Our team just finished reading The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. We loved many of the ideas in this book and thought sharing our favorite quotes would inspire you to re-think how you plan and execute meetings. We’ve been hosting team meetings for twenty years and we still picked up some super nuggets that will help us continue to take our hosting to the next level.
If you like what you see in this post, check out the whole book on Amazon.
Special note: since we’re in the meeting business, our entire staff automatically swapped out the word “gathering” for “meeting” as we read the book. Feel free to do the same as you read the quotes below.
Our team’s favorite quotes from the book The Art of Gathering:
“When we do seek out gathering advice, we almost always turn to those who are focused on the mechanics of gathering: chefs, etiquette experts, floral artists, event planers. By doing so, we inadvertently shrink a human challenge down to a logistical one. We reduce the question of what to do with people to a question of what to do about things: PowerPoints, invitations, AV equipment, cutlery, refreshments. We are tempted to focus on the ‘stuff’ of gathering s because we believe those are the only details we can control.”
“There are so many good reasons for coming together that often we don’t know precisely why we are doing so. you are not alone if you skip the first step in convening people meaningfully: committing to a bold, sharp purpose. “
“When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping to quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.”
“Many of the ritualized gatherings in our more intimate spheres — weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduation ceremonies — have been repeated over time such that we become emotionally attached to the form long after it accurately reflects the values or belief systems of the people participating in it.”
“Gatherings that please everyone occur, but they rarely thrill. Gatherings that are willing to be alienating — which is different from being alienating — have a better chance to dazzle.”
“Specificity sharpens the gathering because people can see themselves in it.”
“When clients or friends are struggling to determine their gathering’s purpose, I tell them to move from the what to the why.”
“Think of what you want to be different because you gathered, and work backward from that outcome.”
“You will have begun to gather with purpose when you learn to exclude with purpose. When you learn to close doors.”
“‘Even when you get clear on your gathering in this way, there is never an easy way to say, ‘Please don’t come.’ That’s why so many of our gatherings end up being hijacked in the name of politeness. But here is what the skilled gatherer must know: in trying not to offend, you fail to protect the gathering itself and the people in it.”
“Thoughtful exclusion, in addition to being generous, can be defining. It can help with the important task of communicating to guests what a gathering is.”
“Inviting people is easy. Excluding people can be hard.”
“People who aren’t fulfilling the purpose of your meeting are detracting from it, even if they do nothing to detract from it.”
“When you choose a venue for logistical reasons, you are letting those logistics override your purpose, when in fact they should be working for it.”
“We have to protect our guests from one another, or from boredom, or from addictive technology.”
“If you’re going to join an ‘I Am Here’ day, be there from start to finish.”
“Venues come with scripts. We tend to follow rigid if unwritten scripts that we associate with specific locations…As Patrick Frick, a fellow member of my tribe of professional facilitators, told me, ‘The environment should serve the purpose.’ When he is working with high-level teams and they give a a boardroom to facilitate the meeting in, he said, ‘ Ninety-five percent of my options are gone.'”
“First you determine your venue, and then your venue determines which YOU gets to show up.”
“Embodying a purpose doesn’t necessarily require going anywhere special. Sometimes just reconfiguring a room is enough.”
“What many hosts don’t realize is that the choice of venue is one of your most powerful levers over your guests’ behavior.”
“A venue can and should do one further thing: displace people. Displacement is simply about breaking people out of their habits. It is about waking people up from the slumber of their own routines.”
“An essential step along the path of gathering better is making peace with the necessity and virtue of using your power. If you are going to gather, gather. If you are going to host, host. If you are going to create a kingdom for an hour a day, rule it — and rule it with generosity.”
“YOU ARE THE BOSS. Hosting is not democratic, just like design isn’t. Structure helps good parties, like restrictions help good design.”
“One measure of a successful gathering is that it stars off with a higher number of host-guest connections than guest-guest connections and ends with those tallies reversed, far in the the guest-guest favor.”
“Your gathering begins at the moment your guests first learn of it.”
“A curse of modern life and of modern convening in particular. People are often too busy to gather at all. Scheduling gatherings is a nightmare. Coordinating people can be a pain. And when, against all odds, we do come together, our minds are in a thousand places.”
“90 percent of what makes a gathering successful is put in place beforehand.”
“Asking guest to contribute to a gathering ahead of time changes their perception of it.”
“This window of time between the discovery and the formal beginning is an opportunity to prime your guests. It is a chance to shape their journey into your gathering.”
“The first change you should make if you want to launch well is to quit starting with logistics…However vital it may seem to start with this housekeeping, you are missing an opportunity to sear your gathering’s purpose into the minds of your guests.”
“Your next task is to fuse people, to turn a motley collection of attendees into a tribe. A talented gatherer doesn’t hope for disparate people to become a group. She makes them a group.”
“A deft gatherer picks a place that elicits the behaviors she wants and plays down the behaviors she doesn’t.”
“Good controversy doesn’t just happen…To embrace good controversy is to embrace the idea that harmony is not necessarily the highest, and certainly not the only, value in gathering.”
“Nowhere is puffed-up phoniness more palpable than at conferences. Nowhere else is the chance to have conversations across borders, identities, and profession so often wasted. Nowhere else are so many people with the influence to change things so frequently brought together, only for the resulting conversations to remain on the surface. They lurk there because everyone is presenting the best self they think others expect to meet.”
“The first step to closing a gathering well is less practical than it is spiritual or metaphysical: You must, before anything, accept there is an end. You must accept your gathering’s mortality.”
Check out our #1 tip on how to have your Best Meeting Ever.
Check out our favorite quotes from one of our team’s favorite books, The Power of Moments.