The Art of Gathering

I've been trying to start Luminary in Kuala Lumpur but it's been difficult because I'm not in uni anymore and I've been going through a lot of changes with surgery and braces. But I love the idea of gathering people together, where unique backgrounds and experiences, exchange thoughts and ideas that alchemize into new forms of elements.

Priya Parker wrote a book called The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters where she reminds us to take the time to consider the ingredients that go into a successful, meaningful or exciting gathering.

She wrote a summary sharing the key message of the book:

The gatherings in our lives are too often lackluster and lacking in purpose. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When we break out of the rituals and routines that surround our gatherings, embrace the generous authority of being a host, set some rules and encourage people to be their authentic selves, it’s simple to hold gatherings that are meaningful and memorable.

and 8 key ideas + 1 actionable advice

  1. give more thought to gatherings
    • focus less on the mechanics, more on how guests will connect with each other and get something meaningful
  2. commit to a clear purpose
    • too many gatherings follow ritualized formats, rather than being built around purpose (tradition of baby showers only for women)
    • think less about the what and more about the why
    • setting a clear purpose -> decisions about how to organize events + who to invite
  3. be willing to exclude people
    • we often focus on inclusion ("the more the merrier"), but exclusion is just as important, although uncomfortable
    • exclusion may feel impolite, but inclusion of the wrong people is a form of impoliteness to other people involved
    • narrowing a group brings together an interesting mix of attendees
  4. act with generous authority
    • rather than being hands-off, run events with authority, but selflessly, in the interests of your guests
    • act on the behalf of the guests' real interest, rather than their desire for comfort.
  5. rules are liberating
    • rules take us out of our everyday way of doing things, and injects serendipity and new experiences
    • in a world of almost indefinite choices, enforcing focus on just one thing is an act of liberation
  6. prime your guests well
    • people form impressions about what to expect from your event before it starts, prime them with the right expectations
    • make your guests feel welcome and honored to be there as they arrive
  7. design for authenticity
    • have guests dwell on their vulnerabilities instead of their achievements and success
    • two ways to bring authenticity
      • #1 ask for stories: an interesting story is about vulnerability, risk and emotion. You can't tell an interesting story about how successful you are.
      • #2 reveal yourself: expose yourself, share something personal, take the lead and others will follow
  8. end with a bang
    • avoid letting things fizzle out, ensure your gathering is remembered for the right reasons
    • implement last calls, thank everyone for a wonderful evening and make clear that guests are free to leave, this nudges people towards a clear ending

Advice: think carefully about location

  • the best locations are the ones that inspire and embody the true purpose of gatherings
  • break out of your normal spaces, think creatively, for example
    • college reunions in a cemetery (memento mori)
    • sales training by spending a day with a subway busker