"Convening is different from facilitation. By definition, facilitation is 'the process of making things easy or easier.'  Conveners invite participants to co-create the highest possible outcome for a meeting or gathering."  - Craig Neal

FOREWORD by Richard Leider
Called to Convene

Writing this foreword has been a rare and special privilege. ...Convening was, and is, one of the most powerful, life-altering forces in the universe. ...Heeding the call to convene requires a clear choice—the choice to be authentically ourselves. Each convener is an experiment of one. Our calling is like our signature, footprint, or thumbprint—uniquely ours. Being authentically engaged means that we realize we are here to contribute to life on earth some- thing that no one else can contribute in quite the same way. ...Many, many books come across my reading table each year, but it has been a long time since one of them affected me as much as this one has. It has struck some deep chords within me. It has reminded me that each gathering is a sacred adventure where even our struggles can lead us to what mythologist Joseph Campbell called “the rapture of being alive.” You hold in your hands a wise book. I hope it brings you alive like it did me.

The authors have done for convening what Julia Child did for French cooking -- they have created the authoritative guide to mastering their art.
-- Eric Utne, Founder, Utne Reader

Few people have refined the process of bringing people together as gracefully and elegantly as Craig and Patricia Neal. If their thinking and methodology were to become common practice, there would be more peace and connectedness all around. I hope you will not only read this book, but take it to heart.
-- Peter Block, Author of CommunityThe Structure of Belonging

We spend so much time working together in groups, doesn't it make sense to learn how to do it better, smarter, deeper, and more authentic?
-- Alan M. Webber, co-founder, Fast Comapny magazine

"An extraordinary work that encourages sincerity, clarity, and commitment to the formation of relationships at work and at home."
-- Marshall Goldsmith, author of MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There

"This wise and thoughtful book helps readers understand what's needed to create the kind of authentic meeting where true collective wisdom can emerge in group settings."
-- Juanita Brown & David Isaacs, Co-Originators & authors, The World Cafe

Seldom have I encountered such depth of wisdom and clarity of process presented with such a gentle, inviting spirit.
Margaret J. Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science

Craig and Patricia Neal have spent years helping people turn "meetings" of the sort we complain about into the live and engaging encounters that real living requires.
- Parker J. Palmer, author of  A Hidden Wholeness & The Courage to Teach

As a longtime ‘meeting hater,’ I found the Neals’ book a mind-opener.
—Peter Barnes, cofounder, Working Assets, and author of Capitalism 3.0

Simple and yet profound. A book that gets to the heart of what it means to be an authentic leader.
—Richard Barrett, author of Building a Values-Driven Organization

This book is timely, practical, and filled with wisdom.
—Alan Briskin, coauthor of The Power of Collective Wisdom

Incorporate the principles and practices of this book knowing happiness is a measurable indicator of smart business and good living.
—Chip Conley, Executive Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Joie de Vivre

An inspiring and practical book to show us the way.
—Bruce Cryer, CEO, HeartMath

An elegant, practical guide on how to create and hold space for people in a manner that ignites deep engagement and exploration.
—Mary Jo Kreitzer PhD, founder and Director, Center for Spirituality and Healing, University of Minnesota

If you want to learn how to lead successful gatherings, skim The Art of Convening. If you want to learn how to lead transformational gatherings, read it from cover to cover.
—Deb Nelson, Executive Director, Social Venture Network

This book bring groups, even contentious ones, to deep truths and positive commitment in relatively short times.
—Michael Ray, Professor of Creativity and Innovation, Emeritus, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and author of The Highest Goal

The nuggets of wisdom will stay with you for a long time as you practice its art form in creating meaningful and profound conversations.
—Ann Schrader, Chief Operating Officer, HealthEast Care System

This book is a trustworthy guide for anyone who wishes to serve powerful gatherings and the emergence of true community.
—David Sibbet, founder, The Grove Consultants International, and author of Visual Meetings 

The clear, articulation of the ‘technology of relationships’ in this book opens the door for authentic engagement in any encounter.
—Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money and President, Soul of Money Institute

The Art of Convening outlines, in detail, the principles and practical application of convening we used on our road to success.
—David Wagner, Owner and Daymaker, Juut Salonspa, and author of Life as a Daymaker


A practical field-guide is the companion text for each training. A step by step road map navigating the Convening Wheel.

