We had a special guest on Episode 80 of our podcast, Traveling With Other Families. Nick Gray offered a pretty unique way for couples to make the kind of friend that you would want to travel with. Nick is the king of parties and the author of a new how-to guide called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party.
If we are talking about making friends, between me and my wife, I am the reserved one and she’s the social butterfly. So I’m having a hard time making friends.
How can adults make new family friends that would be great to travel with? Keep reading to see our tips.
Traveling With Other Families
Listen to Episode 94 of The Family Vacationer Podcast, hosted by Rob Jones and Danny Evans, for more information about traveling with other families!
How to Host a Family Party
Host your two hour cocktail party on a non red-level day. You’re going to host your party on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night, when people are less likely to have any prior commitments.
You’re going to make sure that you collect RSVPs. You’re going to invite people one to one. You’re not going to send them a mass email or a message next door or a big Facebook post. You’re going to message people, ask them to RSVP, and then you’re going to send them a couple reminder messages. They get people to commit to attending, they keep your event top of mind, and they guarantee that you’re going to have a good turnout.
At the event, you just do a couple of things:
Only let it go for two hours, that’s a tight start and a tight end.
Use name tags.
Run 3 little icebreakers.
Snap a group photo at the end and then you finish them on time. That’s it. It’s not rocket science to host a good event but by adding a little bit of structure you’ll be seen by your neighbors and friends as someone who runs a really good event.
Now, we all are now more knowledgeable about hosting a party. But what about ending it? I think ending the party is one of the most challenging ideas for a new host. But the easy way to do it is simply turn up the lights, turn down the music, and make a little announcement for the last call. Read Nick’s advice about how to end a party here for more information.
New book: The 2-Hour Cocktail Party
Nick wrote this book because he wants people to make more friends in their neighborhood and to connect with new people. He thinks the hardest part is that nobody teaches adults how to make new friends.
In The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, Nick teaches us how to host our own parties with an actionable step-by-step guide. The book gives party hosting a bit more structure and organization. Hosting an event and giving your guests a little bit of structure makes it even easier for people to build big relationships.
But Why Parties?
The benefit of hosting your own party is making new friends. Those friends can help enrich your lives in ways that include going on family vacations like we talked about, boosting your career, new deals, new business opportunities. We find out about the best things in life not always from our closest friends but from those ideas of those weak ties or loose connections. Your best friend’s not going to tell you about an amazing new job because they’re so close to you. They think you know everything. It’s these people, that’s our neighbor, or people at random clubs we’re in or at kids’ sporting games. It’s those people we bump into that we find out about some of the most exciting things.
The COVID-19 pandemic has really affected a lot of people’s conversational skills. We can see that people don’t know how to make conversations anymore. Which is why Nick’s icebreaker guide comes in handy!
A little round of icebreakers will mix up the room, help people make new conversations, and also help people end those conversations that are going too long.
Red level icebreakers like worst first dates should be avoided. Instead, you can do Nick’s three rounds of icebreakers:
Say your name,
Say what you do for work or how you spend your days,
And then tell us what one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast is.
Traveling as a family isn’t always easier. But it can be more fun with family friends. When you learn how to host an easy 2-hour cocktail party, or even a neighborhood party, you’ll make new friends and meet other family friends. And these days, everyone can use a new friend!
This is the partial transcript from episode 94: Traveling With Other Families.
Rob: But what if you were in that second bucket and your spouse, you know, you have a difficult time making friends. Like, my wife is a social butterfly and she can make friends in about 5 minutes. Me, I’m just not like that anymore. I’m a little more reserved I guess, so I have more of a difficult time making friends. To help with this, and offer a pretty unique way for couples to make the kind of friends that you’d wanna travel with, we have Nick Gray joining us.
Danny: Nick, welcome to the show.
Nick: Thanks guys, thanks for having me.
Danny: Oh yeah man, it’s a pleasure. We really appreciate you coming on. Okay so, to kick things off, can you tell us about your book and how families are using The 2-Hour Cocktail Party?
Nick: Yeah, I would love to tell you about it, and also, I just want people to make more friends in their neighborhood and to connect with new people. I think the hardest part is that nobody teaches adults how to make new friends.
Nick: I don’t know what it was like for you guys but for most people college was the last time that they really were in an environment where it was easy to make new friends.
