ASAE Annual Meeting

How to Be Together, Apart

By Association Adviser staff • August 22, 2020

Priya Parker headshot
Priya Parker, author

Priya Parker, author of the popular book The Art of Gathering, joined Irving Washington, CAE with the Online News Association for a Game Changer fireside chat to close out ASAE’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday.

Like many of those in attendance, Priya said her journey to becoming a mediator and conflict facilitator has been a long and winding one that began as a young girl. Biracial and bicultural, her parents divorced and remarried, which left her going back and forth between households that looked different in many different ways. She learned early on that it takes work to bring groups with deep differences together to connect and work despite obstacles.

Gathering, whether in person or virtually, is where people find belonging, identity and purpose, Priya said. While her book is about how professionals gather, it also includes interviews from people who gather in different contexts and for different reason, from politics and religion to family and schools.

She set out to find out, when a gathering works, why does it work and how does it work? What she found is that those who successfully planned a gathering knew the purpose of why they were bringing people together.

She said the key today, especially for associations, is that you can’t assume that because you gathered for a reason last year or the year before that, that the purpose or intent will be the same this year. Whether it’s a board meeting or a wedding, you must ensure that your gathering’s purpose is obvious and shared among all those in attendance.

Ask yourself, “Why are we doing this?” throughout the process, Priya said, because your purpose can evolve or shift as new priorities, goals and obstacles, like COVID, come to light.

For conferences specifically, we often put too much emphasis on learning and not enough on connections, when the two are interconnected and we learn more when we connect. Overall, it’s about making progress toward advancing a greater purpose. That is at the heart of what associations are: a group of people who come together and push forward an industry together.