We kicked off this year’s Evive Book Club with a favorite pick from one of our group’s co-founders. The highly recommended selection was The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker.
In the book, Parker taps into her many years of hosting, facilitating, and investigating gatherings of all kinds. These events truly run the gamut—from conferences and business meetings, to weddings and dinner parties, to courtroom and movie theater experiences. What’s so compelling about Parker’s take on these very different gatherings is how she recognized the blatant similarities in their challenges and opportunities for improvement. Prior to this, many of us had not considered what a housewarming party and a corporate retreat might have in common (hint: there’s more overlap than you think!).
Parker sheds light on how the simplest changes can impact your gathering, like altering the seating arrangements or manifesting a specific welcome. We did both of those things for this book club gathering—and it spurred one of our more insightful discussions to date.
Our top takeaway
A recurring theme and an early chapter in the book is “Don’t be a chill host.” This is a phrase that resonated with many of us, as it encapsulates the very opposite of how we’re so often inclined to feel: “The desire to host while being noninvasive,” as Parker puts it. Throughout the book, she shares many stories of people who used their power as a host to take care of their guests, ensuring the gathering would support its intended purpose. In contrast, she also shares stories of those who did not use their power to guide the gathering—and how the guests’ experiences suffered as a result.
Through these stories, we learned a number of ways to use “generous authority” as a host to facilitate a better experience. These examples ranged from asking conference attendees to change tables after every speaker and coffee break, to having people at a dinner party get to know each other by guessing one another’s profession, to a professor sitting dormant for the first five minutes of his leadership class to encourage students to take charge. While unconventional and potentially off-putting at first, these unique approaches connected people in a specific way—and made for a purposeful, meaningful gathering.
The fact that our Book Club hosts put Parker’s suggestions into practice allowed us to see such results for ourselves. Not only did their actions make this book club discussion especially memorable, it made us think more about how we can apply these findings to other work gatherings.
How we host at Evive
From internal team-building to client-facing events, we have a number of opportunities to create meaningful experiences at Evive. Our monthly All Staff, for example, is carefully facilitated to create a sense of inclusion and transparency. New hires are warmly welcomed one at a time, with their managers sharing a few personal facts and clarifying just what their role means for everyone in the room. As the meeting progresses, departmental leaders give updates and open the floor to questions and feedback, fostering a space for honest, in-the-moment dialogue.
When we take our hosting skills outside the office, we’re just as deliberate in how we craft each gathering. The audience is the first consideration, whether they’re clients, consultants, or vendor partners. What do we want them to experience with us? More importantly, what kind of experience would they appreciate? Then, we think carefully about how to communicate and execute that purpose—starting with the invitations, extending into the agenda, setting, and other elements.
We embody Parker’s mantra to avoid being a “chill host” as we iron out every one of these details. Being confident in those details allows for a memorable experience and a truly aligned purpose for everyone involved.