Nick: And then maybe through work or something we can make friends. Anyhow, so I wrote this book. For me, I had a hard time during lockdowns not being close to my friends. I’ve been hosting a lot of events and I think the best way for adults to make new friends is to host events like a happy hour.
Nick: That they can get their neighbors and those lose connections and weak ties. The people that you see at church or something and you say oh man, we should hang out, and then you just never do, really.
Nick: So I wrote a book about that but I’m happy to tell folks that are listening here today how they can do it and how they can learn how to host just an easy event. I think it’s a lot easier than a dinner party and that’s where most people make the mistake, they think that they have to host a dinner party.
Nick: But dinner, it’s just too hard for dinners. Anyhow
Rob: It’s more of a commitment right?
Nick: It’s a huge commitment and it’s stressful, and you get all worked up about the food.
Danny: Right, yup
Nick: And the reality is it’s not about the food, it’s about the people.
Rob: I’m curious, just right off the bat, have you, I’m assuming you’ve done this, I don’t know if we’re coming out of COVID what the right word is. Are people more reluctant?
Rob: To go to these parties?
Nick: No, now everybody’s especially if you crack a window or something like that, and certainly by the time this comes out, who knows? There could be some new variant out there but
Rob: That’s true, that’s true
Nick: Right, it’s not so much reluctant that they are but it’s just that people are awkward. They forget how to make small talk and to hang out.
Rob: No, that’s true.
Nick: When somebody will be listening to this, maybe it’ll date us to say it and even be talking about this. But I think a lot of it applies to any time period. Hosting an event and giving your guests a little bit of structure makes it even easier for the introverts that you might know in your life. It could be the partner or spouse of one of your friends that they bring along so that’s what my book is about. Just giving a little structure.
Rob: Well in my family, I’m the introvert. I have a hard time convincing people of that because I don’t know why but they think I’m an extrovert but I’m not. I have a hard time with that. I was going to say that as we talk I feel the introvert is already trying to go to the off switch to, you know, to turn off like, I don’t want to deal with that. But why do you think people should host a party?
Nick: Rob I can just imagine, I’m mentally picturing you going to family events, setting up your podcast studio, and turning into the extroverted Rob with the microphone doing interviews
Nick: I think that would be really funny. Your question was why do you think you should host a party?
Rob: Yeah, what’s the benefit?
Nick: The benefit is to make new friends. Those friends can help enrich your lives in ways that include going on family vacations like we talked about, boosting your career, new deals, new business opportunities. We find out about the best things in life not always from our closest friends but from those ideas of those weak ties or loose connections. Your best friend’s not going to tell you about an amazing new job because they’re so close to you. They think you know everything. It’s these people, that’s our neighbor, or people at random clubs we’re in or at kids’ sporting games. It’s those people we bump into that we find out about some of the most exciting things.
Danny: That’s true. You kinda go, oh woah, you know that guy? Or you have ties, you had no clue.
Danny: How could that happen?
Danny: That’s true
Nick: Yeah, it’s really wild and we find out that, that’s what studies show actually, that people’s jobs and the sourcing that it comes from, comes from, you know, that random LinkedIn connection. Oh my God, where did I meet that guy? Wow, but I found out about a new opportunity and so that’s a little what I’m obsessed with. Helping people build that network of acquaintances almost, because I do think you can be intentional about that. I think friendship, okay, I’m not trying to optimize friendship. You’ll figure out who you wanna be friends with.
Nick: But creating a repeatable structure to host a happy hour for your neighbors every month, that’s something I’m obsessed with.
Danny: Well, how do you.. Sorry, what about kids? How do you handle having kids at the party?
Nick: That’s a great idea. A lot of non-alcoholic beer, I’m kidding.
Nick: One piece of advice that I’ve gotten from a lot of people that have read my book and beta-tested before the release was they really advised hiring a sitter for the kids, because.. I don’t know if you guys had this experience but a lot of parents will use the kids as a social crutch, a conversational crutch, to avoid adult interactions.
Nick: Right? It happens to the best of us. And that, by having a sitter, by having a separate kid party in a different part of the house, it really can help the adults to engage and be more present and focus on making new friends.
Rob: So, for the introvert though, the idea of throwing this.. I mean it gives me the hives just thinking about it. What can you tell me to kind of push me, like I would love to have more friends, sure. The small talk is what.. It trips me up everytime like I feel so stupid as an adult not knowing how to have a conversation with another adult but you talk about using the kids as a crutch, I do that because I don’t know how to small talk. It’s awful.
