No two Alcoholics Anonymous groups are exactly the same. In fact, there is a great degree of diversity among groups due to the unique features of the people who make up the specific group.
The Alcoholics Anonymous "Fourth Tradition" states that "Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole." This tradition is taken seriously by group members. In fact, there is a great degree of variety from group to group regarding what is emphasized, the informal group norms, the type of ritual, the emotional tone of the meetings, the selection of readings, and the meeting philosophy. This great variety appears to be one of the secrets of success of Alcoholics Anonymous and typically means that newcomers, if they are willing to spend the time and the effort, will be able to find a meeting that closely matches their specific needs
Discussion Meetings: A topic will be suggested by a chairperson and then other members can share their own experiences about the topics. Newcomers are encouraged to avoid comparisons as they relate to each member's experiences. It is important to point out that attendees come to the meetings for the same reason: to stay sober, one day at a time. In discussion meetings, sharing that consists of personal experience and an application of the referenced text is valued over purely theoretical and impersonal discussions.
Step Meetings: One person will present a 10 or 15-minute discussion about one of the twelve steps and then will invite other members to share their experiences about working on the particular step. Not unlike the discussion meetings, sharing that consists of personal experience and an application of the referenced text is seen as more important than impersonal or theoretical discussions during step meetings.
Big Book Study Meetings: Members discuss a specific reading from the “Big Book,” a term Alcoholics Anonymous members use in reference to the program's basic text, Alcoholics Anonymous. Similar to the step meetings, sharing that consists of personal experience and an application of the referenced text is seen as more important than impersonal or theoretical discussions.
Due to the fact that most people find various meeting formats more helpful than others, local Alcoholics Anonymous advisers can offer a wide variety of meeting formats such as panels, orientation, seminars, study groups, etc. In addition, group meetings can be offered for specific groups of people such as lesbians, gays, families of alcoholics, and women. And finally, advisers can sponsor group meetings for particular groups of students such as disabled students, first-year students, honors students, transfer students, students who are seniors, international students, students on probation, and non-traditional students.