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

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A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home and beyond. Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home and beyond. Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. Parker defines a gathering as three or more people who come together for a specific purpose. When we understand why we gather, she says -- to acknowledge, to learn, to challenge, to change -- we learn how to organize gatherings that are relevant and memorable: from an effective business meeting to a thought-provoking conference; from a joyful wedding to a unifying family dinner. Drawing on her experience as a strategic facilitator who's worked with such organizations as the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the retail company Fresh, Parker explains how ordinary people can create remarkable occasions, large and small. In dozens of fascinating examples, she breaks down the alchemy of these experiences to show what goes into the good ones and demonstrates how we can learn to incorporate those elements into all of our gatherings. The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of big ideas with real-world applications that will change the way you look at a business meeting, a parent-teacher conference, and a backyard barbecue.


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A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home and beyond. Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home and beyond. Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. Parker defines a gathering as three or more people who come together for a specific purpose. When we understand why we gather, she says -- to acknowledge, to learn, to challenge, to change -- we learn how to organize gatherings that are relevant and memorable: from an effective business meeting to a thought-provoking conference; from a joyful wedding to a unifying family dinner. Drawing on her experience as a strategic facilitator who's worked with such organizations as the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the retail company Fresh, Parker explains how ordinary people can create remarkable occasions, large and small. In dozens of fascinating examples, she breaks down the alchemy of these experiences to show what goes into the good ones and demonstrates how we can learn to incorporate those elements into all of our gatherings. The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of big ideas with real-world applications that will change the way you look at a business meeting, a parent-teacher conference, and a backyard barbecue.

30 review for The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    How to Win Friends and Gather People Everyone needs this book! Whether you’re hosting a birthday party, a major business conference or just looking to improve people skills, these guiding theories on gathering are essential. Priya understands the magic that happens when people get together for a purpose, and she also understands how miserable it can be without proper planning. Her examples are vast and eye-opening, and she presents her theories with humor and grace. I rarely read non-fiction, and How to Win Friends and Gather People Everyone needs this book! Whether you’re hosting a birthday party, a major business conference or just looking to improve people skills, these guiding theories on gathering are essential. Priya understands the magic that happens when people get together for a purpose, and she also understands how miserable it can be without proper planning. Her examples are vast and eye-opening, and she presents her theories with humor and grace. I rarely read non-fiction, and was hesitant that an entire book on gathering could keep my attention, but it absolutely did. Highly recommended!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jena

    If anyone is familiar with 'The Good Place', it honestly feels like Tahani wrote this in an unironic way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Hong

    Transformative. Ha. But I’m serious. This book reframes the way I think about gathering people and hosting events. My key lessons: 1. Chill is overrated: meaningful events require structure and direction 2. Open and close with purpose— set the stage and allow guests to reflect in the event itself 3. More is not necessarily merrier, be selective and scrutinizing with the people you invite My only beef might be with the writing, but it’s definitely made up for by the content

