Posted on / by Debra Alfarone / in How To, Podcast

How throwing parties in his 20s led to Nick Gray’s success and how you can do it too!

Nick Gray throws memorable parties.

He’s also the Founder and CEO of Museum Hack and recent author of a new handbook that will help you build relationships, make new friends, and even boost your career.

It’s called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, a step-by-step handbook that teaches you how to build big relationships by hosting small gatherings.

More than 75,000 people have watched his TEDx talk about why he hates most museums. He’s been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and New York Magazine called him a host of “culturally significant parties.

Episode Transcript:

Debra: I’m so excited today. Yes, I am, so much so that I’m making up a song. Thank you so much for listening to, Sh*t I wish I Knew in my Twenties. Boy, am I excited! As you know, here, we’re sharing stuff to lift up the next generation of people and tell you some stuff that we wish we knew. And today I have my friend and also an incredible human outside of our friendship, Nick Gray. I’m so excited. You literally created your life, your career, your friend circle, your business, your trajectory. You are exactly what we need on this podcast.

Nick: I can’t wait to talk to you about all the things I wish I would’ve known in my twenties because I wish I would’ve known this stuff. I would have been, yes, yes to everything. 

Debra: I’ll tell you. Okay. So Nick, by the way, if you don’t know, he is the founder and CEO of Museum Hack and a recent author of the new handbook that’s going to help you build big relationships, make new friends and even boost your career. Just a little bit, let me talk about my friend. He started and sold two successful companies. No, not one but two. So you really do have to listen. And you’re the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, a step-by-step handbook that’s going to teach you how to build big relationships by hosting small gatherings. 2-hour cocktail party. 

Nick: Yes

Debra: I’m loving this and you know why? Because I love something that is finite. 

Nick: Yes, it is finite. And it’s respectful and we’re going to teach anybody. I will teach them how they can do it if they want to. Because in your twenties, you need to build a network, even though the word ‘networking’ gets such a bad name. But I’ll talk about that whenever. I’m just excited to be hanging out with you and for this new show and just to share some cool advice.

Debra: Well, let’s get right to it, because.. Let’s talk about how we met.

Nick: Yes

Debra: Because I think if, if we talked about that and then suddenly this call ended, people would still get a lot out of this.

Nick: Yes. A thousand percent. I’m going to tell them exactly how we met. I met you in Whole Foods, in Union Square, in New York city. You were wearing an absolutely slamming dress. You were hanging out. I don’t know if you were working or you were eating or something. 

Debra: I was eating.

Nick: I just saw it. And I was like, that is an awesome dress. And I made a compliment and you were receptive to the compliment and we chatted and we got to become friends. And I think that that’s a great story. 

Debra: I love that story for so many reasons. So some of the takeaways, and I know you’re like, well, this is just a story about two people meeting, no, people who are listening to this, let me tell you, okay, first of all, if you wear something, that’s got a little bit of pizazz. 

Nick: Yes

Debra: Is that the right word?

Nick: Yes

Debra: A little something like, I honestly, I remember this dress because it is actually a thrift store-find skirt that I wore as a dress, pulled it up as a dress and then had this cute little belt with roses on it. Like it was just different. 

Nick: Yeah. 

Debra: So you have something that someone can compliment you on. They were kind of, you know, putting yourself out there and a little bit bigger way, but also the flip on that is, go up to someone and say, “Hey, cool dress.”

Nick: Yes, yes. Two things that I’m thinking about. Number one, if you don’t have clothes right now that people are saying to you and giving you compliments about, real talk, it probably means you don’t have good style. And that’s okay because I don’t have good style either, but you may have friends in your life who have good style and all you need is one piece. Just like Debra said, one thing. I’ll tell you mine. I have a very quirky wallet. The wallet is very weird. It’s very unique. It looks like it’s made out of an airmail envelope. And that wallet, every time I go to pay for something, I get a compliment from somebody at a cashier or something like, that looks really cool, or I have a watchband that’s yellow and it’s bright yellow. I’m wearing all white, but it’s a bright yellow. And it just makes it easy for somebody to give a compliment. So I think the tip is: give people things that make it easy for them to give you a compliment.

