouse  04:34

I like the frameworks that you lay out in the book and I love that you're able to make this acronym actually line up with your name, the NICK framework. Let's get her on the same page here. Let's run through the Nick framework for running a 2-Hour Cocktail Party. What are those letters stand for?


Nick Gray  04:50

N stands for name tags. Everybody's got to have a name tag. I will die on that hill and I'll talk about why it's important, even for a group of friends or fans, or neighbors. I stands for icebreakers, we're going to do two or three quick rounds of icebreakers to go around the party and just introduce yourselves. C stands for cocktails only, cocktails only. It's not a dinner party, no food, don't go crazy. And then K stands for kick them out at the end. It's only two hours long.


Jay Clouse  05:20

I love, well, I love the kick out aspect of this. But I feel like I should take these in sequential order that'll make the most sense for people listening in. So let's start with name tags. You said that's a hill you're willing to die on. So tell me about that. Why are those so, so important?


Nick Gray  05:33

I was gonna go to a party in New York. I was in the city two or three weeks ago, and a guy was having like, 70 people in his backyard. And he invited me is very nice. I get to invite by the way, that's one of the perks of hosting parties, you get invited to a lot of stuff. And this guy invited me. I said, Oh, that's cool. I'd love to come by. Are you gonna use name tags? Are you gonna do name tags? Do you want to bring some? And he said, Oh, no, you know, I, I don't want to No, no, no, this didn't like a networking party. I was really kind of upset, because I hear that a lot that people say, Oh, no, no, no, it's just friends, neighbors, you know, we know everybody's names. And I think about the story. This guy Justin just moved to a new town in Utah. And him and his wife were hosting a party for people at their church because I wanted to meet people. And people at the party said, you know, they were like, Why don't we need name tags. We know everybody. And Justin was like, but my wife and I don't like you may know everybody is the host. But I guarantee you think about your friend who brings a plus one, a date that they've just started seeing their friend doesn't know everybody and name tags serve as a visual unifier of everybody at the party, they show that there's no cliques, they show that it's a safe space to go meet new people. They show that you can walk up and just say hello, it. It just serves to make it more friendly. This the sweetest sound anyone can hear is the sound of their own name. And why it's easier. Right, right. You know, Jay.


Jay Clouse  06:53

Actually, one of my biggest pet peeves is when somebody says to me, I'm bad with names. It's like, you're you're just not trying. You're just you're just not making it a priority to be good with names because anyone could be good with names. Right? And I love I love that the name tags make that a non issue. Yeah. All right. So we've got named tags the great equalizer, helping people feel comfortable and helping people avoid the awkwardness of not knowing somebody's name. Let's talk about icebreakers. The I in Nick, that also feels like a little uncomfortable to me to be thinking about, Okay, this is a casual gathering, icebreakers feel like a non casual thing, how do these fit in?


Nick Gray  07:31

I love that you're like, I don't know about icebreakers. Because Have you talked to people that you talk to new creators or other people and you have advice for them on their journey? And they're like, oh, I don't know about that. And you're like, bro, I know that this works. Like, just listen to me. Does that ever happen to you when you're talking to people? Of course, of course, I feel the same way about icebreakers. I've helped dozens if not hundreds of people host their first party. I've led 1000s of icebreakers myself, and they do seem a little weird, right. It seems a little weird seems a little formulaic, but here's what icebreakers do, icebreakers help not only start new conversations, but and existing conversations. So have you ever been at a party sometime and you're like trapped, talking to somebody and you're like, too nice to say like, okay.


Jay Clouse  08:16

That's great. That's a great distinction.


