The New Era of Gathering: Embracing ‘Generous Authority’

Get ready for Priya Parker to get to the heart of — and reimagine — what you do for a living.

Author: Magdalina Atanassova       

Priya Parker on stage in white outfit holding laptop in front of green background

Priya Parker speaks at the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival 2022. Parker is today’s keynote speaker at PCMA EduCon 2023 in Montréal. (Steve Rogers photo)

It’s no stretch for today’s opening keynote speaker, Priya Parker, to connect her area of expertise to the business events industry: She is the author of the highly acclaimed bestselling book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. In her session this morning, Parker will expand our understanding of what it means to design gatherings infused with creativity and meaning.

Parker’s bold approach to intentionally bringing people together did not escape the notice of event designers Eric de Groot and Mike van der Vijver. In their recent book, Meetings, by Default or by Design, they write that there are two types of alignment at events — aligning with content and aligning with people. When planners operate by default, they write, “aligning participants on content happens by giving the stage to experts who shed a particular light” on a topic of mutual interest or concern to the audience. Alignment in the sense of bonding, they say, materializes as a result of participating in social events in the conference program.

But it is possible for the social events to cross-fertilize the alignment on content and vice versa, de Groot and van der Vijver write — if you design for it. This is where they take a page from Parker’s book, saying that this is best achieved if event planners enforce her “pop-up rules” — which they call “temporary rules applied to the way participants interact for the duration of your meeting.”

“Pop-up rules are special agreements” that aim to create “a safe environment” in which delegates can “relate to one another in [a] new way,” de Groot and van der Vijver write. At first glance, the idea of rule-setting may sound like it runs counter to how business event professionals see their role, which is more about serving their audiences rather than forcing a particular behavior. Recognizing this, the authors encourage planners to exercise another concept Parker explains in The Art of Gathering: using “generous authority” to declare some pop-up rules.

Parker defines “generous authority” as using power to achieve outcomes that are generous, meaning they are for others.

You won’t want to miss today’s opening session as Parker uses her own generous authority from the stage to benefit the audience — reshaping the way you see your value proposition and the way you design your event experiences.

Magdalina Atanassova is digital media editor at Convene.

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