Debra: I like that. Yeah. Just one little thing. And you know what? You don’t have to be a certain size. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Some of the cheapest things I have, like, again, it was a thrift store skirt. It just happened to be a really vibrant blue. I have, um, something from Amazon, a tulle skirt, like one of those fluffy skirts. Another thing, this watch, this is my Apple Watch, which I always wear, but I got this blinged out kind of band and people will say, “Oh, I really like that blinged out band.” Great. Now, now we’re chatting. And I’m also the kind of person that will come to anyone and say, “You look great.”

Nick: Right?

Debra: It’s like, it’s fun. 

Nick: It’s those little conversations. I think people are generally friendly. They just want accessibility points to begin the conversation.

Debra: Yes. Okay. So I remember going to a party that you threw and I remember it being a much different party than the parties I normally go to. And by the way, you would be so upset with me because we just had a barbecue at our house. And I felt like I wasn’t talking to people enough. I was like, I just felt we were not ready with the food. We kind of blew it. I feel, but people were happy ‘cause my husband’s a good cook. So anyway…

Nick: Did you have name tags?

Debra: No.

Nick: Bro, what am I, why am I even on this show? 

Debra: I know that, well, because I need the reminder. So tell me about how you can throw a party and just a couple of things, because it is important in your twenties to be able to throw parties that don’t suck. Like my barbecue just sucked. Tell us how we can throw a great party that’s memorable and people go from, “Oh, I don’t really want to go to this one’s party.” to  “Oh, we NEED to go to this person’s party.” 

Nick: I bet your barbecue was good. And a lot of people have good parties, but I’m going to tell people how to have a great party and you can do it cheap for under a hundred dollars. And it doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t have to stress about it. And I’m not trying to sell my book. I know that if you’re just in your twenties, it could be hard. Do I want to buy this? If you send me an email and you say that you’re a friend of Debra’s, you listened to her show, I’ll hook you up with a free copy of the book. Just send me a note. I’m happy to do that. So here’s the deal. Think about this. The NICK party method, Nick, N-I-C-K. I just kind of made that up with my friend, Clay. N stands for, N stands for.. what do you think N stands for Debra?

Debra: Be nice. 

Nick: Be nice and name tags. 

Debra: Be nice by having name tags, because I’m not going to remember people’s names. 

Nick: So you, yes, exactly. And you might be thinking, I’m 25. If I had name tags, my friends are going to kick me out. They’re going to think it’s a scam. Multi-level marketing. But here’s the deal. When you add name tags, uh, think about all the different friend groups that you have. You signify to people that there are no cliques at your party. You signify that it’s a safe space to make new friends. And probably since you’ve graduated college, you’ve realized it’s hard to make friends. Once you get out of school, nobody really teaches adults how to make new friends and it can be imposing. So, N is the name tags. Thoughts on the name tags so far, Debra? 

Debra: So, okay. I remember coming to your party and thinking, well, that’s a little bit different. I’ll be honest. And it works. It’s the great equalizer. And I just can’t remember anybody’s darn name. I just, I’m always like, oh gosh, what was it? And we do this by the way. Um, we moved to a new neighborhood and I’m still trying to figure it out. Like, I’ll be good, and I’ll know what, like whatever couple, I know one of their names, but I forget the wife’s name. Or I forget the husband’s. Even I was like, what’s that, and I asked Josh and he’s like, I don’t know.

Nick: That’s exactly what it is. When somebody brings a partner or a significant other or a friend that’s visiting. They, like, you may know whose name you’re inviting, but you may not know their friends and their friends don’t know anybody. So a lot of my party method is thinking about introverts and shy people, because maybe you’re thinking anyone like Nick and Debra, these outrageous personalities can host a party, but how can I do it? So, N is for name tags.

Debra: Okay

Nick: I, is for.. What do you think I is for? 

Debra: Oh, this is so much fun. Um, invitations? 

Nick: It’s close. Invitations, I love. And it’s also, I is for icebreakers. 

Debra: Oh yes! Icebreakers. I remember that too. I’m losing at this game, but I’m winning in life because I have you on the podcast. 

Nick: You are winning in life. I’m not going to hassle you. I just made this. I just made this a little mnemonic of myself. I is for icebreakers and icebreakers again, you might think that’s a dumb idea, but I’m telling you that the purpose of this party is for your friends to meet other friends, because then you will be seen as a super connector. You will be seen as the hub. You will be seen as the person who hosts these events, where your friends get value and get benefit. Okay? 

Debra: Yes. Yeah, because people always say, oh, I hope I’ll meet someone there. 

