"Today was the first gathering of significant folks who have surrounded me in the last few years to say, 'We would be interested in you running for mayor,' and reveal to them what I've been working on the last few years," he said after the meeting, which featured a PowerPoint presentation by 270 Strategies.
The gathering at the Hilton on City Avenue was closed to the news media.
"A lot of major personalities were here," Williams said later.
They included City Council members Curtis Jones, Jannie Blackwell, and Kenyatta Johnson; District Attorney Seth Williams; former mayoral candidate Tom Knox; and Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Laborers' District Council of Philadelphia.
Do any of them plan to support Anthony Williams for mayor?
"I think so," Knox said as he left the meeting. He read off a list of policy points Williams had offered that Knox, a millionaire businessman and former appointee of Mayor Ed Rendell, said resonated with him. "He said, 'You can't learn when you are sick and hungry,' " Knox said.
Williams said after the meeting poverty was a big focus for him. "We need to stop talking at each other and look at 30 percent poverty," he said.
Johnson called the prospect of Williams running exciting and inspiring.
Jeremy Bird, founding partner of 270 Strategies, said a 21st-century mayoral campaign in a city as large and diverse as Philadelphia needed a big grassroots base.
On Friday, Bird said, he wanted to learn from the movers and shakers what they see as the city's challenges and the opportunities and "what kind of true leader the city needs in 2015."
What kind of leader is that?
"Someone who can build coalitions," Williams said before hinting at his ability to do that. "You had labor sitting next to big business in this room."