The Gathering

There’s a great responsibility that comes with gathering people. Everything we do (and don’t do) communicates something. Here are a few things that can be pretty important and what they communicate.

1. Prepare the space.
What we communicate by doing it:
“I value the fact that you’re here. I appreciate that you’ve taken time to be present, and I am willing to make sure your experience is a good one.” This isn’t allowing people to be lazy or encouraging them to be consumers. It’s simply saying, “You’re important enough to prepare for.” This can include sweeping the floor, cleaning the bathroom or being aware of the ambiance of a space.

What we communicate by not doing it:
“Your presence is an inconvenience.” By not preparing for someone’s arrival, we convey that either our lives are too busy to prepare for them (and we really should be doing something else) or that we don’t value their presence. And oftentimes, we think least about those who are close to us – our friends and family. Let’s not forget to practically value those we love by preparing for them.

2. Prepare the content.
Whether it’s a date, a meeting or a gathering of 1,00, prepare the content. Remove the “uh… what’s next?” moments.

What we communicate by doing it:
Again, we often value people in our level of preparedness. We each only have so much time in our lives, and when someone shows up, they’ve entrusted you with that time. Perhaps it’s a set of activities, a meal or a piece of communication – but whatever the situation calls for, prepare well.

What we communicate by not doing it:
“This moment, meeting, appointment, date, dinner isn’t really all that important. You would have been just as well off not showing up.” If we don’t value people’s time enough to prepare content, why should they value our gathering them together?

3. Lead well.
If everyone leads, then no one leads.

What we communicate by doing it:
“I value your trust in me.” When people show up, they’ve already put a level of trust in you. When we lead well, we value and cultivate that trust.

What we communicate by not doing it:
“You shouldn’t have trusted me.” When we show up somewhere or to something and there is a leadership vacuum, we’re certainly less likely to trust the purveyors of that event in the future. Therefore, we’re less likely to show up in the future.

4. Exceed expectations.
What we communicate by doing it:
“I’m calling you to a deeper level of investment.” When we exceed expectations, we raise them. By doing more than expected, we challenge people to a deeper level of attention, respect and expectation for the future.

What we communicate by not doing it:
“We’re settled right where we should be. I’m fine where I am. You’re fine where you are.” It’s easy to settle into an apathetic life – especially when we’re not challenged by those around us. Once we give each other permission to settle, we stop moving forward.

5. Follow up.
So often, we’re so focused on the event that we forget to follow up, but follow up conveys something equally important.

What we communicate by doing it:
“You weren’t just a warm body in a seat. You are an integral part of what took place.” By following up, we demonstrate that we actually care about the individual and their contribution to the process. If there’s no need for follow up, there was probably no need for the person to be there in the first place.

What we communicate by not doing it:
Either, “You’ve already served my purpose, and I’m done with you,” or “You’re not integral moving forward.” We don’t want to use people, and if just showing up to something is enough, then we’ve probably used them. Our goal was to have a lot of consumers at our gathering, and we used them for just that purpose. Now, we don’t really need them anymore. This is much the same as “You’re not integral moving forward.” And sometimes, this is an okay thing to learn. Just don’t be hurt if they don’t show up next time.
Preparing for the arrival of people is really important. Let’s do it well!

Cole NeSmith is an artist, musician and writer. Follow his blog at or follow him on Twitter at @colenesmith.

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