  4. 5 out of 5

    Caiti S

    Marginally better than a similar book I read recently titled Belong by Radha Agrawal. As a professional meeting facilitator, Priya Parker has real experience in creating meaningful gatherings and goes through many examples in the book. The tips I took away have to do with defining a clear purpose for your event, being an intentional host, inviting vulnerability in your guests through priming them prior to the event, and establishing specific rituals around welcoming and saying goodbye to guests. Marginally better than a similar book I read recently titled Belong by Radha Agrawal. As a professional meeting facilitator, Priya Parker has real experience in creating meaningful gatherings and goes through many examples in the book. The tips I took away have to do with defining a clear purpose for your event, being an intentional host, inviting vulnerability in your guests through priming them prior to the event, and establishing specific rituals around welcoming and saying goodbye to guests. However, I'm only rating this 3 out of 5 for a few reasons: 1) It seems to be written more for use in a business setting than personal. And the personal gatherings she describes mostly deal with people who don't know each other. There's little exploration of changing existing group dynamics. 2) The book entirely focuses on the responsibilities of the host; there are few specifics for those who might simply be guests. I'm not entirely comfortable in a hosting role at this point, so I would have liked more tips for how guests could contribute to more meaningful gatherings. 3) I got real bored about 80 pages from the end as it became a bit redundant. {ETA} She also says several times that parties/gatherings should have gender balance, and even suggests seating should alternate male and female. I don't understand how this is real advice in 2018.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is probably going to be a book I revisit; I found the lessons pretty invaluable. It reframed gathering for me- whether for a casual dinner, a work meeting, or an event you're hosting. There's an importance of individuals coming together, whether to enjoy life or to create something, that is often lost because we get so used to the routine of meeting for work or for fun. The Art of Gathering is fresh air that can breathe life back into the experience. Another thing that I loved about this This is probably going to be a book I revisit; I found the lessons pretty invaluable. It reframed gathering for me- whether for a casual dinner, a work meeting, or an event you're hosting. There's an importance of individuals coming together, whether to enjoy life or to create something, that is often lost because we get so used to the routine of meeting for work or for fun. The Art of Gathering is fresh air that can breathe life back into the experience. Another thing that I loved about this book is the power it places upon people in general. Depending on how an event is structured, you can really travel to new ideas, intimacies, and self-reflection just by using the people you have in the room in an equipped and intentional manner. Overall this is accessible and very usable-- I've already started putting some of the things I've learned into practice!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This book tested my resolve to complete every book I begin. Part of the problem was the title lead me to believe it was going to be about the social aspects of how individual meet and become couples. Instead it is about how to plan dinner parties and corporate meetings. So OK, I'm interested in a far-reaching spectrum of topics so I'll give it a try. However, I think the author was more interested in name-dropping than imparting knowledge. She also has a habit of stating a rule then going on to This book tested my resolve to complete every book I begin. Part of the problem was the title lead me to believe it was going to be about the social aspects of how individual meet and become couples. Instead it is about how to plan dinner parties and corporate meetings. So OK, I'm interested in a far-reaching spectrum of topics so I'll give it a try. However, I think the author was more interested in name-dropping than imparting knowledge. She also has a habit of stating a rule then going on to break it in her writing. One example of this was when she said to never thank people by stating their roles. She claims this does not honor them and bores the audience. Within the same chapter she thanks everyone associated with the book by stating their role and saying how they helped her. I do not think this topic warrants a book; at best it should have been a whitepaper. My suspicion is that the author has a close friend in the publishing industry who persuaded her to write this. There is no way this book would have ever been published if the author solicited an editor.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Jin

    This is the most important book I have ever read. It has transformed the way I think about what truly has to go into creating meaningful and impactful experiences out of every meeting amongst friends, lovers, business acquaintances, and overall, what it really takes to build movements. This book has totally reframed the lens through which I look at life, from my interactions in and contributions to groups, to my role in building communities that last. I'm going to have to reread this a few times This is the most important book I have ever read. It has transformed the way I think about what truly has to go into creating meaningful and impactful experiences out of every meeting amongst friends, lovers, business acquaintances, and overall, what it really takes to build movements. This book has totally reframed the lens through which I look at life, from my interactions in and contributions to groups, to my role in building communities that last. I'm going to have to reread this a few times and will spend a lot of time thinking about this more-- the art of gathering is a philosophy on life that is going to take practice and a lot of careful thought, and practicing it thoughtfully I think is also the best way to honor the time, experiences, and contributions of those you love and work with. I'm super into the overall thesis of this book and am going to be telling everyone I know that they must read it. It's going to be important for any person who cares about growing meaningful relationships and friendships, and even business leaders who are looking to build authentic and thoughtful organizations which change the world. It's also great for anyone who hates conferences and panels and speeches and is looking for ways to transform the boring traditional spaces and formats in which we create. Just read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Marina Ha

    I learnt about this book from Debbie Milman's podcast "Design Matters", where Priya shared many details about her work in conflict resolution, facilitation, provided the background for the book, her writing process, etc. I absolutely enjoyed the podcast, but as a result, I thought the anecdotes in the book were repetitive of the interview, and had I not listened to the podcast, I would have enjoyed the book more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Such a great book about all sorts of gatherings--corporate meetings, dinner parties, book clubs. I learned a lot and this book has already affected how I think about my meetings, book clubs, dinner parties, and even classroom dynamics.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    fascinating and thought provoking not just for people who organize conferences and meetings, but also just regular people who want to have more than lackluster dinner parties or family gatherings. ranted about this to 3 people already and can't wait to apply these principles to my next gathering.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Bernadette Dunne. Why do we gather? What is the intention of the gathering? How will this particular gathering be unique? How will you engage all the guests? Once you know why you want to gather, who do you invite. Turns out who is invited is as important as you do do not invite. What is your role as the host? What location might be best for the intention you have in mind? How do you prepare your guests for the gathering? How do you open and I listened to the audiobook which was well narrated by Bernadette Dunne. Why do we gather? What is the intention of the gathering? How will this particular gathering be unique? How will you engage all the guests? Once you know why you want to gather, who do you invite. Turns out who is invited is as important as you do do not invite. What is your role as the host? What location might be best for the intention you have in mind? How do you prepare your guests for the gathering? How do you open and close one? These are some of the thought provoking ideas explored in this book. I was entertained, educated, and inspired. Could it have used some tighter editing? Yes. Yet it made me look at gatherings in an entirely new light, and this is one I'll be dipping into again and again. Birthday parties, book clubs, work meetings, family reunions, dinner parties, or any other type of gathering would benefit from the ideas outlined here. Highly recommended for event planners, hosts, and attendees of any human gathering.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Meagan Schultz