Nick Gray  08:18

And so we use icebreakers two or three times during your party to help mix the room up. Because as I watch an event, if I show up to a party, I'm looking to see how much the room is moving and shifting. I like to see moving and shifting, because for me, that means there's new conversations happening. And I like that I host events so that people can have as many new conversations as possible. And what I know is that the good ones they'll follow up on, they'll get the contact info, they'll schedule a lunch or a Hangout or something like that. They'll go get drinks, but I want to host events where my friends all the attendees can meet as many new people as possible. And so we do these icebreakers. Where I go around, I ask people to say their name, say what they do for work. And then an easy little question to ask as an icebreaker. My favorite one that's a green level icebreaker for easy is, you know, what's one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast? That's a good question. That'll work 100% of the time, when the room is cold when there's no rapport, and it's not really about what do you like for breakfast? It's about getting everybody to sort of speak and signal and make the room start to open for new conversations to give people that conversational crutch to go meet somebody.


Jay Clouse  09:28

How do you pick the starting person have an icebreaker because that first step person is the most on the spot right? So how do you how do you decide who to put in that position?


Nick Gray  09:37

I'm so glad you asked chapter 12 I lay out all of the stuff about how to facilitate an icebreaker and here's the important thing. You go first, you as the host always go first one because you can model the behavior to show people how it's gonna go. And then you're also not putting it on a surprise on sort of a popcorn a good icebreaker is one that, you know, everybody knows clearly what is going to be asked, it doesn't take a long time to think there's very little judgment. So an example of a bad icebreaker, I was at an event and somebody was like, go around and tell the story of your first kiss. You know, that's like a red level icebreaker that requires? Well, one, the answer is not helpful to the whole room, then, and the one on the breakfast one is not marginally helpful, but is a fast one. And it's just it's such a silly icebreaker and those red level icebreakers you may have been at events. And that's what people think about what was the story of your worst first date, there are various questions we can use later in the night later in the event, as the group has built rapport, and people have loosened up, and the room is louder and more alive. But at the beginning of an event, you want the easiest icebreaker, just to get people to start talking.


Jay Clouse  10:53

You mentioned green, and I know there's yellow and red, also kind of ranking the like, intensity, I suppose of these, I think what you're getting at is saying that each of these has a place in a two hour event, you're not stacking up your people and saying, are my people prepared for a red level because if they are red level people, I'm going to kick off the night with a red level, you're saying this is a sequential in any given gathering?


Nick Gray  11:14

Yeah, as you think about the flow of your gathering as it builds. And as you build trust and rapport. A good cocktail party uses a diverse group of attendees, you'll be famous amongst your friends, when you bring together people from different groups in your life, your neighbors, your colleagues, your fans, your subscribers, your clients, your customers, all these different pockets that you're bringing people to show up and meet new people. That's what's that's what really my book is about. Like, nobody teaches adults how to make new friends. And I think a two hour cocktail party is the best way to do it.


Jay Clouse  11:47

You mentioned that sometimes people get wrapped up into conversations, and they're not able to leave. So I love that as a host, you're taking on some of the responsibility to graciously give them an out. What if I'm an individual, and there's no icebreaker yet, or I'm just in my day to day life, and I'm in a conversation, I feel trapped. And I feel like I'm here because I'm just trying to be nice. How do I get out of those conversations independently?


Nick Gray  12:10

I hosted a big event in New York City with Sam and Sahil and these guys, 500 people in New York City, and I trained a group of people how to lead a random icebreaker. And some people's raise their hand, they asked the question you just did, hey, how do I once I've run the icebreaker? How do I leave the group? And I said, Well, just like this, Alright, everybody, thank you so much. It was really nice to meet you. I'm gonna go and mix and mingle around the room. And a guy followed up with me the next day. And he said, I never knew how to leave a conversation, I never knew that I could simply thank them and say that I was going to mix and mingle, I thought I had to wait it out until you know, some natural and or use the excuse that I had to go get a drink or go to the bathroom or something like that. And he said that knowing that I could just say that was like a life hack. I just like bounced around the room and met so many people. I thought that was pretty good.


Jay Clouse  13:00

I've used that before too. And there's there's a cynical part of my brain. Well, like the part that when I don't use that line is afraid to use that line is that I can see the perception of the other person feeling like I'm being transactional, like, oh, well, I just ran the numbers, and you're not the person I should be talking to here. So let me go mix and find someone else.


