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The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker – Notes from a Community Book Club & Resources

This Summer, I hear the audiobook, The Art of Gathering, written by Priya Parker. I intended to participate in the community book club during Tech Thursday 2021 brought by The Community Roundtable. Unfortunately, I could not join the live conversation. However, I had the chance to review the replay. Below are my notes from the insightful conversation.

the art of gathering book cover

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


The Art Of Gathering’s Resources

When, why and where we come apart/gather together. Learn more through the book, the website, a New York Times podcast called Together apart.

About Gathering

Every time 3 people or more come together for a purpose with a beginning, a middle and an end. A gathering a technical unit you can hold and close. Different than a community. The life of groups enables people to do their work temporary: marrying people or creating products.

Common Mistakes of Gathering


The purpose is obvious

Ask what your purpose is as an educator instead of asking yourself how to teach online your discipline in the context of the pandemic.

Assuming the activity is the purpose

To serve your purpose to serve people. Don’t be fixed with your profession and activity to meet your purpose. Instead, figure out ways and which to serve your purpose beyond a fixed label in your mind.

For instance, for a birthday celebration, ask yourself what you need right now/who are you to invite and host this event? Will people commit to come, stay and contribute to your event and the activity you purposefully facilitate? The activity reveals a part of yourself to the community.

Don’t start with questions such as: how to make the event more fun, productive etc… Start with the purpose. Is it crystal clear? Obvious? Did you skip it?

Assuming we need to cut out what is behind: the context/universe of one person/organization

Each person has their own universe. It can be shown purposefully or not.

Importance of the Host Role

The role of the host/community manager is more important than ever in the pandemic context. Check chapter three: ‘Don’t Be a Chill Host’. Instead, use your generous authority, i.e. your power, to determine the purpose as a host.

Help people to understand how to work during that time. Don’t abdicate your power because you leave themselves to each other by doing so. As a host, connect the guest with the common purpose and to each other. The host protects the guests from each other and equalises everyone, especially on video calls.

Code of Conduct

Have virtual code of conduct on Zoom, Meet etc… It starts when the guest discovers the future promise of the event, i.e. the invitation. There is no more journeying time like driving, commuting times to go to events anymore with the pandemic. It is more and more about entering and leaves buttons for online events. So as a community/host recreates this journeying time/feeling of entering the doorway and leaving it as we would physically do, even for a 60 min gathering.

For instance, the rise of the global movement of creating a painting from home. It starts with people joining a Facebook group initially, but they had to read 10 rules shared on the group before that. So a threshold/code of conduct/social contract was created to filter and foster high premium production of paintings.

Use your ton to protect people and enable them to be free to work/create/produce something together personal or professional outputs.

Magic Numbers in the Context of the Pandemic

Use the ones mentioned in the book and turn them down by 20% for each number. Even in face-to-face and Zoom calls. Pace changes. Takes longer—less attention span. So don’t squeeze things.

Achievable and accessible: make your event stands for them. Ask people: what is essential? The question of the 21st Century.

Connecting People to Work Together

Every group has questions or one that will break and open, which will hit the nervous system of the group. It is the work of the host to figure it/them out. Can you help shift the dynamics when people conflict to affect the outside world better? Ask yourself:

What are the questions that serve the group and the purpose?

How can we connect people so that they can work together?

For instance, a multidisciplinary team within an industry from different professions, hierarchy and companies of big pharma to work on maternal mortality

Type of question: what is the one thing that people would recognise right away by looking at your mother?

Purposefully ask first the reverse role of that question: here, husband instead of the wife.

Connection is not the end of the purpose. Connection is a tool. You need to ask: what is the purpose? How do I serve the purpose? This group needs to know/protect from each other to serve the purpose and do the work collectively.

Incorporating the Dark Theme in Gatherings

What does the group avoid? What are the risks to help it to face it? Is the gift worth the risk? Our work as community managers affects how we design spaces for our communities and clients. If the activity you design – such as bring and Q&A on a hidden/forbidden object from your home – serves the purpose.

Use dialogue to explore that space. Use languages, songs, metaphors. Find meanings through conversations as a host and with people.

Assisting Better the Ending of a Gathering

Open and close properly. Opening: give context and what’s ok here. Closing: close the world you’ve created together. Closing is the moment for meaning-making. What did inspire/learn you here? On Zoom, nudge people to use the chat to make the meaning of their gathering.

For instance, some wedding on Zoom are fire chats, and other are just blank chats. As a host, I help people make meaning together and in front of each other, such as in the brunch the day after the wedding. Use magical questions to open the group and other ones to close the group.

What did inspire you here?

What insight do you learn from here?

What do you think of the work we did here?

What might we do together in the future?

What do you commit to doing after this event as an individual?

The Art of Gathering & Supporting People

Facilitate meaningful and structured gatherings to cope with the impact on mental health in a context of grief, unprecedented time of losses. Help people to process together with rituals you hold.

When you live in different worlds, be outside a little bit of your both worlds to see both worlds. Navigate what you bring ahead, invent, bring along for the ride, and leave behind when you host gatherings with purpose.

Final Thoughts by Priya Parker

Share how and why you gather. Gathering is contagious.  We create norms by gathering through and with each other purposefully and courageously. You permit to do the same.

Thoughts

As a participant and facilitator of learning circles, host of future skills workshops, internal community manager for startups and their customers, hearing this book and reviewing notes from the community book club make me rethink the ways and which we gather in the flow of life and work in the context of the pandemic and beyond.

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