The Art of Gathering

Priya Parker

Nonfiction 2018 | 304 pages


I was anxious when I first began reading this book.  I thought I would have to learn all about how to design great gatherings and then put it in place in my work.  Oh.  Right.  I don't work anymore.  So, I was able to read this book for the pure delight of the wisdom and knowledge.  And, goodness, is it delightful!

The author, Priya Parker, does a marvelous job of applying the principles not just to the corporate world (actually she rarely does so).  It is about birthday parties and family gatherings and board meetings and fundraisers and conferences and learning and nonprofit educational events, and one memorable story about a bachelor party.

The author talks about a plethora of deliberate choices ... venue, purpose (real purpose, not just historical stated purpose), agenda, the events before the event, creating temporary worlds, how not to manage logistics,  who to invite and not invite and why, what to ask people to leave at the door, how to prepare them for the event, creating intimacy, designing connection, encouraging authenticity and vulnerability, problem-solving, how to close, when to introduce meaningful conflict and when not, how to have people feel special, clothing, atmosphere, surprises ....

The book opens with a tale about the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York.  The community wants a courtroom that will serve everyone involved in a case to help improve behavior, instead of merely punishing it.  So, they begin with a major change in venue as well as the roles played by judges, prosecutors, defenders, lawyers, community members.  Windows, people all sitting at the same level, pre-trial assessments of the defendants, comfortable chairs all ultimately help to reduce recidivism.

The Art of Gathering is surprisingly readable and enjoyable.  I recommend it for everyone who wants to invite someone over for dinner.

Thank you, Michelle, for this delightful gift. And Kathy, this book fulfills my assignment to "learn something new before our next monthly Zoom."

March 2023