This week I read Priya Parker’s fabulous book The Art of Gathering.  There are so many gems in this book that I had to draft a few key take-aways here:


  1.  “Chill is a miserable attitude when it comes to hosting gatherings,” (pg 74). The more thought you put into organizing a gathering, the more thoughtful the conversations will be–don’t be afraid to show that you care about the outcome.
  2. “…The final transition between the guests’ arrival and the opening is a threshold moment.  Anticipation builds between the initial clap of thunder and the first drops of rain; hope and anxiety mingle, (pg 171).  Parker moves on to remind us how we are neurologically wired to remember the beginning of any key event.  She then bemoans how many events/conferences begin with ‘logistics.’  I’ve found this true myself–nothing sucks the oxygen out of an enthused room by pausing to do nuts and bolts.  Launching with a surprise, with a story, or with something emotional builds on this…hold your announcements. Perhaps it is worth looking at the show Saturday Night Live, and recognizing why their ‘cold opens’ hook the audience, and why they go through the show’s lineup a bit later on.
  3. “Good controversy is the kind of contention that helps people look more closely at what they care about when there is a danger but also real benefit in doing so,” (page 233).  Parker reminds us that often organizations need to take those taboo topics that organizations shy away from and give them space…and sometimes a spotlight.  This reminded me of the work Intelligence Squared does.  What is one debate your school shys away from?  What might happen if you host it?
  4. Parker also introduced me to the idea of a 15 toasts dinner.  A little Googling took me to this reading that then expands on that initial idea and also introduced me to lunch roulette.
  5. “A strong closing has two phases, corresponding to two distinct needs among your guests: looking inward and turning outward…turning outward is about preparing to part from one another and retake your place in the world,” (page 259). What does the closing of the average workshop or conference look like? What can you do to move away from ‘average’?