    This is the most inspiring book I’ve read in a long time. If you like people, like to hang with people, like to have fun with people ... this book could be a game changer. So many ideas I want to try!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    A book to reflect on ... a bit more difficult to use the examples and extrapolate them into a more private rather than corporate setting, but plenty to think about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Conner

    This book is fantastic! It challenged me on every gathering I host from dinner parties, luncheons, annual fundraising celebrations, to bible studies. I will reference it for years to come.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    If you plan events of any kind-personal or professional—you’ll find this full of useful suggestions on how to make that event more meaningful and effective.

  16. 5 out of 5

    David

    A rare book on leadership that combines emotional intelligence, insight, and practical takeaways in every chapter. Plus, Parker offers some tips and strategies that impact almost every area of life. Well worth the read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    I am fascinated by gatherings and group dynamics so this book is my favorite of the year so far! I will go back to refresh myself on the strategies and rituals that create meaningful and unique experiences. Directly relevant to the mundane as it is the elevated.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I'm more inclined to give this a 3.5 and closer to 4. I wanted it to be a 5 but maybe it was the difference between my expectations versus my takeaways. It was more instructional and less emotional which was helpful because it wasn't what I expected. What I loved (and the Post-its show this) was that there were elements of gathering that Parker shares that make you think-- obviously as a subtitle related to how and why we meet and why it matters-- but it does question the basics of gatherings in I'm more inclined to give this a 3.5 and closer to 4. I wanted it to be a 5 but maybe it was the difference between my expectations versus my takeaways. It was more instructional and less emotional which was helpful because it wasn't what I expected. What I loved (and the Post-its show this) was that there were elements of gathering that Parker shares that make you think-- obviously as a subtitle related to how and why we meet and why it matters-- but it does question the basics of gatherings in general so that anyone can spend a few extra minutes drilling down to why they're getting anyone together. And this goes for any gathering including weddings. Just because it's what you do, doesn't mean you have to, but it would be more useful to figure out why you're actually doing it and what you want to to do with people when they get there. Then all of the rest falls into place but there's a lot of action before, during, and after with the introduction and closing being so important and significant. I've already decided on a few changes for how I operate and likewise will take on the role of host with more purpose than before (though this is something I've always subscribed to). She's got a lot of clout, Parker does because of the work that she's done and it's not easy, especially when gatherings become commonplace and lose their charm or purpose. It's a fantastic book to recenter ourselves and appreciate why and what for, where and how we come together. "Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep"

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    As an omnivert who cycles between introvert and extrovert moods on the regular, I yearn for gatherings that bring people together and I dread gatherings that don’t. I love to make plans with groups of people, and I always hope that each gathering kindles friendship and fellowship that will last. My book group is legendary (I love you guys!) for the magical sense of belonging that helps me regain my center when life has knocked me sideways. My movie night crew has also stayed strong through As an omnivert who cycles between introvert and extrovert moods on the regular, I yearn for gatherings that bring people together and I dread gatherings that don’t. I love to make plans with groups of people, and I always hope that each gathering kindles friendship and fellowship that will last. My book group is legendary (I love you guys!) for the magical sense of belonging that helps me regain my center when life has knocked me sideways. My movie night crew has also stayed strong through decades of life changes and challenges and has remained a touchstone for me through the years. (ILMN, forever) My family hosts an annual Halloween event that brings hundreds of people together for a spooky evening in our community. I love to invite people to things. So, when I heard about this book, I thought it could help me to enhance my existing bonds and perhaps bring some of that magic into other parts of my life. I know that I could do better as a host, and as a guest. While this work does address a lot of pitfalls and lays out some strategies, it really didn’t speak to my particular enthusiasms. The focus is much more on addressing personal conflicts and helping businesses in transition. I did muse about my company’s annual conference and ways in which Parker’s advice dovetails with the experiences we provided to our guests- I think we did quite well! - and I really will try to pay attention to her advice as I plan my own gatherings, but I don’t think much of it was very pertinent to those settings. I also, frankly, got a little bored reading this.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Business: -Figure our the purpose of the get together before hosting one -Stick with your demographic. Ie: bar only for kids, keeps our adults -Elderly receive lots of health benefits by hanging out with young ppl -Groups: 8-12 people, 6, 12-15, 30, 150 -Select a location that embodies the meeting: plumbing company partner HQ for Valay -Use different rooms for different parts of the meeting to get ppl to remember better: Have different Phases - there’s a narrative -Alamo Theatre: “goodbye texter” ad Business: -Figure our the purpose of the get together before hosting one -Stick with your demographic. Ie: bar only for kids, keeps our adults -Elderly receive lots of health benefits by hanging out with young ppl -Groups: 8-12 people, 6, 12-15, 30, 150 -Select a location that embodies the meeting: plumbing company partner HQ for Valay -Use different rooms for different parts of the meeting to get ppl to remember better: Have different Phases - there’s a narrative -Alamo Theatre: “goodbye texter” ad -Have ppl show up at the same time -Placement: boy girl boy girl. -No coming & going -Have rules -90% of what makes a gathering successful is done beforehand -Bring people to a comfortable location to talk: like your home: “We are here to talk, but this is my home and you are my guests. Make yourself comfortable” -Have good openings -Don’t mention sponsors in first few moments or last moments -Cold open: dive right in -Four Seasons: greets you with flowers taller than you -Remember everyone’s name and picture and open session by showing everyone you know their name -Set table before you arrived -Being vulnerable makes ppl feel for you -ALWAYS end with a lot of ppl still around Games: -Pair people up, have them guess the other’s profession -Start get-together with a general question: “What book really affected you as a child?” -Host should play the game too, not leave early -Partners introduce each other -You can’t pour yourself a drink, someone has to pour it for you -Setup initial groups of 6 where you discuss what brought you to this meeting