Nick Gray  13:21

I was talking to somebody, I went to a big party yesterday. And I said, you know, sometimes the thing that I'll do is all just follow my heart. And if I have a spontaneous urge to go and talk to somebody or to go leave, I will not try to wait until positive Oh my God, I want to go talk to this person. Think about how it naturally would happen at a party for somebody that is in full sense of themselves to just bop around and follow the conversations that are most interesting to them. I think that's okay to do. I don't have a lot of thoughts about how to be super nice or friendly. I think as long as you're being honest and genuine.


Jay Clouse  13:59

Sometimes when I when I feel like I have a hard time saying no, which my wife will tell me all the time that I just don't say no enough, I'll use this line of, hey, I need to save myself from myself and say no to this or go do this thing. Because if I don't, then this won't happen.


Nick Gray  14:15

One of my favorite things to do during the party, because I'm like, I'm an extrovert, but also I get overwhelmed at my own parties. And one of the reasons that you host with 15 to 20 people and not less, you know, you can't, I don't recommend reading my book and trying to say, Oh, I'll do this, but only with 10 is that it's counterintuitive, but actually the more people at your party, the less work that it is for you as a host and you're not in your head. So it probably makes sense to you. But what you don't know or realize if you haven't hosted a lot is with like eight or 10 people. You as the host have to do a lot of hosting and baby sit in. And there's not enough energy and excitement in the room with 15. Like, the room is alive. Somebody walks into that room and they're like, Wow, I'm not going to be able to meet me Every single person right now. And there's that sense of excitement. So I do feel strongly that even for introverts, if you're hearing this idea of hosting, and you're intimidated, know that it's actually less work for you, the more people there are.


Jay Clouse  15:13

Yeah, I like that I've, I've hosted a lot of dinner parties actually.


Nick Gray  15:18

And tell me more.


Jay Clouse  15:19

Well, the constraint that I run into like that, the hack that I have is I'll go to a conference or something. And instead of exhausting myself trying to move and shake and meet everyone individually that I'm trying to do, I will rent out a restaurant and then invite a group of people to join me that night. And usually, that alone is like worth the trip. But the constraint that I run into is in a dinner party format, where we're all seated here, you have like, limits to how many people you want sitting there, because it almost feels like it needs to be one contained conversation. So you get to like an eight person limit, you're like this is this is about to split off. And the cocktail party model you're proposing here is the opposite of that. It's kind of the antithesis to say you actually want more people and you want things to split off, and you want to have more one on one conversations and not have this group dynamic. So I think I'm going to try that at the next like, in person, thing I fly into, instead of a dinner party.


Nick Gray  16:12

Oh, my god, you gotta try it as a happy hour. And then you could do a dinner before or afterwards, when I used to host dinner parties, I've hosted a lot of them, I would host the dinner party. So let's say from six to eight, and then at eight, I would have a cocktail hour where I would invite more people. So I'd have like six people. I learned from somebody that naturally when you host a dinner party with more than six people, the group just naturally wants to bifurcate it wants to split into two separate groups or more. And so I suggest if somebody's like, Oh, I'm having a dinner party I, I made 12 people where we got a table at a restaurant, I usually advise them, I say, Look, you need to split it up into two different spots and tables. And you can move as a host between the two. But unless you are extremely skilled, and this is why I wrote a book about cocktail parties. dinner parties are very hard to facilitate. They require a lot of facilitation skills to pull off well.


Jay Clouse  17:06

When we come back, we talk about the second half of the NICK framework cocktails only and kicking people out. And later we talk about how you can apply these ideas to online events too. So stick around, we'll be right back.


Jay Clouse  17:19

Welcome back to my conversation with Nick Gray. Before the break, we talked about the first half of his NICK framework named tags and icebreakers. Now, we are on the sea for cocktails only, meaning that you will not be providing dinner at these parties.


