The Art of Gathering (Priya Parker)

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive—and they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.

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Book summary

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive -- which they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.

Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn't, and why. She investigates a wide array of gatherings -- conferences, meetings, a courtroom, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp -- and explains how simple, specific changes can invigorate any group experience.

The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of exciting ideas with real-world applications. The Art of Gathering will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue--and how you host and attend them.


Show notes

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • How to follow Priya’s framework for creating intentional, meaningful gatherings

  • That anyone has the ability to gather well. You don’t need to be a boss or manager, an extrovert, or have a fancy house

  • Why the gatherings in our lives tend to adhere to traditional, outdated, and ineffective formats -- and often end up missing the mark, being disappointing, perceived as a waste of time, or feel like the “same tired way we’ve always done it”

  • How a gathering can elevate if you put the right people in a room and help them to collectively think, dream, argue, heal, envision, trust, and connect for a specific larger purpose -- ultimately experience a sense of greater belonging

  • Takeaways from Chapter 1: Decide Why You’re Really Gathering

    • Why to commit to a bold, sharp purpose (a category is not a purpose!)

    • Why specificity is crucial

    • Why a purpose should be disputable

  • Takeaways from Chapter 2: Close Doors 

    • Why your guest list is the first real test of your gathering

    • Why/how to exclude well, and generously

    • What the ideal sizes are for gathering types

    • Why your venue sets the tone for your gathering

  • Takeaways from Chapter 3: Don’t be a Chill Host

    • Why you should acknowledge you have power as a host

    • Why an abdication of power (being a “chill” host) often fails guests rather than serves them

    • Why “generous authority” is about protecting, connecting, and equalizing guests

  • Takeaways from Chapter 4: Create a Temporary Alternative World 

    • Why/how to “spice things up” by designing your gathering as a world that will only exist once

    • How to use rules to create a unique feeling and make guests feel comfortable, secure, and included

  • Takeaways from Chapter 5: Never Start a Funeral with Logistics

    • Why the opening of an event is often a big missed opportunity

    • How priming works prior to your event 

    • Why/how to usher your guests into the experience of your gathering

  • Takeaways from Chapter 6: Keep Your Best Self Out of my Gathering

    • Why guests want realness and intimacy from each other, not just someone’s “public face”

    • How to encourage guests to share honestly and authentically (and lead by example)

  • Takeaways from Chapter 7: Cause Good Controversy

    • Why controversy can make a gathering “matter”

    • Why/how to make your gathering "fruitfully controversial"

  • Takeaways from Chapter 8: Accept That There is an End

    • How to logistically close your gathering, end on a high, and graciously say goodbye

    • Why how you end things -- just as how you start things -- shapes the attendees’ experience

    • Why closings are an opportunity to recall your purpose

Bookmarked activity

Plan an event OR think about a gathering you host or are involved in: is it a weekly office meeting, a meet-up group, a book club, or a conference or community event?  Which principle in this books stands out as one your gathering is lacking?  How can you affect change in your gathering to make it better using this principle? 

Put the principals of The Art of Gathering into action!  Then…

Share your takeaways

Tell us about an event you attended that had a clear purpose, your own experience practicing The Art of Gathering, and/or any aha moments you experienced in reading this book or listening to this episode!  Share your experiences and takeaways by emailing us at hello@booksmartpodcast.com

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Melissa GullerEP 03