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Summer Reading Series: Make Your Meetings Less Terrible

This is the second post in our 2019 Summer Reading Series. The first post, about driving client loyalty, can be found here.

Gatherings. It’s what we do. In the past three weeks, I have hosted seven sets of houseguests in our home. Most are friends and their families arriving in the mountains of Western North Carolina to drop off or pick up children at one of the many camps in the area. We designed and built a house with gatherings in mind. In one year, we’ve hosted a pre-prom dinner, graduation festivities, multiple family holiday meals, birthday celebrations, a memorial service, a strategic planning session with WPG clients, countless impromptu and planned dinners and “porch sits.” When I shared that with a colleague recently, she gifted me the book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. We do gatherings well, but there is always room to learn and improve.

I love the book because it has some great stories about gatherings and provides some really simple tips that will enhance any type of group experience from a dinner party to a professional conference. Parker’s road map gives practical advice on how to create gatherings that “crackle and flourish” because they have been planned with real thought by hosts or leaders that have curiosity and generosity of spirit.

As frequent guests and participants of law firm retreats as well as client team, practice/industry group and committee meetings, we all know that these gatherings can often be anything but productive and certainly not fun.

Take for example the department, team or firm retreat. Using Parker’s tips to drill down and better define a “bold sharp purpose,” the gathering evolves from simply getting out of the office together to creating a purposeful and unique gathering in which participants might:

  • Build relationships with new hires in diverse geographic markets
  • Learn business development skills in a safe and fun environment
  • Revisit a strategic plan and reach agreement about it
  • Design five impactful ways the group or firm can add more value to its clients
  • Create a better process for accountability to each other
  • Develop a stronger plan for client relationship manager succession transitions

By defining and committing to a “bold sharp purpose” for every gathering you host, all planning, details and decisions will unfold in support of the purpose and goals. The book explores every aspect of gatherings from the importance of curating the guest list to facilitating a good ending. And if you can’t find time to read the whole book, turn directly to page 194 for the best chapter in the book: “15 Ways to Make a Conference—or Any Kind of Gathering—Suck Less.”

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