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Tips for facilitating a great Circle meeting

This article offers tips for successful meeting facilitation, emphasizing the importance of preparation, maintaining a focused discussion, encouraging inclusivity, and respecting diverse experiences.

Simple preparation goes a long way

  • In advance, select which topic you will be discussing each month with your Circle, and share with your members ahead of time so they know what they’ll be discussing at your upcoming meeting.
  • Ahead of the meeting, take some time to read through the discussion guide provided by Lean In to familiarize yourself with the activities and prompts for this month’s meeting, and be aware of the time you have for each activity so you can keep the meeting on track.

Keep the conversation on track and help set the tone

  • As the Circle Leader, you should feel empowered to guide the discussion. Make sure the discussion stays on track, is inclusive of all members, and provides an actionable outcome. Moderating is a great opportunity to step up and lead.
  • To help keep the conversation on track, remind people at the start of each activity how long you have for that section of the agenda (if following the agenda provided by Lean In) and step in to move on to the next activity if time is running out.
  • If you’re meeting virtually, use the chat function to post comments or emojis to second or support what someone has said. Your supportive reactions will hopefully encourage others to do the same!

“Share the mic” and make space for everyone to speak

  • This is particularly important if you are discussing a topic where one or more Circle members may hold privilege that others don’t. Try to ensure you can “share the mic” and invite more voices into the conversation to hear from different perspectives.
  • You could try using a technique called “rounds” where you go around to every member of the Circle to see if they have anything they want to share (versus calling on only one individual).
  • If you are meeting virtually, you could private message someone who may not have spoken much to ask them if they would like to share next.

Encourage Circle members to be mindful of their “a-ha” moments

  • Be mindful that through reflection and discussion, you may be seeing something in a new way for the first time, and for some, it may be part of their day-to-day experiences. Be aware of the potential impact of what you’re sharing on someone else.
  • If you choose to share an “a-ha” moment, be aware that your surprise at discovering these experiences may be painful for others who live them daily. As allies, encourage your Circle members to prioritize the impact that their sharing may have on others in your group over their own excitement to share it.

Don’t questions others’ experiences

  • We all bring different experiences to the table—do not discount or invalidate the lived experiences of others. In particular, if someone shares about an inequity they’ve faced, believe their experience. Do not ask for proof or try to provide an alternate point of view.

Lean on the Circle Fundamentals to keep Circle members accountable

  • During your Circle kick-off meeting, the members of your Circle will make certain commitments to each other (what we call “Circle Fundamentals”) to ensure it feels safe to share openly with one another, and that everyone is equally invested in the success of your Circle.
  • Consider re-reading these fundamentals at the start of each Circle meeting to help set the tone for your monthly discussions. It helps to remind individual members of their commitments if you notice their participation or engagement in the Circle changes.