Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 40 seconds
As we approach the 2020 holiday season, many of us will not be celebrating in our traditional ways or locations. The realities of our current distributed working situations are forcing us to rethink our previous ways of gathering, like coming together in one physical location for holiday parties, and adjusting our plans to a virtual environment.
Our Networkplaceless community came together in November to share ideas about celebrating virtually. Thanks to everyone who attended, we walked away bursting with new ideas for connecting with our colleagues. The framework for this conversation came from Priya Parker’s book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (you can also watch her excellent Ted Talk here.)
In the process of considering what makes a gathering meaningful and impactful, attendees shared ideas related to three topics highlighted in Parker's work: purpose, environment, and preparation.
Parker implores us to dig deep into the purpose of our gatherings and specifically define why you are coming together. This definition will serve as the foundation for what happens during your event and can help to guide the format and activities.
Our participants shared examples of reasons their teams gather together:
Whether you are living into your company’s core values, creating a space for recognition, or connecting with employees from different teams, every event must have a purpose. However, if you’re hosting a holiday party just because “it’s always been done” reconsider the purpose of your party or as Parker says, simply “give people their time back.”
Where you gather matters. But in current times, "where" is often limited in format and space to virtual environments. Often, this means a Zoom or Teams meeting, which for many of us at this stage can seem, well… exhausting.
Participants shared clever ways that build connections via virtual activities to create a lighthearted atmosphere (useful when ballrooms and restaurants are not currently on the table!) Here are some ideas:
The importance of a host came up organically during our conversations and is a point that Parker highlights throughout her book. She dedicates a chapter to “Don’t Be a Chill Host,” where she makes the case that the host of your gathering, no matter the purpose, must take charge. Otherwise, your event can spiral into unintended directions where your guests are unprotected. “When you abdicate leadership, you don’t eradicate power. You just hand the opportunity to take charge to someone else.”
If your company has the budget to hire outside experts to serve in the host role this can create a perfect balance, breathing new life into virtual gatherings but also maintaining authority for the sake of all participants. However, if your host is a fellow colleague, be sure to empower them with the ability to lead and enforce the “rules” established.
Adding some structure isn’t a bad thing. In her Ted Talk, Parker suggests developing a "temporary, alternative world" with new "pop up rules" as an alternative to formal etiquette, which is best suited for gatherings of homogenous groups. “Pop up rules” are about “trying stuff out” and “democratiz[ing] who gets to gather.” The idea being to create new standards for interacting, so we don’t rely on the same conversation or inadvertently exclude others due to unspoken norms.
Our attendees brainstormed delightful ideas such as wearing a specific outfit or color or using code words to add structure to gatherings without weighing down the mood. Important: share these rules and expectations before your celebration, so individuals have time to prepare and can arrive at your gathering with aligned expectations.
Are you planning a holiday gathering with your teams? If you know your purpose you, it’s important to get this on the calendar.
And if you plan to or do try any of these ideas this holiday season, let us know!
If your team wants additional support with building culture and connections, our Joinplaceless workshop would be a good place to start.