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We all gather in multiple ways; professionally, personally, in small intimate settings and in large conferences. Today we gather virtually more than ever before. This topic is fascinating to me.

As part of The CR Connect (a conference for community management professions) I had the honor of having a fireside chat with Priya Parker, the author of “The Art of Gathering” which is completely dedicated to this topic. Priya’s background is one of mediation and facilitation so perhaps it does not come as a surprise that she believes we need to make our gatherings more meaningful. From work meetings to small dinner invites, she raised the need to ask prior ‘what is the true purpose of this gathering?’ and if there is an easy obvious answer – keep digging – try to ascertain the real purpose. She believes the biggest mistake we make today when we gather is not understanding the true purpose of the gathering and aiming to fulfill that goal.

At heart, gatherings are all about the people and the reason they choose to gather or the purpose they aim to achieve. Helping those who gather achieve that true purpose is the role of the host. When was the last time you gathered? As a host, did you give thought prior to the invitation, as to the purpose and hoped-for outcome? How you could help to achieve the outcome? I’ve given this much thought lately and will likely continue to do so. In today’s time we gather differently. How can we make it more meaningful to our audience?

Using an example from my private life: This year, family birthday parties for kids are being held via Zoom. I have family around the world, so on one hand a big benefit is, all can attend. However, while they can attend, it is not a classic meal or even sharing of cake with all. Logistically what should be done? Do I ask them also to make a cake or prepare snacks? And more importantly, how can I make this more meaningful for all?

To follow Priya’s recommendation, I need to determine the true purpose. Fun? Celebrating a new age/milestone? Celebrating the child? An opportunity to shower him with love?  My personal question was actually an example raised by Priya (with no prompting from me ?). Her example was of a teenage girl wanted to celebrate her birthday with friends, but how to do so.  Actively asking about the girl, Priya learned that she was a total bookwom. This led to the decision to invite her closest friends to mark her birthday by reading aloud together one of her favorite books in a two-hour online celebration. The only commitment for each friend who accepted was to attend the entire time and read portions aloud.  For the young lady, this met her purpose of having a meaningful birthday celebration with close friends. To me, it sounds like it was a memorable event for both the teenager and her friends.

If you’re interested to learn more about Priya and her thoughts, I recommend reading the book, viewing her TED Talks or signing up for her newsletter via the website.

There are multiple examples in our private lives, our work, and certainly in our communities (including the SAP Community) for gathering and opportunities to make them more meaningful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please share in the comments below about gatherings you’ve attended/hosted or your thoughts on the topic.