The book, The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (paid link), has been mentioned on recent episodes of the T is for Training podcast (which I'm a part) and has been bubbling up in other conversations, so it seems to be something I need to pay attention to. This topic also seems important as we are holding some gatherings for the first time since the pandemic began without thinking about whether these gatherings need to change.
In our pre-pandemic world, meetings, staff retreats, conferences, weddings, retirement parties, etc., were held regularly. Often they took the form of the previous iteration of that event, because that format seemed to work well. Rarely did we have time or energy to re-imagine what that event should be. As everything moved to being held remotely, many events were held online in ways that mimicked their previous in-person versions. For me, it was thrilling to see organizations think about what an event really should be - especially in a virtual form - and make changes, perhaps through experimentation. As we're moving back to in-person events, some organizations are thinking about what that in-person even should be now. What was learned by being online? Who is the event for? What do people really want? What is the need? What parts of the event are unnecessary? This is where the work of author Priya Parker comes in.
What has stood out to me immediately from Parker is understanding the purpose of a gathering. In some cases, that means pushing aside the normal purpose (e.g., staff retreat) and realize the real purpose for gathering together now. For a staff retreat, for example:
- What really needs to be achieved?
- What do you and the staff want to get out of the time together?
- Perhaps retreat isn't the correct word. What should it be called?
- Maybe this isn't for the entire staff or maybe its for a larger group than the staff. Who should attend?
All of that is driven by knowing the true why.
Besides the book, Parker has a number of YouTube videos and I've placed some of them below. They might be a good place to begin exploring this topic. In addition, Parker has two free guides available on her website, which you may find helpful in thinking about this:
- Short Book Summary of The Art of Gathering How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker (2 min.)
- 3 steps to turn everyday get-togethers into transformative gatherings (TED Talk) by Priya Parker (10 minutes)
- Rethinking Gatherings In A Post-Quarantine World, interview with Priya Parker (11 minutes)
- Tips for Hosting Better Virtual Events from Priya Parker (5 minutes)
- The Art of Gathering with Priya Parker (7 minutes)