No matter our upbringing, beliefs, culture, or daily routines, we’re never completely alone. Throughout the course of our days, years, and lifetime, we all find ourselves in various forms of gathering.
We gather at our workplaces to achieve a common mission. We gather into classrooms, lecture halls, and institutions to be inspired, enlightened, and provoked. We gather in a theater to share a piece of art with people we might not know. And, if we’re lucky, we gather together a set of individuals to achieve something spectacular.
Whether we gather in an office, a classroom, or a theater, we look to others to lead us somewhere, from point A to point B.
This experience brings with it all sorts of familiar dynamics and expectations between an audience, and those on a proverbial stage.
After all, a leader needs a follower. An educator needs a student. A comedian needs an audience.
Though both roles need each other to be successful, we tend to assume one has higher status than the other. With this assumption comes certain choices about how we lead a gathering. For example, we often over index on our expertise, or our content.
This becomes the speech that doesn’t land. The lesson that doesn’t stick. The song that doesn’t connect. Messages without meaning make the audience seem even further away.
When we gather others, we can instead make deliberate choices that destroy the distance between the gatherer and the audience.
We can do this by focusing not just on the material, but on how we deliver it. It starts by changing our assumption about who our audience is and what they are gathered for.
When we consider that our audience, whether it’s our followers, students, etc, is of higher status than us, we work to more directly connect our work with their intentions instead of ours.
Though we need an audience, it is too easy to view them as replaceable or invisible. The best gatherings know that not only is the audience of high importance, they are the hero.
If our gatherings are meant to move people from A to B, they require more consideration than slides, a syllabus, or a set list.
We choose to gather in-person rather than another medium to see and feel the impact of our message. If this is true, our focus need to take the needs of our audience into account. We can make them feel needed and nurtured, so that they won’t just gather once, they’ll come back.