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Columbia Atheists Message Board › More structured meet ups

More structured meet ups

Tim P.
user 13502827
Columbia, MO
Post #: 9
I am suggesting more structured meet ups. We have this room full of extremely intelligent people and everyones talking at once. Someone said at the last meeting "Is that on topic?" Whats the topic? That we are atheists? We know that. What I'm suggesting is that Greg or Matt post two to three links on different stories that we might have an interest in for each meet up. We check them out and are ready to talk about them when we show up. From 7:30 to 8:30 we call to order so we can start the topics. Everyone listens & takes turns on discussing the links. Lets put a time limit on how long you have the floor...that way we don't have runaway trains taking over the meetups. feedback please...thanks
user 9088049
Columbia, MO
Post #: 57
This is a great idea! I do, though, have an alternative suggestion for how discussion topics are chosen.

For many years I participated in a philosophy discussion group hosted by a faculty friend at MU. We alloted time at the end of each meeting for choice of topic for the next meeting. The benefits of this method were: 1) Everyone had an opportunity to suggest topics; 2) The group decided which of the suggested topics was chosen, ensuring participation in the discussion; 3) No individual(s) were burdened with choosing topics for every meeting; and 4) We all knew when leaving each meeting what the topic of the next week's meeting would be, giving us all time to read up and prepare comment on the selected topic. This method proved very workable for the philosophy discussion group, which endured for many years before my faculty friend moved away.

Although it is probably necessary, at least initially, to structure the discussion as Tim suggests (commenting in turn and limiting time for each comment), choosing topics for meetings might actually render such a tight structure unnecessary over the long haul. Those "runaway trains" Tim mentions may become self-limiting if there are topics for each meeting, even opting out of meetings when the topic doesn't interest them.

Most everyone knows that, after 18 months of regular participation, I stopped attending the group because of those very runaway trains. But I still miss the discussions we had when the entire group was focused on a single topic (because I was LEARNING new things at every meeting from my esteemed and learned friends). I also think the group might seem more accessible to new folks if there were a bit more structure.

In the event that not everyone wishes to add structure to meetings, format could be alternated between structured and unstructured. Overall, though, I think this is an idea worth testing, and I am appreciative to Tim for suggesting it.

A former member
Post #: 178
At Springfield Freethinkers we've had success with having one meetup for group discussion on specific topics, and the other 2-3 meetups of the month are more "mingly."
Tim P.
user 13502827
Columbia, MO
Post #: 10
Annie that is a perfect way to pick the next topics. I really think this would work & be more enjoyable for everyone.
Matt P.
user 8899886
Columbia, MO
Post #: 42
Those are some pretty good ideas but I don't think Boone Tavern really suits itself to a more formal format.
Now we do have access to rooms at the public library, once a month if I am not mistaken.
That would be a great location for something more formal.
It also has multi media available so we could watch a lecture and discuss it or have speakers.

Tim P.
user 13502827
Columbia, MO
Post #: 11
i'm not saying it should be a total formal format....I would just like to see a direction. with one topic at a time & everyones feedback...
Greg L.
user 8659573
Group Organizer
Columbia, MO
Post #: 53
I like all of the ideas posted so far.

How about we take Tim's suggestion of more structured meetups. Tim would you like to act as moderator and assistant organizer?

Maybe we could use Annie's system to choose topics every week.

And what if we took the Springfield Freethinkers model which Steven suggested, of 1 or 2 group discussion meetings and a couple of mingly meetings a month, modify that and set up a period of time for every Wednesday night meetup that was for moderated discussion and then the rest of the meetup could be mingly. We could have the organized part of the meeting from say 7:30-8:30 or something like that and the rest of the time before and after is "free chat."
user 9088049
Columbia, MO
Post #: 58
@ Matt: I think Boone Tavern would work perfectly for the format suggested.

@ Greg: I think formatting each week's meeting as either "structured" or informal would be preferable to mixing the two in one meeting. Reasons: 1) We will never find out how much support we have for each format if we mix the two; and 2) Depending on average attendance, I think we will need a full two hours for the structured portion of the meeting (~7:30-9:00 for discussion, ~9:00-9:30 to generate and come to agreement on topic for the next structured meeting). However, there would still be mingling even at the more structured meetings, i.e., the first half hour (or whatever length we decide to make it) while people are greeting one another and food is being ordered, and also at the end, both when topic for the next structured meeting is being discussed, and then afterwards for anyone who wants to stay behind and chat.

Also, I don't know if Tim was suggesting a "moderated" discussion, but I certainly was not. The philosophy discussion group I am using for a model didn't use a moderator. In fact, it might not even be necessary to have a timekeeper, depending on how the group wants to monitor time; in other groups I have attended, the group simply calls foul on anyone who uses more than his/her share of speaking time or who is rambling without actually contributing anything. Were we to decide that we do indeed need a timekeeper, my thinking is that the timekeeper's only role would be to call time.

One other aspect of format: It also might not even be necessary to go around the room for each person to speak in turn; some people will have more to contribute on a given topic and it would be to the benefit of the group to let those people speak more. So it may work for each person to just self-nominate and allow the group to call foul if someone is abusing the priviledge. Also, we need to find a way to build in time for at least a few people to speak more than once in the event something is said during the discussion that truly requires a rejoinder.

Ultimately, the format of structured meetings will need to evolve according to what works best for our particular group, so I think we need to be prepared to try different formats and be flexible as we evaluate what seems to work best. Just my two cents worth... :P
Tim P.
user 13502827
Columbia, MO
Post #: 12
sounds great - yes i would like to help
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