The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. Parker defines a gathering as three or more people who come together for a specific purpose. When we understand why we gather, she says — to acknowledge, to learn, to challenge, to change — we learn how to organize gatherings that are relevant and memorable: from an effective business meeting to a thought-provoking conference; from a joyful wedding to a unifying family dinner. Drawing on her experience as a strategic facilitator who’s worked with such organizations as the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the retail company Fresh, Parker explains how ordinary people can create remarkable occasions, large and small. In dozens of fascinating examples, she breaks down the alchemy of these experiences to show what goes into the good ones and demonstrates how we can learn to incorporate those elements into all of our gatherings. The result is a book that’s both journey and guide, full of big ideas with real-world applications that will change the way you look at a business meeting, a parent-teacher conference, and a backyard barbecue.

Author: Priya Parker

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Rating: 4.5/5

There are a lot of nonfiction books out there, and so many of them are just okay. They put forth an idea in a book that could really be a long-form article; much of it is fluff. The Art of Gathering is NOT that. This book was refreshingly original, useful, and gosh darn interesting.

“We get lulled into the false belief that knowing the category of the gathering—the board meeting, workshop, birthday party, town hall—will be instructive to designing it. But we often choose the template—and the activities and structure that go along with it—before we’re clear on our purpose.” 

Priya Parker is a professional facilitator; she designs and leads impactful events for a living. This is very different from what she dubs the “Martha Stewart approach” — this book has absolutely nothing to do with hors d’oeuvres presentation or decor. It’s about how to structure an event or gathering with a purpose so that it’s never just “okay.” So that you don’t waste your own or your guests’ time by hosting it. So that awkward small talk et. al. can give way to impact (big or small).

I especially enjoyed the chapter on rules — things like no cell phones, no talking about work, or really anything that places conditions on attendance. She argues that at first, they may feel forced or burdensome, but when done well, they can give people space to experiment in something new. I’m not doing this justice; you have to read it for yourself.

I’m really glad that I read this book. I truly learned, and I thought about what I learned. And I plan to implement these ideas sooner rather than later!

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