6 min read

Why You Should Host a Party to Grow Your Network (And Use Name Tags)

Discover the secret to authentic networking with my guide on hosting fun and memorable events. Learn from super-connector Nick Gray and elevate your social game!
Why You Should Host a Party to Grow Your Network (And Use Name Tags)
Photo by Aleksandr Popov / Unsplash

Networking events generally suck. But there is some validity to that old saying about how “Your network is your net worth”… so how do we do it in a fun way?

I want to share with you the most authentic networking strategy I know.

Enter: Nick Gray. Nick is the textbook definition of a super-connector.

Cathryn Lavery and Nick Gray

I met him in Austin Texas in 2017 when we were both in town speaking at Sumo Con. He took my number and invited me to a group cocktail party when we got back to NYC. 

At the time I was newly single after getting out of a long relationship. I was in a new (empty) apartment and was trying to meet new people.

New York is a lonely place for many as it’s filled with transplants like myself with no built-in support network. So while we’re often surrounded by crowds of people it’s easy to not feel connected to anyone… and making new friends as an adult can be hard.

A cocktail party where I knew no one? Cool, let’s do it

It was early winter in NYC and Nick lived in a fourth-floor walk-up apartment in the West Village. I remember the funny messages on each new stairway, motivating guests to keep walking. They felt like personal motivational messages as with each flight I wondered if I was making a mistake. 

(I mean I wouldn’t know anyone, wouldn’t it be awkward AF?!)

When we got to his apartment we had to take our shoes off at the door. There were name tags for each person coming in. Then the icebreakers began…

Cut to 2 hours later, I’m leaving the apartment with new friends thinking ‘Wow that was incredible’. It was by far the most fun “networking” event I’d ever been to in NYC. When I reflected on why it was because everyone there was made to feel like they belonged.

Humans have a fundamental need to belong and form relationships. Nick had created a structure to make everyone at his party leave with that feeling — in only two hours.

Over the past five years, I’ve used skills Nick has taught me to develop a powerful network of friends and connections. This has helped me grow BestSelf, create raving fan customers, get multi-millions in sales, and build a rock-solid Austin community.

Here’s a picture from my baby shower in April (you might recognize some faces from the interwebs):

Baby Shower at Casa Lavery
‍Baby Shower at Casa Lavery

Here’s what I did

What do a business conference, a bachelorette party, and a powerhouse baby shower all have in common?

The answer is: I have hosted them all, and my friend Nick Gray helped with the hosting. He also forced me to use name tags and icebreakers at all of them, and it was actually fun. In fact, we created the Icebreaker deck because I’d seen how well these prompts sparked meaningful conversations.

These events helped to strengthen my network, build some great friendships, and even grow my business.

Everybody gets a nametag!
Everybody gets a nametag!

What you should do

You should host a party, and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Nick has a new step-by-step guidebook called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party to show you exactly how to do that. You can use it to make new friends and build your network in a very authentic way, networking without it feeling like work.

This method works whether you’re hosting a business event or a bachelorette party… (quick ask me how I know.)

Here are some different events I’ve hosted and used Nick’s strategies for:

BestSelf Conference

The BestSelf Conference in NYC was amazing. Over 100 people attended and I hired Nick to help us run activities and icebreakers at the event. He blogged about it here.

It was important to me that people felt connected at the event so I needed Nick to work his magic. By the end of the day, he had customers getting up to share their goals and be vulnerable, something that would never have happened without first building connections.

These are some photos from the event:

BestSelf conference
BestSelf conference
Nick speaking at the conference
Nick speaking at the conference

As a business owner, it was incredible to get to interact with my customers first-hand. 

Now you don’t have to host a huge, full-day conference like I did. 

Make it easy: just host a happy hour or a cocktail party for your customers. Thank them for their business and get to know them.

If you do this, I’d follow Nick’s advice from his book:

  1. Host it on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night only. Then you won’t compete with other busy nights. More people are likely to attend.
  2. Limit your party to only 2 hours. More people will show up on time.
  3. Use name tags. I know this sounds weird, but now that I’ve been to so many events I’ve been convinced of it. They help people feel more connected in conversation and more comfortable to meet the other guests. You’ll look like a super-connector!

Bachelorette Party

I hosted a bachelorette party in Austin for my girlfriends.

For some strange reason, Nick volunteered to help. I asked him to do name tags because not all of my friends knew each other. Here’s a picture of Nick ready for the special night:

Nick in an awkward pose ( I guess its because of the signage )
Nick in an awkward pose ( I guess it is because of the signage )

The bachelorette party was fun. We played games, went out to a fancy restaurant for dinner, and drank a little bit of alcohol. The name tags helped everyone to create new friendships.

Nick talks a lot about the importance of using name tags in Chapter 5 of his book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party

Note: I think that if Nick Gray ever dies, he will be buried with a name tag. (But I hope he doesn’t die!)

Baby Shower

Finally, we hosted a baby shower before the arrival of our baby, Quinn Rose. People flew in from different cities, and our best friends in Austin came to celebrate with us.

At the party, our friends led a special icebreaker: they each gave us one piece of advice for our baby. Or they told us one thing that they could help teach Rose when she was growing up… given the caliber of advice she received she may end up president.

It was a special moment to hear from everyone. The outpouring of support was beautiful.

Conclusion

Humans are social beings, we thrive and are at our best when we are connected to others — even introverts like myself. But being an introvert is no excuse for not building a powerful network.

Building your network and relationships will help you more with both your business and general life satisfaction than anything else. 

Hosting parties doesn’t have to be hard and complicated. I’ve used them to connect with my friends in Austin for these major life events. But you can use a 2-hour cocktail party as an excuse to meet new people, connect with old friends, or even celebrate your customers.

When Nick told me he was writing a book to help people throw parties and build connections like him I was excited. When you have a gift like he does it’s of public service to share it with the world.

Nick’s book is a Trojan horse (the good kind). You think you’re only learning how to host a 2-hour cocktail party, but you’re really becoming a super connector and building big relationships.

Nick’s book The 2-Hour Cocktail Party can help and guide you every step of the way. 

Pre-order on Amazon here, or download the first 4 chapters from the home page.

the 2 hour cocktail party