Hosting large circles using The Circle Way

You, Too, Can Host Large Circles using The Circle Way

While daunting, perhaps, to consider hosting a circle for three hundred, Matthias, Jutta and Myriam share learnings from their experience, and encourage that you, too, can do this! Here are some tips: 

  • Large circles are a good format to invite profound reflections.
  • A question seen as significant by all is needed to “keep the whole circle together” for an extended dialogue. With a good question, a 300-person circle conversation can last up to one and a half hours – may be even more.
  • The question needs to be posted on two to four boards or easels around the large circle, to help all see and stay focused.
  • The instructions in the beginning are best given by a facilitator who is standing or walking in the middle so that he is seen and heard by all.
  • The instructions should include the time frame, making clear that while unlikely everyone will have the opportunity to speak personally, experience shows that typically everyone’s opinion will be expressed by another person.
  • Allow people during long circle conversations to individually leave for a brief break as needed. We ask them to maintain an inner connection with the circle, by remaining quiet, while they are away.
  • Concentric circles are possible. Yet there should be no more than five of them.
  • The large concentric circles need (four or more) radial aisles, set up to make it easy for people to enter and leave the circle, and to pass microphones around.
  • The circle’s centre is given focus when the lighting technology is directed to it.
  • One can put a microphone in the middle of the circle and ask participants to come to the center and pick it up. Also, having “runners” to bring the microphones to those who want to speak is efficient.
  • At the conclusion, for the check-out, we always ask the group to form one very large circle, bringing the concentric circles together, so everybody can see each other. We let the microphone pass. Not everybody wants to speak and even with 300 participants, we have consistently found that the check-out rarely lasts longer than 40 minutes.