Following Priya Parker’s philosophy in The Art of Gathering can be life-changing. Although her career involves seminars, conventions and meetings in the business and non-profit world, her principles apply, as well, to personal and family gatherings. She has, obviously, thought deeply and over a long period of time about how humans interact and what we need from one another.
It’s so easy to shrug off a meeting or a social dinner that was, yet again, a chunk of time that we sadly realize could have been spent better. We were obligated to show up, so we fulfilled this minimum expectation, but we were disappointed. She refuses to let opportunities for connection go to waste.
One of her more fascinating precepts is that being a “chill host” is not doing anyone a favor. By not planning the beginning or ending of your gathering, or actively engaging your guests, you’re actually letting them down. You’ve taken on the role of a guide in this piece of space and time. It may be a risk, but the upside is the adrenalizing, surprising discoveries you may make, and the downside is that you may have to go outside of your comfort zone and you may have a fail or two.
Parker advocates engaging your guests before the event – tell them why you are gathering, and maybe give them an assignment. In the case of a series of meetings designed to solve a problem in an organization, she asks that participants give her information about what they feel are the issues affecting the group. Her goal is always to dig deep – to peel the layers of an onion. In “Keep Your Best Self Out of My Gathering,” she encourages people to put aside their elevator pitches and the selling of themselves, to think about what’s best for the group.
One of the most interesting chapters is the last one, “Accept That There is an End.” So your gathering has been a success, in that there have been breakthroughs or guests have simply had a great time. It takes some finesse to guide people to leave in such a way that there is closure, or a celebratory gesture, or that you give a summary of what’s been accomplished.
So, here’s hoping you take advantage of your library system, check out this book, read it, and make your next gathering intentional and memorable!