How to Guide a Gathering

Does your invitation note the meeting’s purpose?

Summary
Transcript

In this backstage interview from Leadercast Women 2019, Priya Parker, author and founder of Thrive Labs, shares tactical ways leaders can guide their gatherings.

“People want guidance, and they don't want guidance if it's not totally clear what the gathering is for,” she says, noting that the invitation is the first opportunity to prime your guests. “[Use it to] help them understand, ‘What is the purpose of this thing? What is the social contract? What am I trying to do? What is the role I'm asking you to play? And are you in?’”

Watch the video for more from Priya about how to direct a gathering.

People want guidance, and they don't want guidance if it's not totally clear what the gathering is for. The best way to orient your guests to deciding whether or not they want to come is through your invitation. And one of the biggest mistakes we make is that we think an invitation is basically an opportunity to say the date, time and place of the gathering, the logistics. But your invitation is the first opportunity to prime your guests, to help them understand what is the purpose of this thing? What is the social contract? What am I trying to do? What is the role I'm asking you to play? And are you in?

And then, you don't have people resisting or not, you know, or saying, "Whoa, who does she or who does he think he is?" because you've communicated it early onto the invitation and you give them an opportunity to say a real yes or a real no.

I'll give a specific example. It's a playful one. It was a woman who wanted to host a dinner party, and she was thinking about, you know, what should she, she started by thinking about the form of it. You know, “Do I put the fish knife here? The glass here?” She began to think about, “What is a need in my life that by grabbing a specific group of people together, I might be able to address?”

And she ended up realizing that she was a worn-out mom and she wanted to host a gathering for other worn-out moms. And she called it the “Worn-Out Moms Hootenanny.” And then she gave it a rule: If you talk about your kids, you have to take a shot. And she actually hosted this gathering, and the reason why I love this example is because the rule that she set is actually interestingly radical in a way. Which is she's saying, “Yes, come together,” and I think they ordered takeout, she wrote the invitation in an email, like it was an embodied gathering of worn-out moms.

But by actually saying you're not allowed to talk about your children, what was she doing? She was inviting a group that had a shared identity, but then she was giving them permission to take off that identity for an evening and talk about other stuff.

And in a context where we as mothers or as fathers or as parents who are also trying to be people in public life, to actually come together and not repeat the same tropes or norms that we can easily fall into, that women who are also mothers have to, when they get together, only talk about their kids, she was controlling the behavior, but I would say in a way that was carefully designed to say, we can have this uniting identity, but we can talk about so many other things.
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Priya Parker

Priya Parker is a master facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author of "The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters" and founder of Thrive Labs. Priya has spent 15 years helping leaders and communities have complicated ...

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