On February 28, 2018 we hosted our second Circle Host Forum on Hosting Your First Meeting. 

If you weren’t able to join us live, you can listen to the recording here:



Thanks to our panelists:

  • Henry Edwards, Circle Host in Annondale Virginia and Circle Participant (Closed Circle)
  • Jen Lemberger, Circle Host at Santa Barbara Public Library (Open Circle)
  • John Leighton, Circle Host at Brooklyn Public Library (Open Circle)

The discussion covered the nuances of groups of different formats – open and closed, small and large, public and private. Here are some great tips from our conversation: 


Setting the right tone in the recruitment and promotion process before the group meets

  • Set expectation to come in with open mind, willing to talk and share
  • Reinforce goals of self and community improvement


Setting the ground rules (skip to min 19)

  • Set guidelines and expectations with the members of the group
  • Summarize guidelines into several best practices that’s easy to recall (eg. “Act Respectfully” would cover several behaviors)
  • Use a visual aid to keep guidelines top of mind for participants (See example below from Santa Barbara Public Library)


Meeting Structure (skip to min 30)

  • General structure
    • Welcome and introductions
    • Group guidelines
    • Background of Ben Franklin Circles and Franklin’s Junto (this video provides a good overview)
    • Discuss first virtue
    • Make a commitment for the month
  • Consider having members take turns facilitating and hosting
  • Use the host resources available on benfranklincircles.org
  • Use a closed Facebook group to engage participants in between meetings


Ice-Breakers (skip to min 39)

  • Rose Bud Thorn (Ask each member to share something in his/her life that is “blooming,” something that is “budding” and something that is a current challenge “the thorn”)
  • Consider setting an official start time, and allow for casual mingling before/after
  • Ask people to share what drove them to participate


Wrapping Up a Meeting (skip to min 46)

  • Set commitments, ask members what they want to focus on the following month
  • Use phrases such as “we’re reaching our time” to transition to ending the meeting
  • Preview the virtue for the next month


Order to the Virtues (skip to min 49)


Additional Thoughts

  • Guide conversation to the experience of the individuals, don’t let any one theme dominate the group (eg. politics)
  • Have faith that when you get people together with enthusiasm, it’s a great thing and that people will talk. People will bring so much and you’ll learn a lot.
  • Use silence and allow for pauses (count to 30) before intervening with comments/questions for the group.


We’re looking forward to our next Host Forum in April. Submit ideas for topics to BFC Outreach Consultant, Patty Morrissey at benfranklincircles@gmail.com.