Nick Gray  17:32

I'm really interested in the MVP, what is the minimum viable party, you're gonna get the most benefits for yourself, for your network for your business, when you can host regularly when you make hosting a habit just like you do whenever you go to a conference us to dinner. When that becomes something that you do and you do regularly, you will absolutely grow your network and build this whole network of acquaintances and lose connections and weak ties. And that's where we find out about the best business opportunities, the best ideas, the best Hacks is through this loose network of creators and acquaintances. It's through that so that's why I like to host this you're gonna do the cocktails only because dinner. It's too much, it's too complicated, it's too stressful, a lot of people.


Jay Clouse  18:17

Messy, there's clean up.


Nick Gray  18:18

It's messy, there's clean up, there's just a lot of reasons why I don't like dinner, and dinner is like you said dinner is sitting down and sitting down as the kryptonite to good energy to meeting new people. You get stuck sitting next year. Now, I'm not saying that dinners are bad. You can do dinners. Maybe you're listening to this. And you're like I host some dinner parties. I commend you. If you host some good dinner parties. I would encourage you though, to try cocktail parties to see that in the time it takes to watch a movie on Netflix, you can build relationships with 15 to 20 people. It's kind of like an amazing secret weapon.


Jay Clouse  18:51

Nobody's talking about energy. This came up on a recent episode with Kat Norton, who is known as Miss Excel on tick tock. She was talking all about energy and people listening to the show like gripped onto that. Love that. So I like the energy focus. So if we have high energy, why would we kick people out the K in the neck formula? Why would we kick them out after two hours?


Nick Gray  19:10

Well, first of all the night that you host your party is counterintuitive that the day of the week that you want to host I really suggest Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday nights people are like, What are you talking about? Well, those are non socially competitive nights. And when you host on a non socially competitive night, you have more likelihood that everybody will show up less ghosting and more hosting. That is what we want. And a lot of people are used to like only 50% of people showing up to their events. And that's what I'm fighting against. And so for people who follow my method, they're finding that over 93% of all the people who RSVP actually show up and so you kick people out at the end because it's a school night because you're only doing this on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night. You also want to have a two hour time limit because more people show up on time when you list an End Time for your event and keep it tight at Two hours, you compress the window of what I call the awkward zone, when nobody's really there, and they're just mingling. So that's another reason. And the last and final reason is, you want to end it on a high note, you want to end it when everybody's having fun, you want to add some finality and add some structure, lead graciously to say, Alright, that's it, this is it, I'm gonna cut it off. And people will respect you as an amazing host, who keeps to the schedule, and they'll want to come back again again. And they'll recommend their friends to go to your event as well.


Jay Clouse  20:32

I think the K is my favorite part of the formula, because it gives me permission to do a thing that I already do, which is I'm going to arrive on time, leave early, Irish goodbye type of person, there's like, there's so much benefit to dropping in, when people are excited and like, Hey, we're here, and we're doing this thing. And we're trying to meet people. And I'm like, here, here I am, you can meet me, and we're gonna have a good conversation and then leaving before it gets sloppy and people forget about the rest of night anyway.


Nick Gray  20:59

Speaking of Energy, I commend you for doing the Irish goodbye, or leaving without saying goodbye to the host. I actually prefer that. And I think it's great.


Jay Clouse  21:09

Is that just a preference or do you think there's, there's more to it than that?


Nick Gray  21:11

It's just kind of a downer to do that. And so I like I don't want to draw. Draw attention, actually, though. So in all seriousness, we end on time to give people the easy excuse to not make those guests who you're like, oh, gosh, I don't know if I want to but Well, now it's an easy excuse to leave. And so you make a note 15 minutes, because a lot of people may be listening. They're like, how do I end the party, though, like, it's one thing? Well, one, you're going to list an end time in your event, when people sign up and RSVP and you send reminder messages to you're going to make an announcement 15 minutes before the end is sort of a last call. Thank everybody for coming in. What's up, I heads up. And then at the time you thank everybody again, for coming. You turn the music down the lights up, and you start to clean up and tidy. By doing that. You give all these people an easy out and they will be so thankful for you. They will thank you I promise you for letting them have an easy out. It's so refreshing to go to a party like this.


