In a world full of meetings, networks, networking events, workshops, messages, facebooks: why gather? And if so, how to make it worthwhile for you and your guests? As an advisor, incubator and business partner I often find myself introduced to a clients need to connect deeper or to create a transformative experience.

What is your role in people’s life? 

 Brands are on the constant lookout for ways to connect with, find new or deepen their relationship with people – be it B2B or B2C. Places are naturally defined by the way people make use of them, gathering with or without purpose: for vacation in the case of destinations, for shopping in the case of shopping malls, for dining out, for meeting friends or business partners, for working, for dancing, for working out, for relaxing, for falling in love, for distraction, for education, for feeling at home – you name it.

These experiences I like to refer to as events, as experiences one can onboard on their own – or being hosted and guided by a host.

The role of the host is the crucial one here and the host can be a business owner like a shop or hotel owner, a destination like cities or states, a company, employer or institution, a digital platform or community, a social media account – or the brand itself.

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

Overconnected or lonely?

Again: In an overconnected world full of meetings why bother about gatherings?

“In democracies, the freedom to assemble is one of the foundational rights granted to every individual. In countries descending into authoritarianism, one of the first things to go is the right to assemble. Why? Because of what can happen when people come together, exchange information, inspire one another, test out new ways of being together.”
Priya Parker: The Art of Hosting. Creating Transformative Meetings, Events and Experiences

In German we have a proverb “Das Ganze ist größer als die Summe seiner Teile” which translates into  “The whole is more than the sum of its parts” which comes true in every get-together as well as in concepts like swarm intelligence to brainstorming. We gather to solve problems we can’t solve on our own. We gather to build startups, bands and cohorts, we gather to practice to show off, to celebrate, to flirt, to mourn and to mark transitions

The researchers Charlotte Hawkins & Laura Haapio-Kirk were looking into support being one of the strongest drivers for coming together not only for women or patients but for every human being as we all are facing challenges.

Own your event, be the host!

Yet we tend to not be aware of our role as a host or play it down – as a company as well as as a private person. We tend to not be aware of the beginning and the end of an event. We tend to not protect the experience of our guests from when they get to know about us and the event until they leave the experience with us until the next encounter or until they talk about us. We tend to not protect the experience of our guests and such waste the power of hosting.

As brands, companies or social media hosts, there is a lot we can learn from the hospitality professionals and vice versa. Let me start with three foundational thoughts before stepping on stage:

  1. Why gather?
  2. Who is on the guestlist  (and who is not)?
  3. What rules to play by?
  4. Where to gather? The place has to match your purpose.

How to be a good Host?

How to become a good host may as much be part of your overall attitude towards people, but it is also something you can learn. While being surrounded by people or even speaking up to people, talking the center and holding the microphone might be something that even frightens you, hosting goes far beyond, especially when it comes to hosting as a company, an employer, a brand, nation, destination or brand.

How to create a space where people like to gather?

Hosting is so much more about creating places where people like to gather, feel connected to,  hang out, go to regularly and tell stories about. Thus you become part of their own storytelling, of their identity. You cannot choose the members of your family, but you can surely choose your friends, places, networks you want to be part of, parties you want to join forces, the places you go – they are part of your identity.

It is well known that art is evaluated in the eye of the beholder and likewise is the gathering  not the hosts but up to the guests. Thus remember the guestlist: you decide who is going to be part of this collaborative experience and who should not be part. You as a host play a vital yet central but likewise backend kind of role, providing the foundations for a transformative gathering. How?

  • What is your purpose? What kind of experience do you want to facilitate?
  • What is needed to deliver a.k.a. make this experience createable by the guests/customers/patients you see there ?
  • What rules have to be played?
  • How to make it immersive, so that people will want to dive into it as soon as they get aware of the happening
  • Be sure to mark beginning and end as clearly as your purpose: This is where your job as a host starts and ends.

And finally: Make sure, you tell enough, but not all to give people room to dream about and to create so that they own it without you losing your purpose.

The Art of Gathering: Build and empower a community 

Every event is one of a kind. It will never happen again. It is magic. Gatherings a.k.a events or  shared experiences may they be as scripted or as laissez-faire as you like have the power to transform. To transform individuals and transform individuals into a community. This is already alchemy as well as beauty in itself.  It does not stop here though.

In an interview at Orbanism being interviewed about the power of community and why I love creating connections I tried to explain my love for community building into one sentence:

Communities are the Petri dish of every development and the future. In communities, enthusiasm and burden are shared, horizons are broadened and perspectives are changed, agendas are shaped and projects are realized.

Happy to have you!