Qual Street

Dedication to the answer


Harriet's Guide to The Art of Gathering


If you’ve got a focus group coming up, or a meeting that matters, or a workshop…

…then you should read The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Ambreen (now a permanent fixture on the Qual Street team sheet – hurrah!) bought me this book for my birthday.

I loved it. I loved it, so I passed it on to Harriet (our brilliant administrator). Who was having a party. She loved it. And had the best party ever.

It is full of advice about how to gather, and how to make getting together special. And because that’s something we do all the time in research, I asked Harriet to write up a review of the book…

Here’s what she had to say…

Here’s what Harriet has to say about advice she got from the book, and how she used it for her 25th Birthday party…

1. Ask Yourself Why You Are Hosting This Event.
And keep asking. I was having this party to celebrate my birthday. Why? Because I wanted to spend time with the people I care about who had supported me through the year and would support me through the next. Why? Because I wanted to thank them and celebrate our friendship. This helped me work on my next point…

2. Pick Your Guests Wisely.
Who to invite? This was very important to me and near impossible to stick to. I wanted to invite my friends. My close friends, not my acquaintances. One major failing of past parties was my ‘the more, the merrier’ policy. The book was completely correct to tell me that some people do not belong at your party. My birthday party was for people special to me. I didn’t want to invite anyone who was just alright. Significant others not allowed!

3.Prime Your Guests.
The party starts the moment the idea of the party starts. You need to set expectations and create excitement for your guests. If your guests arrive at the party enthusiastic and excited, you have a lot less work to do there and then to create the right atmosphere. I made the theme of the party pink and green. People were invited to wear pink and/or green to the party. This gave everyone a little bit of fun outfit-planning before the day. I hand made invitations and got everyone looking forward to receiving those as well.

4.Let The Environment Complement Your Intentions.
Almost like using Nudge Theory, create a room/location that brings out the best in your guests. A big bright warehouse with fluorescent lighting is not going to make people feel relaxed and intimate. The book contained a table which calculated the amount of space per person you should aim for. (15 square foot per person for the a ‘lively’ dinner party for example.) When it came to lighting, my very smart and tall friend Emily made pink filters for my spotlights and hung those to bring some soft light into the room. She also liberally sprinkled the space with fairy lights.

5.Awe and Honour Your Guests.
To make a memorable experience, remove your guests from the real world and create a world of your own. It needn’t take a lot of decorations. One technique is to create a passageway or threshold of sorts when they arrive. Give them a way to transition from ‘Work Kirsty’ to ‘Party Kirsty’. It might be through your introductory conversation or it might be by getting your mum to set up in your bedroom as a fortune teller to tell them their fortunes when they arrive…(in my case!)
To awe and honour your guests, you want to impress them with something special for them. Make them feel that they’ve infiltrated the club that wouldn’t accept them. My fortune teller gave personalized fortunes – she took the guests out of the real world…

6. Have Structure, But Be Flexible.
Importantly, it’s all very well planning a party, but you can’t plan for every eventuality. If something goes wrong or an idea falls flat, assess the situation to provide whatever it is the party is lacking.
Don’t let any one person dictate the party’s journey. If you are following the other rules, being mindful of the reasons you are there and giving the event some structure, it should develop organically.

Groups and workshops can benefit from this

I know for sure that if I planned groups and workshops with this level of attention to detail: not just the who’s in/ not in thought (quotas!) but really thinking through the need to prime/ set up excitement… create a transition from ‘their world’ to the ‘new world’…create a sense of awe and wonder…then I’d get better groups, more stimulated, creative thinkers, who’d really remember a special evening when they thought they were going to a focus group and it turned out to be…

Thanks Harriet for your thoughts on the book and your party!
Thanks Ambreen for buying me the book!
The Art of the Gathering by Priya Parker

Look out for a Qual Street event coming to a city near you (Leeds or London), as we aim to sprinkle a little magic when we launch the Year in the Life project…


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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@Qualstreet on 17 March 2023