Nick: Yes

Debra: It doesn’t have to be a romantic interest, but you make friends. I mean, and then you get invited to other parties and you know this person and there’s a job opening. And what if you’re just opening up your circle. 

Nick: You’re opening up your circle. And I know we can also talk about dating. These kids in their twenties, they’re swiping on the apps and everybody is app-saturated and they’re tired of the apps and they hate meeting people on that. So we do a very simple round of icebreakers at my parties simply to give people an excuse or something silly to go up and talk to somebody new. So that’s the I.

The C stands for cocktails only. Do not try to cook dinner, do not try to do a barbecue. It’s too complicated for an easy, happy hour. I just want you to be successful. So cocktails only. And then…

Debra: Okay

Nick: And then the K, the last one, K stands for kick them out at the end. The party is only two hours long. You’ve got to kick them out. 

Debra: So how do you make people leave? I always feel like, okay, are we done now?

Nick: Right. Right, right. Well, here’s how. For your party that you hosted Debra, did you list both a start time and an end time?

Debra: Absolutely not. 

Nick: Okay. 

Debra: I told you I was not good at it. It was not, it was a fine party. The food was good.  That was the saving grace. And it was just a very impromptu thing. 

Nick: Yeah.

Debra: However, no. People stayed. And I was like, okay, I’m cleaning up now.

Nick: Right. It’s hard because people stay. So how do you first get them to leave? Well, you set the expectations from the very beginning that when you host your event, there is an end time. And then when you send the three reminder messages that are so important for your party to guarantee over 90% attendance rate, which we can talk about, what’s the number one fear of new hosts? That nobody will show up.

Debra: Yeah, for sure. 

Nick: So K is for kick them out at the end and you let them know ahead of time. And then about 15 minutes before it’s scheduled to end, you would make a last call. And then when it’s time to end, you turn the music on, you say, thank you, everybody, for coming in and you start to clean up kind of, and that’s it. And people get the point. 

Debra: I like it. And then, you know what, you’re leaving them wanting more. 

Nick: Yes, that’s exactly, that’s exactly the point! 

Debra: Yeah. “When’s the next party?” I gotcha. 

Nick: Yep. So that’s what I’m saying. 

Debra: I’m loving it. So what’s the one thing, thinking back, all the things that you’ve done, I mean, you’ve had an incredible TEDx talk. You started two companies. What is the one thing you wish you knew in your twenties? 

Nick: I wish I knew in my twenties. Okay. I don’t know if I can say this. Can I say this? I think I wish I would’ve smoked less weed because… 

Debra: You can say that. Sure!

Nick: I can say this because, here’s why, I think that now that we’re going through this massive legalization of marijuana and all this stuff, we do have to acknowledge that there is some downside of smoking marijuana and I smoked a lot of marijuana and that’s fine. It’s a nice way to unwind. Um, but I also think that there can be some negative repercussions. So that’s one thing. But if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re already someone that’s highly motivated. So I trust you to self-medicate or whatever. I think the piece of advice that I wish I would have known is, it’s cliche, but that idea of your network is your net worth,  I think it really is true that in building up friendships and relationships, that’s really important. 

Debra: You know, further to that, I think that the most influential people that I’ve met, I haven’t met because I knew someone or they were in my family or they’re a family friend. Actually, I don’t think any family friends ever helped me with anything. Um, I think it’s more, I reached out to someone and then said, “Hi, my name is Debra And I’m really interested in what you do,” or, you know, had some kind of flattery because, hey, who doesn’t like being flattered, “I really love what you do, would you have 10 or 15 minutes on a random day this week, maybe like Tuesday or Wednesday to get together. And I’d love to just pick your brain. I want to get into this business.”

I will tell you that I did that once many years ago. And that actually came back full circle. And I got this job at CBS News because of the person who I reached out to when I had no business reaching out to them.

Nick: How cool is that? That you put your, that you were willing to get rejected. What if the person was like, no, stop emailing me. But instead they said, yes, and look what happened. 

Debra: Right? Exactly. And so this network that you have, you can build and you can continue to build and you should be bold with it and ask for things, ask for things you would think you may not get.

Nick: Yeah. What’s the worst that can happen? Somebody says, no, I think in your, in your twenties and out of school or in school, or even in your thirties, even in your forties, people generally want to help people. And that we drastically underestimate the power of asking for stuff. 

