So you want to start your own pro book club? Congratulations! Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.
Identify the core development interests of your group.
Is your group more interested in recent business trends or in ways to boost their creativity? Best marketing practices or leadership skills? Knowing your audience is critical because it will help you select appropriate books to read. Though there are many books that apply to a wide range of professions, some are more industry specific, and a book that is perfect for one reading group might completely intimidate another. So it’s important to know the interests of your group in order to choose books appropriate to them.
Identify your needs and assets.
- Does your group have a budget? Many companies have money earmarked for affinity groups or continuing education, headings under which a pro book club can be funded. Costs should be minimal: a quantity of books, and lunch or beverages and snacks. If company subsidizing is not an option, low-cost alternatives exist as well. For example, books can be borrowed from local libraries or purchased individually at minimal expense and shared, and members can chip in a few dollars per meeting for coffee and snacks or bring food potluck style.
- Where will you meet? Will you meet during business hours — over lunch, for example — or after hours at a member’s house or coffee shop? Do you need to book a conference room in advance, or will you meet more informally in a lounge or lunch area?
- How often will you meet? In my experience, meeting every other month works well, leaving enough time in between books to take a breather and prepare for the next book. This comes out to approximately 6 books per year.
Decide on leadership and recruit support.
- Who will lead the group? You will need a point person to coordinate the group’s schedule, logistics, and communications. Sometimes this same person will also choose the books and lead the discussions.
- Is there a leader in your organization who will act as an executive sponsor for the group? If your pro book club is based out of an organization, an executive sponsor can act as an excellent advocate, helping to obtain funding and other resources in many cases. Recognition by senior leadership can lend a legitimacy to your pro book club as well.
- Who will choose which books to read and facilitate the discussions? There are a number of different ways to structure how to pick which books to read and who will facilitate the discussions. The two most common are (1) the leader chooses which books to read, taking suggestions from the group, or (2) book club members rotate who chooses the book and leads the discussion. Either option works.
- Utilize the talents of the people in your group. If there is a graphic designer or someone artistically inclined in your group, perhaps they can be recruited to make flyers. Is there someone tech savvy who can help set up a laptop or TV, if needed? Utilize your group’s diverse talents to help boost and support your pro book club.
Get the word out!
If you want interesting discussions and diverse points of view, you have to get the word out about your pro book club. How?
- Advertise your meetings with flyers. Post them on a bulletin board in a common area or by the time clock, where employees will be sure to see them. (Make sure you get permission from your organization before you post anything.)
- Send out a company-wide email, if your organization permits it. Or ask your executive sponsor to send out the email to drum up interest.
- Talk it up among your peers. Nothing works like word of mouth, so tell all of your friends!
If you’re a list-lover like me, here’s a handy dandy printable checklist of the items above to help you get started. You can also find it, along with other fun and useful printables, on my Free Downloads page. And be sure to check out the other posts in my Pro Book Club Basics series here.