Jay Clouse  22:04

Man, thank you for praising the Irish goodbye. I've I've unintentionally ended so many of other people's parties because it was known that I was leaving and I'd say like, oh, Jay is leaving. I was gonna go but people are like, Oh, we're allowed to leave now. Yes. There's like a flight for the door.


Nick Gray  22:20

Right? So funny. You said that though. Like that's what I'm fighting against is that like everybody kind of wants to leave and they're waiting to see who will leave next. When you end it as a host. And people will thank you for this.


Jay Clouse  22:32

It's like the George Costanza out on a high note. Have you seen that episode of Seinfeld? No. But I need to. This is like a 90s meme where George is just like, I'm going out on a high note. I'm going out on top and every time you'd like go to work and have a joke that hits like the room laughs He's like I'm out and he just like leaves work.


Nick Gray  22:49

Best. That's good.


Jay Clouse  22:52

All right, well, let me do a real quick recap a few things that you mentioned we have the the Nick format, the name tags, icebreakers, cocktails only kick people out. Were hosting on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, we have a tight to our format. I know you also recommend having at least we're about three weeks of runway lead time before your event. Structurally, are there any major major major things that I'm missing here for people who want to go and run and start scaffolding their own gathering?


Nick Gray  23:21

Very important to collect RSVPs and how you invite people. We're not going to send a mass email to everybody. You're going to send you invitations one on one. Hey, what's up, Jay? I'm thinking about hosting an event in two weeks on Tuesday night from seven to 9pm. Are you around? Can I send you the information? And if they say yes, then you sent Hey, Please RSVP here, you're going to send a reminder messages. This is what people need to do. And it's not a genius idea. It's like okay, but send three reminder messages, send one a week before your event, send another one four days before your event and send another one the morning of your event. And in your last two, you're going to use a secret weapon that I have called guest BIOS guest BIOS is your going to give little shout outs to half or more of all the people going maybe if Jay was attending my party, I will be like, Jay posts a podcast. He's obsessed with creators ask him about his podcast, okay. And I'm gonna give people these little conversational talking points of new conversations to start that give them an idea of who's coming to the party. What these people are good at what they can talk about. But it's not like a Forbes 30 under 30. You know, you can just say like, Rob loves to ride his bike and drink herbal tea, asked him about his yoga practice. It could just be simple like that. But you're just given sort of introverts are shy people, and even others ideas and excitement around who's attended.


Jay Clouse  24:43

Super good. Thank you for giving all of this kind of rapid fire context, all of the email and all these tactics are in the book. I do recommend that folks I'm gonna get this focus autofocus camera, get the book, read the book, all the little details you want to know further on this or here I want to try to bridge a little bit of a gap here. Here for the remaining time that we have left to say, okay, these are these the tried and true methods for in person gatherings, we can all take that and use that in our everyday life, people listening to the show our online creators, increasingly, I find that people are hosting digital gatherings, whether we're doing like a full scale virtual summit or even just meetups within their audience or their community. So let's, let's take like an actual example here to kind of kick us off. I have a community, the lab, where we have 140 members in there, it's very important to me that these members connect and meet with each other. So how can I start to take some of these ideas and concepts and apply them to virtual events? Where I can't gather people in a physical space? Where does your head go first?


Nick Gray  25:45

The first way is that I want people to connect with each other in an easy way. So for the lab, what platform Do you host it through?


Jay Clouse  25:51

Well, the community is on a circle. But when we do our gatherings we use Zoom.


Nick Gray  25:56

Nice and on circle, does it allow like a member directory? Can people see that?


Jay Clouse  26:01

It does, yes.