Debra: So I have a question for you that I absolutely love asking. It’s my favorite. 

Nick: Okay. 

Debra: Can you tell me about a worst date, a worst job or a worst outfit in your twenties? You only have to pick one of them. You can tell us anything you like.

Nick: Um, I went out in my twenties with a woman who was a med student and, you know, med students work pretty hard. There are a lot of jobs where they work hard, but as a med student, you work some crazy shifts. And I think she was just a little miscalibrated and uh, she ended up drinking a lot of alcohol and I tried to help her go home on the train and I walked her down and then I came back home and uh, and she called me and I said, that’s weird. And she had followed me home. And I think that it is, you know, as a guy, I can laugh about this and I can joke about that. I think if it was, if the tables were turned and it was like a guy followed a woman home, it’d be very creepy. 

Debra: Wow.

Nick: Right. But it’s helpful to remember that, like, you know, that was, I don’t know if there was a lesson in this. 

Debra: That’s okay. Some stories are for entertainment value. Followed you home. 

Nick: Yeah. It was a little strange. 

Debra: Yeah. Okay. Since you told me that one, I’m going to tell you one that I’ve had in my back pocket for a while. And I haven’t told it in a long, long time. It’s probably, I mean, I used to say, this is my worst date, but I think I’ve had worse, but this is just funny to me. There was a guy who was a friend of a friend who I asked to be my date for my office Christmas party, back in the day. And all my friends were going. Cause I’m like all my friends at the time, we all work together and you know, in your twenties, we all work together. And we went to this party and we really had a good time. And he was such a gentleman at this party and “I’m going to go get a drink. Would you like a drink?” And you know, went to get drinks for other people. It was a really fancy party, great food, you know, big company. Okay. So now we’re drinking and it’s getting to be the end of the night. And I’m like, okay, well it’s time to go home.

We take a cab to my place, which right away, I put my hand in the air and go, yeah, I set myself up for this, uh, looking back. But at the time, I didn’t know because I was in my twenties and I didn’t realize this. So I, I never just, you know, when you’re out, you’re drinking, you’re going to have to use the ladies room. Right. So I’m like, okay, walk right in, go into my, into the bathroom because I was like, ah, like I have to hurry up and pee already, go run into the bathroom. And then I come out and where is he? 

Nick: Oh no. 

Debra: And I look, and I had an apartment where you walked in, the bathroom was right there. And then there was the kitchen and you had to walk through that to get to this, uh, the next room, which is like the living room. And you’d walk through that to get to the bedroom. So I’m like, where, where is he? And I get through the rooms to the bedroom and he’s standing there without any clothes on. And I was like, oh, we both thought this was going to go very differently, didn’t we? 

Nick: Yes! Surprise? 

Debra: Surprise!

Nick: Hello!

Debra: I was young and dumb and was like, really like something out of a movie or out of like Friends or something ridiculous. And he was like oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. And he got dressed and whenever he left, I called my friend, it was like three in the morning at this point. Right. And I called my friend, I’m sitting there telling her what happened. And I looked at the bedside table and his gum was wadded up, sitting on my table.

Nick: No! That’s disgusting. 

Debra: That’s disgusting. Yes. Yes. That’s the kind of stuff that happens in your twenties. 

Nick: Yes. That is the type of crazy stuff. I feel so vulnerable sharing mine, but I’m glad you shared yours too. I had to do that and that’s, Hey, there’s a lesson, right

Debra: People will share things with you if you share things. 

Nick: Yes. That is a good lesson. I like that. 

Debra: Oh my gosh. Okay. I have more questions for you. Do you know, as you have been on your career journey and I’m sorry, I have no, no easy pivot there, by the way, from your date to my date. And now I’m back into career advice. I apologize. I should pivot a lot better. I don’t have a good pivot there, but to get back to the interview, was there a piece of advice that someone gave to you along the way throughout your career journey that you’d like to pass on?

Nick: The piece of advice? I.. Let me think about it. Um….

Debra: Yeah. Because you sold the company and you started the company, both very, very difficult things to do. I mean, it takes a lot of tenacity and a lot of, you know, get up and go. 

Nick: I think about one piece of advice that I heard from a friend that is memorable and that was delegate and elevate. And what does that mean? I’m a very perfectionist and I will spend a lot of time on the small things and what I need to think more of. And I still need to think about this even today is the bigger things. And so delegate and elevate has resonated with me.

