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The Art of Gathering

How We Meet and Why It Matters

By Priya Parker
15-minute read
Audio available
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

In The Art of Gathering (2018), Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives – from business meetings to dinner parties – are lackluster, routine and lacking in purpose. Parker sets out a bold new approach to gathering that focuses on distinctiveness, purpose and real human connection, and shows how simple steps can invigorate any gathering of people.

  • Anyone who’d like to create better, more impactful parties or events
  • People interested in how to use gatherings to make real human connections.

Priya Parker is a facilitator who works with corporate executives, activists, educators and more to create transformative gatherings. Trained in conflict resolution, Parker has worked on peace processes in the Middle East, Africa and India. She has been a member of the World Economic Forum’s New Models of Leadership Council, and her TEDx talk on purpose has been viewed over a million times.

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The Art of Gathering

How We Meet and Why It Matters

By Priya Parker
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
Synopsis

In The Art of Gathering (2018), Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives – from business meetings to dinner parties – are lackluster, routine and lacking in purpose. Parker sets out a bold new approach to gathering that focuses on distinctiveness, purpose and real human connection, and shows how simple steps can invigorate any gathering of people.

Key idea 1 of 9

Gatherings are important to the human experience, but too often we don’t give them much thought.

We spend our lives gathering – first in our families, with friends, in playgroups and at schools. Then, with adult life, come weddings, business meetings, class reunions and dinner parties. And as our lives end, our families and loved ones gather at our funerals.

Gatherings are a huge part of life, and they’re a part of the human experience. But the time we spend in them is often underwhelming and uninspiring.

At work, we moan about conferences and meetings. Duncan Green, a specialist in international development, spoke for many of us when he wrote in his 2016 article in the Guardian about his views on conferences. With some few exceptions, he said, his usual mood at conferences ranges from boredom, to despair and all the way to rage. And a 2015 survey presented in the State of Enterprise Work Report found that employees cited wasteful meetings as their top barrier to getting work done.

Non-professional gatherings are also increasingly disappointing. As traditional religion holds less and less appeal to younger people, gatherings built around church communities are in decline. But we also don’t even seem to be particularly happy with the time we are spending with friends. A 2013 study into the state of friendship in America found that 75 percent of people were dissatisfied with their platonic relationships.

Given this state of affairs, you might think more people would take the time to think about how to change things. But instead, we keep taking the same approach.

It’s rare to go to a conference, or a drinks party, and find that the event organizers have given serious thought to how guests will connect with each other and get something meaningful from the gathering. That’s perhaps because when we do seek out advice for hosting, we tend to focus on the mechanics. What is fundamentally a human challenge – how to bring people together in a way that is meaningful, interesting or thought-provoking – becomes a logistical one. We focus on Powerpoints, AV equipment, table decorations and menu choices, more than we think about people and human connection.  

But the good news is there are steps you can follow to ensure that your gatherings really work. And anyone can follow them. You don’t need to be an extrovert or have a fancy house or location for hosting your event. You just need to read on.

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