Nick Gray  26:03

So I would set up a zoom, I'd say what's up, we're going to do a happy hour, it's gonna be 45 minutes, each attendee is going to have 45 seconds to just say what they're working on something exciting, share a little bit about themselves. And I would do at rapid fire, where in about 45 minutes, you get to hear from 45 Different attendees. And I would have a Google sheet where all the people can put in their social links, their contact details, and things like that, this will allow them to very quickly connect with a lot of people and learn about them. I did this for a meetup recently, where we created a Google sheet and let people self add, we have links for their Twitter, Instagram, a brief bio, if they're looking for anything, what city they're from, and I was shocked, over 200 people filled it out, which just shows me that hunger or that appetite to really connect with people, it also gave the attendees a sense of agency, that they were a part of something right. And so you could do it in Google Sheets, you could do it in a Google Doc, but some easy way, just for your little zoom, that would let people feel like they're a part of something.


Jay Clouse  27:08

I like that. And a lot of those details like we can even shortcut some of that to be like, Okay, here's this person will put their name in column A and B, first name, last name and Column C, you will just actually put a link to their profile in the community because everything that you want is there. What if you were doing an event that wasn't just explicitly Hey, introduce yourself to us, this audience? Pretty busy people, right? And I want to connect them to each other. They want to connect with each other. But I don't know if they'll want to allocate 45 minutes to just hear 45 Different intros? Yeah, you know, so let's say we're taking like an event where I'm giving them like an update on overall what's happening with the community. But I know that I can reasonably expect that 40 People are going to show up, there's something of meat in the event where they're coming to hear from me, but what can I do in the first 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes to get people involved in connecting with each other virtually in that way. Any ideas for that?


Nick Gray  28:08

Name for me three sub interest groups that the hypothetical attendees for this would be a for example, a meet up I had we had you know, cryptocurrency, marketing hacks and startups, what would?


Jay Clouse  28:21

We can say YouTubers, newsletter creators, podcasters.


Nick Gray  28:26

Super. So at the beginning of the event, what I would do is I would make all the attendees on Zoom, a co host, I would then set up three breakout groups, YouTubers, podcasts and creators is that the last one, newsletter creators, yeah, and newsletter creators. And I would now say you guys are all co hosts jump into the room that you want to jump on. And you would have to sort of train three people to be leaders of those rooms, and have them lead a quick round of icebreakers for everybody to share. At the very beginning of your event, you just want people to talk and feel that they're a little bit tuned in and engaged. By making them a co host. It's a little risky, because they could theoretically boot everybody out. But it also lets them jump between breakout rooms. So they jumped to newsletter, I'm kind of bored, nobody's done this, I want to go into the other one, actually. And given them the co host lets them jump between the breakout rooms. And that gives them a sense of agency, a little more like an in person event where if you don't like it, then you just walk to another area.


Jay Clouse  29:28

I like that I hadn't thought about making everybody co hosts and doing that because I've used breakout rooms in the past, but it always felt like an effort of like I'm organizing people and they're kind of like stuck in those areas. And you know, the hard thing about online is it's just so much easier to hit, like a level of scale where it's just, it's more to manage, right like in your physical home. 15 to 20 people works and it feels right in a community that's already 150 people it's hard to like exclude people so I I'm trying to think of just other novel ways to get people to interact with each other to feel like they feel more connected to the people in the space, the actual space itself, and not have it be some like very presentation oriented thing. And also have them be engaged because it's so easy to like be on a zoom call and not be engaged in it.


Nick Gray  30:20

Yes. So I've been on some zooms recently that make active use of the chat. And there's some Colin response, and there's link. And I've been on some hosts that do such a good job of engaging their chat. And that is just, those are the pros. I really liked that.


Jay Clouse  30:37

When we come back, Nick, and I talk about how to run a great online event, and the first steps that you should take to run your own all of that. Right after this.


Jay Clouse  30:47

Hey, welcome back. Now that we've talked to Nick about his process for in person events, I wanted to try to connect this to online events, which creators like you and I are probably running more frequently. So I asked Nick, if there are any online events that he's attended, that really stood out.


