What I’m Reading: The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker, the founder of Thrive Labs, challenges how we approach events, from planning to execution, in The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. I enjoyed Parker’s unique and thoughtful take on creating meaningful and memorable experiences for events of all sizes. She did a great job of incorporating real-life applications of effective gatherings and how they can be applied to your next event. Below are a few lessons I took from Parker on how to change your thinking when planning your next gathering. 

Decide Why You’re Really Gathering
The next time you’re asked to plan a networking happy hour, board meeting, fundraising gala or any other event that can fit into a generic category stop and take the time to dig deeper into the purpose of the gathering. 

“When we don’t examine the deeper assumptions behind why we gather, we end up skipping too quickly to replicating old, staid formats of gathering. And we forgo the possibility of creating something memorable, even transformative.” 

Whether it’s transforming a community through an experimental courtroom experience, like at The Red Hook Community Justice Center, or challenging the traditional baby showers norms by inviting the father to participate in the festivities, taking a step back to better understand the purpose of your event can help elevate the experience and foster more meaning.  

Don’t Be a Chill Host 
Organizing an event with a purpose requires the host to make decisions about the flow and direction of the gathering. This allows guests to share in the experience of your event in a safe environment and prevents others from taking over the gathering for their own purposes. 

“The kinds of gatherings that meaningfully help others are governed by what I call generous authority. A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others. Generous authority is imposing in a way that serves your guests.”

Create a Temporary Alternative World
If you want to truly mix up your gathering adding rules can create the unique experience your guests didn’t know they were yearning for. Diner en Blanc is a global dinner-party series governed by explicit rules and brings together people of all backgrounds from countries across the world. Started in 1988 by Francois Pasquier, guests are asked to wear white, arrive to the event in pairs to a designated location where they are led to a secret venue and are asked to bring a picnic dinner to enjoy next to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of strangers. 

“Rules-based gatherings, controlling as they might seem, are actually bringing new freedom and openness to our gatherings.”

As I build Smedley Events it is important to me to create a portfolio of events that are meaningful and connect people through unforgettable experiences.

In the coming weeks I will be launching the Small Great Event Series which will be a collective of events with the purpose of bringing people together in meaningful and memorable ways. The first event will be a hands on experience at the Denver Glass Academy where attendees will get to learn glass blowing techniques and blow two pieces of glass art themselves.

If you would like to learn more about the Small Great Event Series or how you can become involved as a venue host email me at lara@smedleyevents.com. Ticket information and additional details coming soon.

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