Debra: Wow. Isn’t that great? Okay. So delegate and then elevate. What does that mean specifically to you?

Nick: Think about the bigger things. So for example, in your career, the difference between formatting the fonts perfectly versus having the right conversations. So you’re not even submitting resumes to job scrapers, right? You’re, you’re, you’re networking and you’re meeting people and finding out about the new job opportunities versus how, how do my fonts line up and this perfect thing on the resume?

Debra: Oh my gosh, you and I are alike. 

Nick: Yes.

Debra: I am a Canva queen. 

Nick: Are you really? 

Debra: I love Canva. I always say in my next career, I’ll just make Canva invitations for people’s parties. I love Canva. 

Nick: That’s pretty cool. All right. If you’re listening to this podcast, hit Debra up to make the party invite.

When you read my book and host a party, Debra will make your party invitation. 

Debra: I think I will. I love doing it. Oh my gosh. So no, don’t hit me up because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m supposed to delegate that. Okay. So wait, I need to take your advice. What would you tell your 20-year-old self? What kind of advice would you give yourself at 20?

Nick: The idea that I’m excited about now is that everyone in their life wants to know someone who organizes parties, who brings people together. Everyone wants to know someone like that. And the secret is you can be that person. You should be that person. All you have to do in many social situations is just step up and volunteer. That can be hosting a picnic, a wine Wednesday, a happy hour on a Monday night, whatever it is, if you just step up and offer to host that, you’ll start to bring people together. And then it compounds. People start to introduce you as, oh my gosh, you have to meet Debra. She hosts this amazing barbecue in the neighborhood, things like that. It really does compound. 

Debra: So, okay. Let me ask you personally for advice, uh, we are going to do this barbecue thing again, because Josh is very excited about his new grill. 

Nick: Hell. yeah.

Debra: And so he wants to do it every month. 

Nick: I love that.

Debra: So you’re saying, what I need to do is set a start and set an end.

Nick: Yes. And set an end time. For this last one, what time did it start? 

Debra: It started at four. 

Nick: It started at four and um, who did you invite?

Debra: Some neighbors and some friends from, uh, from my job, um, from like the old neighborhood. 

Nick: Yeah. Um, about how many people showed up. 

Debra: Um, I would say about 10.

Nick: About 10. So one piece of advice. I think that now that you guys have done it, you could easily host 20 or 25. And that I find, how did you invite people? How’d you invite them to like, did you make an invite on Canva?

Debra: No, we just told them. 

Nick: You just told them. Okay, so…

Debra: Yeah. I texted this one. Texted that one. Yeah. 

Nick: Yeah. Okay. So here’s my suggestion. I like the site called Mixily. M-I-X-I-L-Y. It’s like Evite or Paperless Post or Eventbrite for making events. I would make an invitation on Mixily and I would send out the invitation at least two weeks in advance of when your next party is.

Debra: Okay.

Nick: By giving people that two-week headway, you’re giving yourself what I call the party runway in order for you to really fill up your RSVPs and guarantee a great attendance. Okay. So that’s number one. Two, on the invitation itself, I would include a picture of you and Josh. 

Debra: Okay. 

Nick: Make sure that you have that. Yeah.

Debra: I am so excited. Oh my gosh. This, I am talking to like the premier party person. And you’re giving me specific advice. I cannot wait to show you. I’m going to make a reel for Instagram stories. I’m going to make a whole video for you.

Nick: Yes!

Debra: I’m going to show you, take pictures and show you the difference. I cannot wait. I’m going to be your guinea pig on this.

Nick: Yes, yes. Don’t even joke because if you take photos, uh, photos are what I need. Then I’m going to write a case study about how you upgraded your barbecue. And I want you to do a few more things. Okay? 

Debra: Okay. I’m writing. I’m here. 

Nick: So, one is you’re going to individually message people and send them. You’re not going to mass text. So be like, “Hey Diane, Josh and I are hosting another barbecue. Can I send you the invitation?” That’s what you’re going to ask. You’re not going to ask, does she wanna come? Nothing. Because it’s easy for her to say yes, right? 

Debra: Right.

Nick: Can you send me an invitation? Of course you can send it to me. Okay. So then you send her a link to the Mixily or to whatever. She will sign up and RSVP. One week beforehand, you’re going to send a fun, casual reminder message. “Hey, everybody, barbecue’s next weekend. Can’t wait to see you. Looking forward. Will see you then.” Okay. 