Nick Gray  31:02

I spoke at a Tony Robbins event, and their online events are done so well. And they the chat is just blowing up so that that was good. I was a guest on my friend Kim's LinkedIn, it's called Coffee with Kim. And Kim does a really good job of that interaction. My friend Dory had Dorie Clark on LinkedIn as well. Lots of interaction in the chat. And having those regular visitors doing a lot of call outs to people putting their questions up on the screen with I think stream yard, maybe they use that was really helpful for them and seem to be engaged in.


Jay Clouse  31:40

When you're seeing a lot of activity in the chat, how do you see the host encouraging and prompting that type of activity?


Nick Gray  31:48

One is having an assistant to help flag some of the helpful questions. If you have too much going on. It's really hard as a host to be maintaining. And so several of the ones that I was talking about had assistants who are helping to flag or star or select some of these questions that were happening in the chat. They're doing a lot of call and response. So So for me, it could be like, alright, let's, let's hop over the chat for a second who has hosted an event recently here? Let me know in the chat, who has hosted an event what major event go well, and how was the event I would love to hear that from the chat. Similarly, at the start, I feel like everybody says What's up everybody say in the chat, where you're signing in from just type in the name of your city right here, I want to hear from every single person just add something there to say where you're signing in from. And so it's many sort of touch points. You could even set a timer for yourself, like every four minutes, hit the chat, get some engagement.


Jay Clouse  32:42

I'm looking at the the framework here again, name tags, icebreakers, cocktails only kick people out, I can do all of that online. So I'm trying to think actually, in my head, like, Could I just pilot a two hour cocktail party on Zoom, and try to mimic this format as closely as I could, and what was like if I did.


Nick Gray  33:04

Yes, you can and just do it for an hour or 45 minutes, our appetite for online things and our attention span drains very, very, very quickly. And if the online thing is very important to you, and that is the only possible thing, then sure. Give it a try, you can be successful, you can do guest bios for it, which will be successful writing up a little bit about those. One thing that you said was like, Oh, I'm just gonna hack it and create the spreadsheet and link to the circle. I don't think I don't think that's a good plan. You know, the works. I don't think it's good, because now they have to go from there to circle open up. So you're creating like all these, like, just do it in the Google Sheet.


Jay Clouse  33:43

Okay, okay. Okay, so 45 to 60 minutes, because we don't have that type of appetite. So if I'm compressing a two hour framework into one hour, how would you compress it?


Nick Gray  33:54

I would start it, I would immediately do some sort of quick random icebreaker. So I'm not the only person that was speaking. So either you could ask for volunteers to make an intro, you could do a module that is called lightning talks. But that's a little advanced. But you can set up the framework, you have some interaction during the first 10 or 15 minutes. So it's not just you talking, you can go to breakout rooms, and say, Hey, we're gonna go to a breakout room, you guys, I've just made these breakout rooms randomly. You have four minutes to just say hello and meet people. And let's just see how it goes. And then just give them four minutes, and then bring them all back in. Adding those time constraints can really help to raise the energy versus if you're like, Alright, there's a breakout room. It's now 15 minutes. I don't know that can be weird.


Jay Clouse  34:40

Yeah. And I'm thinking, you know, and the reason I'm pushing this so hard. Thanks for being a good sport and helping me think through this. You know, the whole business is online. My audience is international. The community is international. While yes, I'm going to try over the next year or two years to actually piggyback on existing in person events and say, Hey, community Be like we're gonna do a day before the event starts, we're going to do all this stuff in person, I definitely want to do that. There's just all this time in between where I want to, I want to take what I can and make remarkable gatherings online, because a lot of the people who are in my audience and our creators and want to meet other creators, they just don't have those peers. So that's why they joined the community in the first place. Yes, so So I'm thinking, you know, bring people in. If I have 40 to 60 people who joined this thing live, I could probably just basically split it up into three groups where like I introduce the activity have three breakout rooms, and that mimics your 15 to 20 person type of experience.


