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The Art of Gathering
Cover of The Art of Gathering
The Art of Gathering
How We Meet and Why It Matters
Borrow Borrow
"Hosts of all kinds, this is a must-read!" —Chris Anderson, owner and curator of TED

From the host of the New York Times podcast Together Apart, an exciting new approach to how we gather that will transform the ways we spend our time together—at home, at work, in our communities, and beyond.

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive—which they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.
Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn't, and why. She investigates a wide array of gatherings—conferences, meetings, a courtroom, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp—and explains how simple, specific changes can invigorate any group experience.
The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of exciting ideas with real-world applications. The Art of Gathering will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue—and how you host and attend them.
"Hosts of all kinds, this is a must-read!" —Chris Anderson, owner and curator of TED

From the host of the New York Times podcast Together Apart, an exciting new approach to how we gather that will transform the ways we spend our time together—at home, at work, in our communities, and beyond.

In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive—which they don't have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play.
Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn't, and why. She investigates a wide array of gatherings—conferences, meetings, a courtroom, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp—and explains how simple, specific changes can invigorate any group experience.
The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of exciting ideas with real-world applications. The Art of Gathering will forever alter the way you look at your next meeting, industry conference, dinner party, and backyard barbecue—and how you host and attend them.
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  • From the book The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in, in both our inti- mate and public realms. Gathering—the conscious bringing together of people for a reason—shapes the way we think, feel, and make sense of our world. Lawgivers have understood, perhaps as well as anyone, the power inherent in gatherings. In democracies, the freedom to assemble is one of the foundational rights granted to every individual. In countries descending into authoritarianism, one of the first things to go is the right to assemble. Why? Because of what can happen when people come together, exchange information, inspire one another, test out new ways of being together. And yet most of us spend very little time thinking about the actual ways in which we gather.

    We spend our lives gathering—first in our families, then in neighborhoods and playgroups, schools and churches, and then in meetings, weddings, town halls, conferences, birthday parties, product launches, board meetings, class and family reunions, dinner parties, trade fairs, and funerals. And we spend much of that time in uninspiring, underwhelming moments that fail to capture us, change us in any way, or connect us to one another.

    Any number of studies support a notion that's obvious to many of us: Much of the time we spend in gatherings with other people disappoints us. "With the occasional exception, my mood in conferences usually swings between boredom, despair, and rage," Duncan Green, a blogger and specialist in international development, confesses in the Guardian. Green's take isn't unique to conferences: The 2015 State of Enterprise Work survey found that "wasteful meetings" were employees' top obstacle to getting work done.

    We don't even seem to be thrilled with the time we spend with our friends. A 2013 study, The State of Friendship in America 2013: A Crisis of Confidence, found that 75 percent of respondent were unsatisfied with those relationships. Meanwhile, in How We Gather, a recent report on the spiritual life of young people, Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile write, "As traditional religion struggles to attract young people, millennials are looking elsewhere with increasing urgency."
    As much as our gatherings disappoint us, though, we tend to keep gathering in the same tired ways. Most of us remain on autopilot when we bring people together, following stale formulas, hoping that the chemistry of a good meeting, conference, or party will somehow take care of itself, that thrilling results will magically emerge from the usual staid inputs. It is almost always a vain hope.

    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 planners. 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 gatherings because we believe those are the only details we can control. I believe that's both shortsighted and a misunderstanding about what actually makes a group connect and a gathering matter.

    I come to gatherings not as a chef or an event planner, but as someone trained in group dialogue and conflict resolution. I've spent much of the past fifteen years of my life studying, designing, and advising gatherings whose goals were to be transformative for the people involved and the communities they were trying to affect. Today I work as a...
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2018
    Wherever two or more of you gather, you're probably doing it wrong.The reason that most of us hate meetings is that meetings are so hateful: They're too often aimless and endless, poorly conducted and seldom meaningfully concluded. Parker--founder of a company that specializes in "transformative gatherings" and a sort of Martha Stewart of the conference table--identifies the common errors that go into gathering, which she helpfully, if perhaps obviously, glosses as "the conscious bringing together of people for a reason." The "for a reason" bit is key, for the act of bringing people together can seem like an afterthought, seldom planned through from beginning to end and a font of missed opportunities. The first step, writes the author, is "committing to a bold, sharp purpose," with milestones along the way that include plenty of reminders for why the attendees are there in the first place. Parker nicely explores and sometimes explodes conventions: Must a baby shower be the exclusive turf of women? Can people who hate meetings be persuaded that they're something other than a "Massive Exciting Opportunity for a Panic Attack"? To the detriment of a book that focuses on sharp significance, the author sometimes allows her anecdotes on successful and unsuccessful gathering to run on until they're out of steam, violating her own principle: "If you are going to hold your guests captive, you had better do it well." And readers who detest business jargon won't be happy with phrases like, "we didn't gauge their buy-in." Fortunately, such lapses are outweighed by Parker's enthusiastically delivered formulas for better get-togethers, from "sprout speeches" to accepting that time is fleeting and that the good planner will strive to make a meeting different and memorable.Useful to those whose job it is to plan meetings, conferences, and the like and a worthy survival manual for consumers of the same.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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How We Meet and Why It Matters
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