Nick: I hear that. That’s a real experience. Does that happen to you, Danny? What do you do for small talk?
Danny: Oh gosh, you know, I’m the traditional “What do you do?”, “Tell me about your day”, I just have to start with the basics and then go from there.
Nick: Yeah, yeah. Have you guys ever been asked an amazing question that made you really think like, “Wow! That’s a really cool question.” It happened to me recently. That’s why I was asking.
Danny: I haven’t had it..
Rob: You know what I found is it’s almost like there’s a script. Like you meet, like a church, for example. And it’s not that you don’t like the people, that you’re not genuinely interested in them. But when you.. It’s the small talk, again. You know, you don’t get to the point where questions like that could be asked, at least I haven’t lately. You know, when you get to the point where you’re really talking to somebody. It’s more like what Danny’s saying “you’re paying me by numbers.” You know, “How are your kids?” “How was your week?” And then you just kinda move on.
Nick: And that’s very normal, right? I’m not going to say that I’m the expert in small talk but I do have a lot of it but sometimes, we’re just tired. By the end of the day the reality is we’re just doing our best to bring the kids to this event and to make it through another day and so that’s real and I wanna acknowledge that. A little hack or question that I do, I love to ask people “What was the best part of your day?” Oftentimes when you gather towards the end of the day and I like to ask people, you know “How was your day?”, “What was the best part of your day?” Going to that, what was the best part or what was the best part of your week, and I like to ask that with a little bit of a smile and it shows that it’s a unique question. I understand that but I’d say I have a very high success rate of that being a positive question that is received with good intent. What do you think, Danny?
Danny: Yeah. If you asked me that, I would probably be a little bit surprised but I would go “That’s a really cool question.” It would also make me think, ‘cause I teach middle school, so I have to really think about what the best part of the day is.
Danny: This is always interesting, so
Rob: But that spurs to me, that spurs a real conversation instead of a small talk. I like that, yeah, for sure.
Nick: One thing I gotta warn is, I don’t like what I call red level icebreaker questions. A red level icebreaker question would be “What’s the worst first date you ever went on?” or you know, “What was the worst part of your week?” A red level question is one that takes a lot of vulnerability to really share. And I think amongst friends in a warm environment, there’s a time and a place for those. But I don’t wanna encourage those. Just start going out there. One of my favorite icebreaker questions to do with a group of people, because at my events we have a lot of structure, there’s 3 rounds of icebreakers and the one that I have people do at my 2 hour cocktail parties is say your name, say what you do for work or how you spend your days. And then tell us what one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast is.
Danny: Hmm, yeah
Nick: Now, that’s an interesting question because more or less everybody eats breakfast, they did it that day. It’s not hard to think about. Generally, breakfast brings a positive emotion to a lot of people and you get to share or express some of your personality through your answer to that question.
Rob: I have a question. So you recently posted about a guy who posted fliers around his neighborhood to make new friends for his family.
Rob: Talk about.. How did that go for him?
Nick: It was this guy Sujan here in Austin, Texas where I live. He moved to a new neighborhood and I think his parents lived in town as well so they came over a lot and he always wanted to move to this neighborhood. It was a bit of an aspirational move from him and they did it. And as a family, they wanted to make new friends and they wanted to feel welcome in a new place so his wife found some flier template online that I’m sure was for a garage sale or something. And they just put photos of their family on there and just kinda talked about their kids. They invited people to come over, get him a call but more so what he said was it just people recognized them as they went for walks in the neighborhood. It helped make warm introductions as they later went to meet people. He’s really happy he did it. It was a success.
Rob: Everybody’s like “Oh you’re the guy!”
Rob: “Where have I seen you”.. And they cross a light bulb, “That’s where I’ve seen you!
Nick: Yeah, “You’re the flier guy, right?”
Danny: That’s interesting, yeah. I wanna ask you about name tags. It seems you are very passionate about those so do you need them for a family party or does that feel a little too formal?
Nick: I think you absolutely need them for a family party and I’ll even go, I’ll say kind of controversial, I think even the kids need name tags.
