In the first of four videos for “The Gathering Makeover” series, Priya Parker (left) interviews bride-to-be Lisa Torres about the transparency letter show wrote for potential bridesmaids.
In March 2020, Priya Parker, a conflict-resolution facilitator, was working with The New York Times to launch a podcast — to be called “Priya Parker on Gathering” — when a Times producer texted her. “I think it was the first week of March,” Parker recalled last week, during the first of a four-part video series, “The Gathering Makeover,” which she kicked off July 28. “He basically said, ‘We need to put this on pause — a show called “Gathering” is now going to sound like a horror film.’”
But for Parker, author of The Art of Gathering, the questions about gathering in a pandemic were just beginning. In a steady stream of emails, DMs, and phone calls, friends and colleagues were asking: “How do we do this now?” And: “How do we fundraise for our nonprofit, even when we can’t do the gala? How do we galvanize our people, even if they can’t be in the same room?” In April 2020, Parker and the Times launched a 12-part podcast series, “Together Apart,” which looked at how people can meaningfully connect when the ability to meet face to face is restricted.
Now, almost a year-and-a-half later, the context has changed yet again, Parker said last week, as she launched the complimentary “Gathering Makeover” video interviews where she invites a guest to join in conversation about an aspect of gathering and re-emergence. “We are in a collective moment where we each have the opportunity to really make over, one specific gathering at a time, how we want to intentionally convene — and who with.”
The first hour-long talk, which drew more than 1,500 global participants, addressed the topic, “The Power of a Host.” Parker’s guest was Lisa Torres, an auditor from San Antonio, who created a social-media sensation on TikTok in June when Torres described the “transparency letter” she sent to friends outlining her expectations should they accept her invitation to become a bridesmaid at her upcoming wedding. The letter spelled out in detail which events Torres considered mandatory and the approximate expected costs for participants.