November Book Club: “The Art of Gathering” by Priya Parker

Many of us have experienced the magic of a perfectly orchestrated gathering, where connections flourish, conversations flow, and memories form. But how do we create such moments? We recently discussed the book “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters” by Priya Parker, which offers a 360-degree view on this subject.

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Understanding the Art of Gathering

Priya Parker is a master facilitator, strategic advisor, and author known for her unparalleled meeting facilitation and event planning skills. In “The Art of Gathering,” she distills her wealth of knowledge into a master guide that teaches how to arrange meetings with purpose and make them impactful.

Right from corporate meetings to informal dinner parties, Priya enlightens us on structuring gatherings that can alter the way we bring people together all year round. But what stands out about this book is its central theme – the emphasis on knowing the ‘why’ behind your gathering.

The ‘Why’ of Your Gathering

In the book, Priya highlights the importance of defining the purpose of your gathering at the onset. She notes, “When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, stale formats of gathering, and we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.”

Think about every gathering that you arrange or contribute to. Rather than simply creating additional opportunities for socializing, focus on the potential of these meetings to be moments of genuine connection. By putting a deeper meaning into a gathering beyond just an occasion to meet, your gatherings can transform into moments that people will cherish.

More Tips to Curate Meaningful Gatherings

Parker’s book is replete with tips on being a gracious host who can successfully orchestrate a gathering. One such tip is to adopt a strong, yet generous, authority when you are the host. Essentially, it’s your responsibility to guide the course of the event – from setting the expectations before the gathering to ensuring a pleasant experience for all your guests.

She advises the host to be proactive in fostering connections between guests. The true measure of a successful gathering is when it starts with a high number of host-guest connections, but ends with the majority of connections being between guests.

Another crucial tip is about who to invite. Deciding the guest list is often a rollercoaster of anxieties concerning whom to include or exclude. Remember, being purposeful about who you aren’t inviting is just as important as who you are inviting.

Bringing It All Together

In essence, “The Art of Gathering” is a compelling read for anyone who wants to make their meetings matter, whether it’s a corporate event or a small friends’ gathering. It’s all about considering the ‘why,’ being a generous host, initiating engaging conversations, and handpicking the attendees. Only then can you create gatherings that leave an imprint in your guests’ memories.

Remember, as Parker states, “Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when (often invisible) structure is baked into them, and when a host has the curiosity, willingness, and generosity of spirit to try.”

About the Author

Priya Parker is an author and facilitator known for her expertise in the art of gathering and the dynamics of group interactions. Born in 1978, she has gained recognition for her work in helping people create meaningful and transformative experiences through intentional gatherings.

She is the founder of Thrive Labs, at which she helps activists, elected officials, corporate executives, educators, and philanthropists create transformative gatherings. She works with teams and leaders across technology, business, the arts, fashion, and politics to clarify their vision for the future and build meaningful, purpose-driven communities. Her clients have included the Museum of Modern Art, LVMH, the World Economic Forum, meetup.com, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, the Union for Concerned Scientists, and Civitas Public Affairs.