1: Comedian Baratunde Thurston was in a tight spot.
He was hosting a comedy event that was part fundraiser, part party. The location? The Brooklyn Brewery.
“On the evening in question, it was cavernous, rowdy, loud, and full of people full of beer,” Priya Parker writes in The Art of Gathering. “There actually wasn’t a stage, or even an elevated platform.
“People had been eating and drinking for a while already; they were hanging with their friends and didn’t look like they wanted to be interrupted. Even the music was no match for the volume of the talking.
“To make matters worse, most of the people there had no idea who Baratunde Thurston was, and despite the fact that he’d just been handed a microphone, these people were not about to stop their fun to listen to some guy’s jokes,” she notes.
2: Now what?
Yesterday, we looked at how as hosts we must help our guest’s transition from their world into the world of our event. Sometimes we don’t have the option of standing in a doorway and greeting everyone. Sometimes this work “must be done psychologically rather than physically,” Priya suggests.
So what did Thurston do? Did he scream over the crowd? No.
Did he just start his routine and hope people would take pity and listen? No.
Instead, “he took his microphone, his only identifiable form of power and authority, over to the liveliest person in one cluster of friends, and he asked that person to say their name into the microphone,” Priya recalls.
After the person introduced themselves, Thurston invited everyone else in the room to greet them and clap.
Next, he went over to another group. Then another group. “Catching five or six of the loudest, rowdiest people in the room off guard by bantering with them, making some jokes, then, essentially, inviting them to support him in his mission to transform them from a crowd into an audience.
“Within ninety seconds, he had the entire room’s attention. He walked back to the middle of the room and started his set.”
Whatever the environment, as hosts, we must create a transition—”a passageway that tunes out the prior reality and captures people’s attention and imagination,” Priya suggests. “By doing so, we create a starting line and, even more important, we help our guests cross it as a collective.”
3: Priya’s point? We must think through all the moments leading up to the actual start of our party, meeting, or event. “One of the mistakes many of us make in thinking about this in-between time is believing that ‘it doesn’t count.’
It does, she observes. “In everyday gatherings, it can be as simple as lighting a candle or making a welcome announcement or pouring every guest a special drink at the same time,” she writes.
“The final transition between the guests’ arrival and the opening is a threshold moment. Anticipation builds between the initial clap of thunder and the first drops of rain; hope and anxiety mingle,” she observes.
“And then when that opening moment finally comes, it is time to give your guests a message: A magical kingdom exists, and you are invited inside.”
Reflection: Select an upcoming meeting or party I am hosting. How can I create one of Priya’s “threshold moments” to fully transition my guests into the event?
Action: Experiment. What did I learn?