Nick Gray  35:36

If you have 40 to 60 people, I would, I would want much smaller groups, I would want groups of about six or so similar to that idea that a dinner party, more than six people splits into multiple conversations. Unless you have really good facilitators in each of those breakout rooms, who can lead a small group icebreaker, I would think about your live event, your zoom as simply an excuse for people to have an excuse to follow up later with someone that they might want to connect with. And so success for your event would be the extent that you can really give everybody a chance to talk to hear from different people, and hopefully use that. Hey, what's up, Jay? I saw you in that Zoom. I just want to reach out seems like you're working on cool stuff. Like are you down for like a 10 minute WhatsApp call or something like that? Use your event as a catalyst hoping that look, you're not going to make huge friendships, but you're gonna hopefully give people an excuse to create those in the future.


Jay Clouse  36:35

I love it. I love it. Okay, well, I know you have a goal of getting 500 people to host their own small gathering in person, take a photo, share it with you, I'm going to do a twofer. I'm going to try both. I'm going to do one in person gathering here in my real life world in Columbus, Ohio. So if you're listening to this, and you're in Columbus, you should shoot me an email, let me know that you're in Columbus, and I'm going to do another one in the community. And I'm going to see how it goes.


Nick Gray  36:57

That's exciting. Wait, that's great. That's gonna be awesome.


Jay Clouse  37:00

I think it'd be great. We have we have a meet and greet scheduled, actually, already on the schedule, it will have happened by the time this airs. But we just had, like 40 people almost join the community in the last two weeks. And that means it was like a 30% increase in total members. So I'm sitting here saying, it's really important to me that we maintain the culture and the connectedness in this community. But I gotta connect these people, and how can I do it? So I'm thinking about this stuff very, in real time.


Nick Gray  37:30

I love it. I love that idea of having like a new person onboarding, happy hour or tea time or something, that'd be cool.


Jay Clouse  37:37

So for people listening to this, who are sold on using events, to better connect with people in their lives, meet new people in their lives, whether it's online or in person, what are their immediate next steps to get this ball rolling.


Nick Gray  37:50

So if you've listened to this, and you think I want to do this, I want to apply this to my own fan base. I'm a creator, I have an audience, I want to host a meet up, which you absolutely should do. Good. I love that. But also, let's start simple. I want you to host a party commit to hosting something for your friends or your neighbors make it a low stakes affair. Make your first one not stressful, don't pick this as a meet up for all your fans. You don't want to do that. And so I want to challenge you to host something for your friends, your neighbors just to learn the fundamentals, learn the framework and build the confidence of hosting. Hosting is a muscle right and so you got to start small start with that my book will show you exactly how my book is called the two hour cocktail party. You can buy it on Audible if you'd like to listen to books. Thank you for that. You can buy it on Amazon, you can buy it anywhere that books are sold. I'm proud of the paperback which Jay and I have, because it really does feel like a workbook. And it walks you through and there's diagrams and stuff, but buy whatever you want. And host that first event. I'll help you send send me an email. Find me on social media. I'm @nickgraynews, nickgraynews, news. I post the most on Instagram and on Twitter. But I'm on all this stuff. So say hey, I'd love to have you on my friends newsletter. I have new articles that I've written about how to host a happy hour how else to book swap out us to clothing swap How to Plan a networking event, my parents even hosted a party. oh, wow. And by the way, this isn't about alcohol. I don't even drink alcohol, but we use that phrase cocktail party. Because the social idea It's a lightweight, easy event to just pop into so that's helpful.


Jay Clouse  39:29

This conversation really got me fired up to host more in person events here in Columbus, Ohio, and even hosting some in person events for the community inside the lab. In the meantime, I'm going to try to apply these ideas to the online events I run on a monthly basis in that community. And maybe you can as well if you wanna learn more about Nick, you can visit his website nickgray.net or find out how to run great parties at party.pro, links to both of those things are in the show notes. Thanks to Nick for being on the show. Thank you to Connor Conaboy for editing this episode and Nathan Todhunter for mixing our audio. Thank you to Brian Skeel for creating our music and Emily Clouse for creating our artwork. If you enjoyed this episode, you should tweet at me @jayclouse, let me know, I love to hear it. And if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you next week.