Top tips for time-keepers (aka facilitators/ secretaries) 

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  • Your role is vital in any circle and you essentially run proceedings while the circle is happening. Here are some tips.

    • Try and start on-time. Be early yourself (and it’s highly advisable to have a venue you can get into early). Be impeccable about timing yourself during the circle!
    • Have clear timings for each section ahead of time (from the convener) and know what will be shortened if you’re running late - often the sharing or the guest teacher session) 
    • A helpful embodiment for the role is “firm, fair and friendly” 
    • Asking people for their agreement at the start for you keeping them to time  can be a good idea (especially in some cultures where perceived authority is resented)
    • Have an agreed cut-off point for entry agreed with the convener (let people know in pre-event details)
    • Use exact timings/boundaries like “one minute each” or “five words or less”, not vague requests like “keep it short”. 
    • Use a phone that makes a pleasant noise at the cut off time. A phone stopping people feels more fair and objective than a person 
    • Do not let guest teachers (E.g. the movement teacher) do their own times without you also keeping time. Again, set a chime that will interrupt them if necessary and step in if they ignore it 
    • You make like to make your phone visible to people so they can see when time is running short for them 
    • Encourage people to say their names. Some groups use the AA style “I’m John”, with a “hi John” callback which is great for helping people remember each other’s names but can feel weird to some 
    • Going around a circle in order or from the first share, is clearer and quicker than random sharing (“popcorn”) for larger groups, but popcorn has some advantages too 
    • Allow people to pass and come back to them at the end of the round if they’d like to share then. Never force people to share 
    • Encourage people to share honestly from the body, and to listen deeply as a practice. If sharing becomes “heady” encourage the group to stop and take a breath/ feel the body 
    • Make sure there’s a short clear question for any sharing rounds. This could be as simple as “how are you?” or “how have you arrived today?”
    • Discourage “cross sharing” - commenting on other people’s shares 
    • IMMEDIATELY step in (in a friendly way) at the first person to overstep the boundaries even a little bit. Otherwise you’ll get “chat creep” and it will seem unfair when you decide to stop it 
    • Have a plan if you have extra time after a sharing round. E.g. popcorn free sharing, a gratitude round, coaching rounds (e.g. “what’s one thing you need to accept?”, “what’s one thing you need to change?”), creative noise or gesture making sharing rounds, etc
    • Give people a warning five minutes before any break ends to help them come back on time 
    • You may well get push-back from more “alternative” people who struggle with authority and boundaries. Be firm but kind, explain it’s about fairness and part of Circle culture. Most people will thank you for asking verbose people to move on, and for “holding the container
    • Never end late. People may have other commitments and it breaks trust
    • Being a time keeper can be a REALLY good personal practice for confidence , holding clear boundaries and of egoless service 
    • Rotate out of this role after a period the group agrees (E.g. a year), and find someone to take your place if you can’t make a circle. 
  • As ever with The Circle these are all just recommendations - do what works and what your group agrees. Don’t worry if you don’t remember them all too! Also, there’s some cultural factors that may mean you want to adapt these in your location. Enjoy your service role!