Debra: Okay. 

Nick: Four days beforehand. I want you to send another reminder message. That includes my secret weapon. Something that I call guest bios. Now guest bios are one or two sentences about half or more of your attendees. Okay? So for you, it could be Debra recently moved to a new neighborhood. She’s a news anchor. She has an incredible sense of style. Ask her or her husband, Josh, about his new barbecue. Okay. So it’s a little blurb about each person. It doesn’t have to be for everybody at the party, but it’s at least half of them. And maybe more. 

Debra: Okay.

Nick: Why are you doing this? Because you want your friends to meet each other. And this gives them conversational access points to just go and meet new people. Next thing I want to note is that in the invitation and the reminder messages, you need to tell people that there will be name tags and icebreakers. 

Debra: Okay.

Nick: You can do that just to give them a heads up. And so that there’s minimal resistance when they show up because somebody, like, name tags, why would we need name tags? But if you tell them before they sign up, then they sign up and they buy into the concept of name tags. 

Debra: I love it.

Nick: So those are some of my big suggestions. And then you got to get a group photo. You have to set a reminder, you have to put something on your calendar, put it on your phone. You will cherish this group photo. You will print it out and put it in your refrigerator. It’ll be a great memory. And ideally, you do it before people start to eat. So everybody’s clean and nice. 

Debra: Exactly. Exactly. Um, and so, you know, what, if also, here’s another thing, if I say, oh, it’s going to be from four to six. You’re not going to show up at five-thirty. 

Nick: Exactly. Thank you very much. 

Debra:Then you can plan the flow of the food or the drink or whatever. Yeah. Because that was the whole thing…

Nick: Yes.

Debra: We showed up at five thirty, we took the picture at four.

Nick: Yes. I will sometimes include in my, uh, event, um, RSVP a rough agenda. Four o’clock arrive, grab a drink. Four fifteen, name tags. Four thirty, round of icebreakers. Five o’clock barbecue time. Five thirty, group photo. Six o’clock, winding down. It’s not exact, but you’re just giving people an idea of what to expect.

Debra: People need to know what to expect. They do. I run a business in addition to CBS, I coach people. And when people sign up to do on-camera coaching with me, they get, okay, here’s the email. This is going to tell you everything that you need to know if you and I used to have, if you haven’t used Zoom before, download Zoom. Now, I don’t say that anymore. I had to update the email, but you have to let people know what to expect for this amount. We’re going to do this. You’re going to get this. Then you’ll get that.

Nick: Yeah.

Debra: Because they just need to know.

Nick: Even for a casual, barbecue or a cocktail party, it helps people, especially the introverts and especially people that even now two years after COVID, people are still a little rusty and they forget how to make small talk. It helps. 

Debra: Oh, they absolutely do. And it’s really great. If you can say, oh, you just moved to the neighborhood. ‘Where did you come from?’ Now we’re 10. Now we have a 10-minute conversation. 

Nick: Yes, Yes, yes. 

Debra: I love this. Okay. I’m going to report back. I will let you know, are you ever in the DC area because you could come to the party.

Nick: I would love to come to the party sometime, please invite me. And then when I’m doing my book tour, I will come through DC. And then if I don’t come to your party, then you come to my party. 

Debra: I’ll make sure too, that I tell my friends who work in TV news about you.

Nick: Awesome!

Debra: Because this is a very important topic. You can create your life with the people that you know, I think it’s really important. In fact, the book I’m working on, I have one chapter about your network. 

Nick: Yes!

Debra: Um, and I say network, because I’m working in TV news. And so I needed a news word. Um, but really it’s about the people that you surround yourself with. That’s how you keep going. You need people who are helping you, otherwise they’re holding you back. And we all know those people. We leave those people aside. 

Nick: Um, what’s your new book about? What is it about? 

Debra: Well, shockingly, it’s about some Sh*t I Wish I Knew in my Twenties. 

Nick: I like that. That’s great. 

Debra: Yeah. This podcast is part of the whole book, but it’s part memoir, part self-help. so it’s a lot of the stuff that I’ve learned, but I want to hear what other people have learned.

Nick: Yeah. I like that a lot. That’s cool.