Nick: Because think about gathering, Rob you said you’re thinking about being an introvert, the idea of going to a party, you’re hosting a party, making small talk. I increasingly think about introverted people how to make it easier and remove the friction
Nick: And if by having name tags you can forget about memorizing 10 or 15 people’s names, it just makes it, it makes it better for everybody. You can use their name in conversation. It shows to everybody that it’s a safe space to meet new people. There’s no cliques, you know, you ever go to a party you don’t really know people there and you’re like “Oh God, I’m not going to know anybody here. At a lot of my parties that’s the whole thing, it’s about meeting new people.
Rob: Yeah. It’s funny how it changes when you’re in different stages of your life. I moved to Nashville to go to college, didn’t know anybody and made a ton of friends. I mean I enjoyed it then, now you talk about hosting a party gets me out, going to a party does that for me
Rob: So anything that helps someone like me is a positive. So without giving too much of the book away ‘cause we want people to read it, how does it work? How does throwing a party technically work?
Nick: Oh I’m happy to give the whole book away and if you listeners wanna send me a note online, I’m happy to share this
Nick: Well, because I’m just so passionate about it
Nick: So here’s the gist of the party. It’s a two hour party that you need to host for your neighbors and your friends, maybe some of your colleagues. But here’s the deal, on a non-red level day. What do I mean by that? I mean probably you’re going to host this on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night.
Danny: Hmm okay
Nick: Now, why do you do it then? Because kinda everybody’s busy on the weekend. You’ve got kids things, you’ve got sports games, you have activities and I think you can host it on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday night when people can show up when it’s easy and then you’re going to do a couple things. You’re going to make sure that you collect RSVPs. You’re going to invite people one to one. You’re not going to send them a mass email or a message next door or a big Facebook post. You’re going to message people, ask them to RSVP, and then you’re going to send them a couple reminder messages. Now what do all these things do? They get people to commit to attending, they keep your event top of mind, and they guarantee that you’re going to have a good turnout. ‘Cause I don’t know if you guys have seen these Facebook events but it will be like 98 people RSVP and you talk to the host and only 10 people show up. So anyhow, that’s what happens before the event and then at the event you just do a couple things. You only let it go for two hours, that’s tight start tight end. You use name tags and then you run 3 little activities, a little round of icebreakers just to mix up the room, help people make new conversations, but also end those conversations that are going too long.
Danny: Right, right.
Nick: You snap a group photo at the end and then you finish them on time. That’s it. It’s not rocket science to host a good event but by adding a little bit of structure you’ll be seen by your neighbors and friends as someone who runs a really good event.
Danny: And you have people that like to stick around when the 2 hours are up? You know, how do you say “Hey, it’s been fun.”
Nick: That is one of the best questions. How do you end the party?
Rob: A bouncer, which is a really… No? Okay.
Nick: I wouldn’t be opposed to that.
Rob: Me either.
Nick: Right, I think ending the party is one of the most challenging ideas for a new host and the easy way to do it is simply turn up the lights, turn down the music, make a little announcement for last call, and for those stragglers who really wanna stay and talk to you, “Oh! I haven’t had a chance to catch up with you”, You say “I would love to catch up. It’s so great to see you. Can I call you tomorrow to continue this conversation? I need to tidy up around the house. I’m so glad that you came here tonight.”
Rob: That does it right there, for sure.
Danny: That’s genius.
Rob: Or the bouncer, I mean you know spitball in here, just throw it up a bit
Nick: That or you could turn up and play that song, what is it? Closing time…
Danny: Yeah, or something really annoying like Friday by Rebecca Black or
Danny: Everybody would leave immediately.
Rob: You don’t want them to hate you though, Dan. I don’t know if that would work. Well Nick, I know that you’re a well traveled individual, so let’s talk a little bit about that. You recently took a cruise. So what’s that like, in the era of COVID. Like was it a good experience?
Nick: I love cruises and I think especially for people with families with the built in child care and the games and opportunities for the kids on the ship, I really love cruises which I don’t know I feel like you either love cruises or you don’t like them and I think there’s different types of cruises. You can go on party cruises, maybe that’s a lot of people. They went on a spring break cruise and had a bad experience
Rob: But these days the ships are just so massive
Nick: Yeah, it was a little annoying to wear the masks sometimes but it wasn’t bad! I loved it actually. We had a great time. I went with some friends so I think that made it good.
Danny: Where did you go?
Nick: We went to Roatán, Honduras. It’s all around the caribbean.
