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General

A very special dinner

In May 2011, Isabel and I had the pleasure of organizing the first edition of TEDxBordeaux. The theme we chose was Together. The underlying idea was, as I said in my introduction to the event, We can rediscover our power to change things. Together.

When I read about 15 Toasts in Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, it reminded me of the dinner we organized with the speakers and organizers the night before the event.

The 15 Toasts dinners aim at creating safe spaces that give the “15 guests the permission to be vulnerable, engage as human beings in an open and genuine conversation, and surprise one another and themselves.”

I hadn’t thought of that this way, but when I read that sentence, I thought: “Yes, exactly that!”

Side conversations are not necessarily the ones you plan for…

Our goal was that the speakers connect, learn more about each other so that they support each other on the big day on which they will give the best talk of their lives. We thought that the audience would feel the connection between the speakers, the organizers, and that will contribute to the overall perception of the event, and help make the connection between the theme, and each of the topics the speakers will cover: Education, Healthcare, Technology, Art, Universal Basic Income, Open Source…

We were lucky enough to find the best possible location to do that: a big round table in a private room at the back of a good and reasonably priced restaurant. Unfortunately, that space does not exist anymore, the restaurant moved to another location, and the people who took over chose to remove the big round table and replaced with too many small tables of four.

As Isabel coached all the speakers, she was the connection point between all of them. We worked on assigning the seats so that the people can be comfortable to engage in side conversations. But we wanted more. The dinner participants all knew that they would have to introduce themselves, answering three questions that Isabel had shared in advance. We don’t remember the questions but it was something to push them out of delivering their usual pitch.

And it worked! It worked during the dinner. It also worked during the rehearsals the morning of the event. It worked during the event itself on that Saturday afternoon. The speakers and the organizers all behaved kindly, supporting each other, overcoming the obvious growing pressure, and contributing to the magic of the event.

The next time you organize an event, you can start to think of using the necessity of food to accomplish something more. I don’t believe large dinners in conference centers can accomplish that, and this is the reason I love so much the Dinner with a Stranger idea.

I will cover that next time.

What are your best ideas to foster that sense of connectedness that definitely gets things done? Please share through the usual means: comments, Linkedin, Twitter, or direct email. Thank you!

Categories
General

The Art of Gathering

I have been asked thousands of times to facilitate small or large gatherings. When I worked on Changing Your Team From The Inside, I wanted to make clear that self-organization is the most powerful way for people to organize, but that based on their history, you will need to help them get there. You will need to create the conditions for self-organization to happen.

Chapter nine of the book is titled Organize because self-organization requires organization. I focused the chapter on meetings because it is something easier to change, to adjust, to experiment on, than to change the whole organization. And I believe it is much more impactful to change the way we meet than to change the reporting structure.

The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker, is a perfect book. The structure brings you gently to think about all the aspects that matter about your gathering.

It starts with the purpose of the gathering. Why do we really gather? And, of course, the answer is not because it is Monday.

Then you cover the uncomfortable question of who should join. And, no, inviting everybody is not an inclusive option. It is even the opposite. Why would someone who attends a meeting on which he or she will bring no value should feel included?

In the role of the host, you have power, and you have to use that power to serve the purpose of the gathering and your guests.

The time of the gathering is a temporary alternative world in which the traditional rules are not necessarily valid. You can, and in fact, you have to create rules that once again will serve the purpose and the guests. The author gives a ton of inspiring examples.

I know that, and even knowing it, I understood reading the chapter that I was not investing smartly enough on the openings of my gatherings.

In conferences or other gatherings, my frustration level grows each minute that passes. Why that? Because people are not true and authentic. Okay, I am over-generalizing. Not all people are manipulative and insincere. And not all people behave all the time the same way. The big idea is that it takes intentional efforts to create conditions for people to be true and authentic.

In meetings, when we stay on the surface of things, we can be very polite and respectful, avoid any potential conflicts and keep the status quo forever. If keeping the status quo is what you need, you probably don’t have to push hard to get to that. If not, then it is on you to organize the controversy so we can really discuss what matters and initiate a change.

We are approaching the end of the post, and you have to know that ends matter a lot. I would like to, once again, thank the author for having created that perfect book. I would like to thank you for reading and sharing this post. I would like to encourage you to read the book, and to share what you learned and how it affects your next gatherings. Working on ending the meeting properly is probably one thing I would change in Chapter 9 of Changing Your Team From The Inside.

And finally, what I would love is to have Priya Parker on Le Podcast to discuss how to apply her expertise and experience to online gatherings. But I guess you will all have to ask for it to happen!