Debra: Thank you! Now I know your book is, uh, tell me the exact name.

Nick: Okay. That’s no problem. It’s called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. You could probably just search for Nick Gray cocktail party. Uh, but it’s called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, how to build big relationships with small gatherings. 

Debra: I love this. This is incredible. So if I was going to ask you for one book, everyone should read. Would that be the book? 

Nick: Um, that’s a great question. I do like my book. I think one of the best books, have you read the book called Atomic Habits? 

Debra: Um, yes, not only have I read it. I have listed my daily habits on my wall over here. 

Nick: That’s a good book, right? 

Debra: It’s an incredible book. 

Nick: I think that’s a great book. I love my book and I think my book is actionable and it will help you guarantee to host your first party to make it easy, to make it fun, to make new friends, to build big relationships. Um, it’s called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. You got to check it out. If you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back.

Debra: I can’t imagine that someone’s not going to like it. I remember the party I went to all those years. I remember the moment I met you. I remember the party that I went to. I remember my friend Carin came with me like I remember this. And it was so much fun. Not only are you giving people actionable advice, you walk the walk. 

Nick: Yes! Thank you, Debra. 

Debra: I guess I’m a testimonial for you. Okay. One last question for you. What is one question that you wish I’d asked you? 

Nick: One question that I wish you would have asked me is, what’s something that’s non-obvious or something that most people don’t know or that they, most people make a mistake about when they’re trying to host a party.

Debra: Yeah! Okay. 

Nick: I think one thing that’s not obvious that maybe you notice this is that to a degree, the more people at your party, the less work it is for you as a host, I’ll give you an example. When you had 10 people at your party, 10 is nice, but it’s almost not enough for people to generate their own energy or excitement. You’re still sort of in host mode, get in the momentum going. And I find that the sweet spot is really 15 to 20. 

Debra: You’re so right.

Nick: Because at 15 to 20, you’ve got new conversations, forming people and meeting new people. There’s, there’s just an energy and a buzz and an excitement. So I find that’s really helpful. 

Debra: I think you’re so right. When we had 10, I remember walking around saying, do you need anything? Do you need anything? Are you good? You’re good. Oh, did you meet so-and-so? I felt so responsible. 

Nick: Yes. Right? 

Debra: Yeah. But if it’s buzzing and everyone’s having a good time, then I can dip out over here and you know, just take a deep breath. 

Nick: Yes. That’s me. That’s my part. My favorite thing is to sneak into my bedroom and just go lay on the bed for a few minutes.

Debra: Yeah, I can imagine. Absolutely. And what was one funny by-product of our parties that our dogs ate way too much because they were running around to everybody and everyone was like, oh, can I give him something? And I realized, I think everyone gave the dog something because the next day they couldn’t move. 

Nick: Oh, Lord.

Debra: They were like, too much. Don’t feed the animals at the party. 

Nick: Do not feed the animals. 

Debra: Nick. it has been so much fun talking to you. I cannot wait to go to your next cocktail party and I cannot wait till I tell you about our next barbecue.

Nick: It’s going to be a huge success. Thanks for having me. 

Debra: I’m going to have so many pictures and information. Oh my gosh. Yes! It’s going to be a whole case study. Nick, I am so happy you came up to me that day in Whole Foods. And next time I see you, I will wear that dress again 

Nick: And with a name tag. 

Debra: You better believe it. Name tags for everyone.

Nick: Thanks, Debra. 

Debra: You’re welcome.


Sh*t I Wish I Knew In My Twenties is a podcast dedicated to helping 20-somethings thrive in their twenties, not just survive.

Host Debra Alfarone knows how hard being in your twenties can be. As a high-school dropout turned-network-TV-correspondent, she learned most of life’s lessons the hard way. She overcame the odds and now covers the White House for CBS News nationally. She’s also a confidence coach for young women in the TV news industry.


Nick Gray’s website
Nick Gray’s blog
How to Host a Party
The 2-Hour Cocktail Party book
How to Host a Party in a Small Apartment
How to Plan A Networking Event
How to Host a Clothing Swap Party: Top 5 Pro-Tips
How To Host a Happy Hour Event
Lightning Talks: What and How to Do Them
Don’t Host a Dinner Party. Do This Instead


If you like Sh*t I Wish I Knew In My Twenties, drop your email at to be the first to know about new episodes.

Follow Debra on IG at and on TikTok at


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