Rob: Oh wow! Cool. If you don’t mind, what cruise line did you take?
Nick: The cruise line on Royal Caribbean on one of their massive ships. And these ships, man, I don’t know if you’ve seen all the new stuff on them. It’s incredible! Sounds like I’m sponsored but I swear I’m not.
Rob: Right before the pandemic, I guess it was a year before we took a world caribbean cruise, their private island I loved.
Danny: Me too
Rob: That was just.. There’s so much to do there. I could stay there and would be fine.
Nick: And it’s easy. That’s what I like about cruises. I don’t like going on vacation with my parents and my friends. Which restaurant do we want to eat at three times a day? With this you just show up and you eat there’s no bill or anything. I love that all-inclusive nature.
Rob: Yeah, and you could pretty much eat all day if you’d like. There’s one that we went on. I think it was Majesty of the Sea. There was a little hotdog and ice cream bar right by the pool. I mean you could literally eat all day if you’d like. If that’s what you like about cruises and a lot of people do.
Nick: Right, right
Danny: Okay while we’re talking about different places to visit, what are your absolute favorite places to visit on vacation?
Nick: Have you guys been to Puerto Rico? Or have you been there recently? What’s your experience there?
Rob: We were scheduled to be on a cruise for my parents’ 50th anniversary when COVID hit. But we were going to Puerto Rico, I was really bummed out that we didn’t go.
Nick: I really like Puerto Rico. I find that especially if you’re in Atlanta or if you’re in the South or even in New York, if you’re in the East Coast, it’s very easy to get to. And it is a truly tropical paradise. Beautiful beaches, it’s so crazy to fly down there and you’re so close to South America or wherever. And you don’t need a passport. It’s the USA. It’s really incredible. And there’s some good news and some bad side to it. But I really like it there. There’s some beautiful hotels. It’s nice! I like Puerto Rico. It’s one of those places that it’s worth looking at.
Rob: Where else? You got another else? Or Puerto Rico, the top?
Nick: For myself, I’m a beach guy. So I love beaches.
Danny: Me too.
Nick: Previously, I’ve never been to Hawaii before. I thought that it wasn’t really a place for me. And then I kinda like on the big island of Hawaii it’s like the Texas of Hawaii, it’s a little bit redneck and it’s like my speed Hawaii so I like that.
Danny: Yeah, cool
Rob: Yeah, we love beaches, I think Danny and I both. Big fans, big fans.
Danny: Beaches and seafood.
Rob: Well, finally, Nick, where can listeners keep up with you, your projects, the book? Where can they keep up with you?
Nick: I have an awesome newsletter that’s called my Friends Newsletter and I write the email. About once a month I send an email to my best friends. That includes good shows I saw on Netflix, Youtube links, cool new podcasts like this one. I include links to that. And it’s a free monthly newsletter. There’s no ads, no spam. And you could find that on my website at www.nickgray.net. The name of my book is The 2-Hour Cocktail Party and I’m happy to share it with anybody who’s interested. To try to help you make new friends, I think as adults it’s not easy to do and that’s my mission.
Rob: That’s awesome. Well hey, since you brought it up, before we let you go, what are you watching on Netflix right now? I can’t find anything worth watching.
Nick: Let me think of something good that I can recommend. Did you happen.. I’m not trying to get into politics but does anybody see the Mitt Romney documentary called “Mitt”.
Rob: I love documentaries though
Nick: Interesting! He said something and whatever you think about him as a candidate or anything, he said to the film crew, “Look, if I win, then this has to go through my team and whatever, but if I lose, you guys can do whatever you want.” And I guess the film crew was Mormon so they got exclusive access to him and his family. And he lost and they made him a really real and raw documentary. Kind of a weird thing but if you like documentaries, I thought it was a really interesting look behind the scenes of a presidential campaign.
Rob: Awesome. I will definitely check that out!
Danny: Well, Nick, thank you so much for being on the show. This was amazing.
Nick: Thanks, Danny. Thanks guys for having me. It would be cool if we all could go on a cruise sometime with all your listeners. That would be fun, right?
Danny: That would be amazing.
Rob: Let’s do it. Let’s do it.
Nick: Family vacationer cruise 2023. Sign up on the website. Send Rob and Danny an email.
Danny: Yeah, that would be awesome
Rob: I love it. Thank you, Nick!
Nick: Thanks, guys.