The Art of Gathering

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  • [status:: read]
  • [rating:: 4.75]
  • [added:: 2023-01-29]
  • [started:: 2023-06-09]
  • [read:: 2023-06-26]


1: Decide why you’re really gathering

  • Choose a vivid purpose
  • Routine is the enemy of purposeful gatherings
  • A category is not a purpose: labeling birthday parties’ purpose as celebrating birthdays is too broad. What is the purpose this year?
  • How is my gathering unique? How is this different from other gatherings of the same kind?
  • Ask the Five Whys.
  • Once you found a purpose, there are two adversaries: Multitasking (too many purposes) and Modesty (Who am I to…)
    • Multitasking: hone in on one purpose
    • Modesty: a clear vision is actually honouring to your guests

2: Close Doors

2a: Who? The purpose-driven list

  • “If everyone is family, no one is.” - Barack Obama‘s aunt
  • “If everyone is invited, no one is invited–in the sense of being truly held by the group.”
  • Who to exclude generously?
    • Who not only fits but helps fulfill the gathering’s purpose?
    • Who threatens the purpose?
    • Who, despite being irrelevant to the purpose, do you feel obliged to invite?
  • The people in the third categories still detract. Considerate guests will pay attention and time to them that could be spent by focusing on one another
  • group sizes
    • 6: small, intimate
    • 12-15: beyond this, startups have people problems. Allows for diversity of viewpoints but is enough for a single moderator to handle
    • 30: it starts to be a party
    • 150: Dunbar’s number

2b: Where? A venue is a nudge

  • “The environment should serve the purpose”
  • Embodiment: for a place to embody an idea (chateau principle)
  • Displacement: taking people out of their usual context (presidents sitting on Platon’s crate, who then took portraits of them)
  • Perimeter: contain the space, don’t let the energy leak out

3: Don’t be a chill host

  • exhibit generous authority

4: Create a temporary alternative world

  • explicit rules can help break unspoken rules (etiquette)
  • They can also help create a temporary Alternative World

5: Never started a funeral with logistics


  • the gathering starts the moment people become aware of it
  • There is a pregame to the gathering
  • 90% of what makes a gathering successful is put in place beforehand
  • Ask guests to do something instead of bring something
  • embed two elements
    1. Connect with and remember their own sense of purpose as it relates to the business
    2. Something that gets them to share honestly about the nature of challenge they are trying to address
  • a meeting is a social contract: what does the host expect from the guests and what does the host offer


  • be intentional about the time between coming in and the event starting


  • people disproportionally remember the start, climax and end
  • Don’t start with logistics
  • Honour-awe your guests (“members of an exclusive club that they have no business belonging to”)
  • Fusing: connect people to one another

6: Keep your best self out of my gathering

  • “educated her how change happens: slowly and with people in privilege as protectors”
  • Have people share stories rather than ideas

7: Accept that there is an end

  • introspection: reflect on this gathering and how I changed, conclude the group dynamic
  • outside: prepare guests for re-entry
  • Do not end on logistics
  • Tie the end back to the purpose