If you're trying to hold an event to multitask or be "chill," it is going to be impaired from the outset.
Parker explains that multitasking puts your goals at odds with each other, while modesty, a desire to appear "chill, cool, and relaxed about your gathering" is at odds with successful events.
As Parker states:
"Gathering well isn't a chill activity. If you want chill, visit the Arctic. But modesty can also derive from the idea that people don't want to be imposed on. This hesitancy, which permeates many gatherings, doesn't consider that you may be doing your guests a favor by having a focus."
By giving yourself a focus - a purpose - you use that as your bouncer to help determine what is a fit for the event, and what isn't.
See Patrick Swayze in ROAD HOUSE for a great example of a bouncer. Parker explains:
"Make purpose your bouncer. Let it decide what goes into your gathering and what stays out. When in doubt about any element, even the smallest detail, hark back to that purpose and decide in accordance with it."
Speaking of bouncers: who gets on the guest list?
"Inviting people is easy. Excluding people can be hard."
But is being selective about a guest list mean... or actually good? Parker elaborates further:
"Here is what the skilled gatherer must know: in trying not to offend, you fail to protect the gathering itself and the people in it. I have learned that far too often in the name of inclusion and generosity - two values I care about deeply - we fail to draw boundaries about who belongs and why."
Parker shares several examples of how a group that's defined and focus actually empowers the participants to be their most true selves - selves that might not be welcome or even possible to share in a more porous, open group.
"When you exclude, the rubber of purpose hits the road. When you're hosting a gathering with others, as opposed to hosting on your own, you should spend time not only reflecting on the purpose of the gathering but then also, ideally, aligning on it with the other hosts. Why are we doing this? Whom should we invite? Why? To put it another way, thoughtful exclusion, in addition to being generous, can be defining. It can help with the important task of communicating to guests what a gathering is."
Parker shares the inspiration of Nora Abousteit and her late father Osman Abousteit, the founder of Giessen, Germany's first students-only bar, Scarabee. By enforcing the bar to be for college students only, Abousteit set the bar up for success - a success it is still experiencing today - with the student community.
So then how does one begin to exclude generously? Parker gives the questions she uses as starting points with clients:
"Who not only fits but also helps fulfill the gathering's purpose?
Who threatens the purpose?
Who, despite being irrelevant to the purpose, do you feel obliged to invite?"
A big concern people express about thoughtful exclusion relates to diversity. However, by following these guidelines, Parker explains that you're actually creating an environment where diversity can flourish even more:
"When I talk about generous exclusion, I am speaking of ways of bounding a gathering that allow the diversity in it to be heightened and sharpened, rather than diluted in a hodgepodge of people."
And one great example? Judson Manor in Ohio, a retirement community where music students who are willing to volunteer their time giving recitals, spending time with residents, and providing art and music therapy are able to live rent-free. The result has been a win-win for both retirement home residents and the music students who are both able to benefit: but the program does have to curate so that only students who are truly committed to giving back to the community participate. As Parker states, "The tightly bound program transformed it from a service program into a relationship between young artists and aging ears." This took a good idea to a great one.