What to expect at an A.A. meeting

We know you’re going to have questions about what to expect when you get involved with Alcoholics Anonymous. Here’s what you can expect at your first meeting . . .

Your first meeting

Choose a meeting time and location. You can call the helpline (319-365-5955) for information about meetings in your area, or check out the list of local meetings on this website. You can also  download the Meeting Guide app from the Home page. Then, once you’ve found a meeting, just show up!

​Meetings start promptly at the time specified and generally last one hour. We suggest for your first meeting to arrive a little bit early. Sometimes people may be gathered outside. If you are unsure that you are at the right place, just ask if this is the A.A. meeting. If so, tell them this is your first meeting and ask them where to go. They will be happy to help you. Inside the meeting room there will be people milling about, setting up coffee and putting out literature. Help yourself to coffee and find a seat.

What happens at an A.A. meeting?

Meetings often begin with a moment of silence, followed by a few short readings. The secretary (an A.A. member) might ask if there are any “newcomers” in the room for their first meeting or in their first 30 days, and if so, would they care to identify themselves with their first name only. This is NOT done to embarrass you, it’s so we can get to know you. After the meeting, some people may give you their phone number or you can pick up a phone list. If you have questions after you get home, please call any of the people who gave you their phone number or are on the list. You will not be “intruding”… we WANT to help.​

You do not have to talk – feel free to pass.  A.A. meetings can take one of several forms (discussion, Step or Book Study, Speaker, etc. See descriptions under “Meetings”). At any A.A. meeting members will talk about how drinking affected their lives, what they did to get help, and how they are living their lives today. The secretary might ask if you wish to speak, but if you don’t choose to, simply say “pass” or “I prefer to just listen, thanks.”


​Members are discouraged from crosstalk. Crosstalk is when a member speaks directly to another member instead of the whole group. You will notice that people do not comment on another person’s share. After the meeting, feel free to talk directly with that person.

Passing the basket

A.A. meetings require no dues or fees from its members, but we are fully self-supporting and do have expenses for room rent, coffee and literature. At some point during the meeting, a basket will be passed around to allow people the opportunity to make a voluntary contribution. If you are a visitor, you do not need to make a contribution. As a newcomer to A.A., please consider yourself our guest.

Understanding Anonymity

“Anonymity is the foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. ” 

This pamphlet clearly explains what anonymity means both within and outside A.A.

Click on the pamphlet for more info