A practical field-guide is the companion text for each training. A step by step road map navigating the Convening Wheel.


aoc convening wheel: 9 steps


This book, rooted in decades of practical experience, details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative.

  • Details a powerful set of principles and practices for making any gathering productive, meaningful, and transformative

  • Draws on the authors' decades of experience convening meetings in all kinds of settings

  • Offers practical wisdom on both the inner and outer aspects of convening

"Meetings are a waste of time," is a sentiment many of us share, which is tragic, because meetings bring us together as human beings. To achieve the kind of meaning or breakthrough results most of us really year for when we gather, the key quality needed is authentic engagement: a genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. Why it so often eludes us can be a matter of habit, distrust, lack of attention, or fear.

Convening goes beyond facilitating. Convening creates an environment in which all voices are heard, profound exchanges take place, and transformative action results. The heart of this book is the Convening Wheel -- a series of nine steps, or Aspects, that bring the practices and principles needed for authentic engagement together as a whole. The book provides exercises, stories, and questions to help you master both the inner and outer dimensions of this work -- because, in convening, the state of the Convener is equally as important as the physical preparations.

Convening works in any setting and can be adapted to virtually any group process. With this book you have all the tools you need to develop this essential life and leadership skill, one that will lead to improved outcomes in your organization, community, family, and relationships.


A genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for another, or others.

I (and many of my co-workers) have been honored to be able to receive training and coaching from Center for Purposeful Leadership, based on The Art of Convening. Their guidance and subtle coaching have contributed to a culture shift in my organization, leading to more productive meetings, stronger collaborations, and more positive personal interactions.


What you can expect to get from The Art of Convening

√ LEARNING: You will be part of a learning community of others dedicated to bringing the practices and principles of convening.

√ KNOWLEDGE & PRACTICE: You will gain a solid foundation in Convening principles & practices required to become a confident Convener both virtually and in-person. You will have a clear understanding how to apply the nine Aspects of the Convening Wheel as a practical pathway to bring authentic engagement to the meetings, gatherings and conversations you lead.

√ INTEGRATION: You will have a greater sense of how to integrate your purpose with your role as leader/Convener and inspired catalyst for change in your life and work.

√ INFLUENCE: You will increase your capacity to step out into the world in a more powerful way to inspire maximum creativity and innovation. Build new “muscles” of listening, collaboration, leadership.

√ NEW PERSPECTIVES: Reframing to think and express ideas in a new way. New understanding of innovation through inclusion and collaboration.

√ NEW LEADERSHIP CAPACITY: Learn the foundations of great purposeful leadership.

Meet the Authors

Craig Neal (Author) | Patricia Neal (Author) | Cynthia Wold (Author)

craig neal

craig neal

Patricia Neal

Patricia Neal

Cynthia wold

Cynthia wold

"Participating in the Art of Convening virtual training has been an enlightening experience, an opportunity to learn and practice to nuances and subtleties of convening deep, meaningful and intimate conversations. I have convened gatherings for many years, ranging from large public events to small private circles, and still learning much from this unique experience. Highly recommend them!"
- John Renesch, Author, futurist, Founder of FutureShapers, LLC; Co-former and Host, The Presidio Dialogues; former Managing Director, World Business Academy

"I really enjoyed where the session discussions led. It is always amazing to me that so much is revealed if you simply stay quiet, watch and listen. Thank you for the great material you have provided as readings and explanations for each AoC session. They contain a wealth of information and insight and are very helpful in seeing how to apply the skills we are learning here." 
- Executive Director - Advancement Institute, TWIN CITIES RISE!