Sharing Airtime – Tips for Good Ben Franklin Circles Conversations
For our latest Host webinar, we spoke Circle Hosts, Victoria Fann of Weaverville, North Carolina and Danyel Addes of Englewood New Jersey. At the time of this recording Victoria’s group was eleven months in and Dayel’s group had just launched.
Our hosts used words like “magic” and “profound” to describe what happens when a group finds their groove. The consensus was that Circles get better over time in terms of both group cohesion and facilitation skills.
The goal of sharing airtime is to create an atmosphere where everyone feels they are welcome and apart of something. Throughout our conversation, the hosts reinforce the importance of setting up guidelines for group interaction from the beginning.
Check out other webinars on which cover this in some more detail:
Some other takeaways from our conversation:
- Aim for balanced sharing in terms of time and participation
- Use gentle facilitation and allow group members take on more of an active role. Victoria recommends this method for having members participate more in asking questions. Read her blog post.
- Sharing airtime becomes automatic, part of the culture of the group, when structures are set up from the beginning
- Take into account the different ways people want to participate – those who comment frequently, those who are quiet and compile their thoughts before sharing
- Use a mix of structured activities and open conversation
- “Go-arounds” ensure that everyone participates. Consider using a timer or suggest a time limit during go-arounds and allow people to opt-out if they don’t wish to share
- To encourage balance sharing, start with a different person when posing questions to the group
- Get comfortable with silence
- Encourage members to develop awareness about their level of participation and to step up or step back accordingly
- Consider the nature of your group and what type of facilitation is necessary – open or closed group, formal or informal, etc
- The facilitator has the responsibility to maintain the best interest of the group. When you have a difficult member who is disrupting the group, intervene by pausing the discussion and bringing it back to the topic. Discuss disruptive behavior with directly with the member outside of the meeting and if necessary, ask them to leave the group permanently.
- Expect that participation will vary meeting by meeting depending on the topic and what’s going on in the lives of the members.
- Encourage people to connect outside of the group, by mingling before and/or after meetings, getting together as a group to socialize, and encouraging members to connect one-on-one outside of meetings.
- Listening is also participation, not just speaking.
- Tips for beginners – set up a group communication agreement, utilize the resources on the BFC website, and remember progress over perfection!