  21. 5 out of 5

    kelly

    Brilliant advice woven through with interesting, vivid anecdotes. I especially loved the chapter on rule-making and how this increasingly common trend is the opposite of etiquette. Etiquette is typically the dominant culture judging your missteps as evidence of bad breeding--it promotes exclusivity. In contrast, temporary rules explained to guests in advance create inclusivity and are actually freeing. This is just one of so many interesting insights and new ideas (new to me at least) about Brilliant advice woven through with interesting, vivid anecdotes. I especially loved the chapter on rule-making and how this increasingly common trend is the opposite of etiquette. Etiquette is typically the dominant culture judging your missteps as evidence of bad breeding--it promotes exclusivity. In contrast, temporary rules explained to guests in advance create inclusivity and are actually freeing. This is just one of so many interesting insights and new ideas (new to me at least) about gatherings that I got from this book. I will never think about gatherings the same way again and I expect to refer back to this and passionately recommend it to others often!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

    Do you like to throw parties? Have you ever had to host a work event? Do you have a weekly meeting with your church small group? Or maybe you dread all of those activities because they seem dull, awkward, and lifeless. Either way, this book is for you. Priya Parker masterfully explains why every gathering needs to have a purpose, the importance of guest lists and how being a "chill" host is ultimately selfish. This book is a new top 10 for me, and I can't wait to implement these suggestions. I Do you like to throw parties? Have you ever had to host a work event? Do you have a weekly meeting with your church small group? Or maybe you dread all of those activities because they seem dull, awkward, and lifeless. Either way, this book is for you. Priya Parker masterfully explains why every gathering needs to have a purpose, the importance of guest lists and how being a "chill" host is ultimately selfish. This book is a new top 10 for me, and I can't wait to implement these suggestions. I tore through this in less than 24 hours, pencil in hand, and I know I'll be revisiting this many times to plan a wide variety of gatherings.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jenne

    There are some really interesting and useful ideas in here, although the author sounds like a slightly exhausting person. I just got done planning a rather large gathering (my dad's celebration of life, nearly 500 guests) and it was interesting to see how we had independently used a number of her gathering principles which really did contribute to the success of the event.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Trey Grayson

    Want to learn how to improve your dinner parties, make your staff meetings more productive, or actually cause those conferences to produce an outcome beyond networking? Then check out this new book. I just finished a gathering this week whose organizers used this book as a guide, and it was much productive and enjoyable than similar gatherings I’ve attended.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Emily Racette

    Beautiful, inspiring book about how to host better parties, meetings, dinners, conferences and any other kind of gathering you can think of. This book is full of gems- it's going to be a life-changer for sure.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    Really good book. Everyone can benefit from reading this, especially those that are in business, love to entertain, or want to start up a book club. No, seriously. If you want to start up a book club read the first chapter on "thoughtful exclusion." It will save you many headaches.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan

    I wished it was more practical. Her principles were interesting, but I had to read lots of anecdotes of parties to get to them. If those had been listed somewhere, that would have been helpful. I also would have loved a list of questions to help me think through the purpose of my gathering.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Raman K

    I think this book was a lot of information for me. Its a lot more helpful for people who do a lot of events and planning. I did end up skipping a lot of parts though.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I appreciate the thoughts here and the principles for being intentional. The lower score is because it could have been an article. I just skipped all the illustration stories and it was a fast read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    UB

    Chock full of tips I can actually use in my own work.

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