How and Why to Start a Business Book Club
Created By: Kevin Eikenberry
Book clubs have been quite a rage over the last few years.
Fueled in part by Oprah and others, the concept of reading a
book then gathering with others who have read the same book has
become “cool” again.
The reasons people have found them valuable include:
- a great way to have meaningful conversation.
- a way to support your own reading habit (I need to have the
book read before the meeting!).
- a way to form a community – to have a great reason to gather
with other people to bond.
- A way to learn something in a fun way.
It is for all of those same reasons and more that I suggest and
encourage business book clubs. Maybe you would like to start one
within your organization or maybe you would prefer to build one
among colleagues from outside of work. Either way this article
will outline the keys to help you build a successful single
event or long-term club.
1. Market the idea. Once you are excited about this
concept, use your influence and knowledge of your target group
to market the concept to them. Even if your goal is to build a
long-term “club.” Don’t market it that way – that requires too
big of a commitment for many people. You are trying to encourage
people to try something new that will requires their time both
to read and participate. Rather than inviting them to make a
long-term commitment, encourage them to read one book, then once
they see the fun and the value, you will have them hooked.
2. Gain commitment. Once you have sold people on the idea
make sure you gain a commitment to participate. People are
really committing to two things: reading the book, and coming to
the “meeting.” After all, if no one comes to the meeting, (or
comes without having read much of the book) you won’t have much
of a conversation!
3. Start small. Identify the number of people you will
feel good about having involved. Experience shows that if you
have 4-5 highly committed people you will have a successful
experience. More is fine too, but you don’t have to have
everyone in the organization or every person at a certain level
participating for it to be successful.
4. Start easy. Not everyone is an avid reader. So pick a
book that will be an easy sell in terms of topic and length.
Picking the new 450-page book you are interested in might not be
the best place to start. Remember that the value of the book
club experience is more than just the book you read, but the
conversations and ideas they stimulate.
5. Make it fun. This is a part of your marketing effort.
Have food. Decorate the room, reminder invitations, etc. in a
theme suggested by the book. Make the event itself something
that will both encourage people to attend and create a buzz so
other people want to attend the next one.
6. Have a facilitator. Someone needs to be responsible
for facilitating the conversation. Beyond the normal facilitator
roles of keeping others participating that person needs to have
a few questions prepared that are designed to stimulate
7. Facilitate lightly. The facilitator should facilitate
but not lead. Remember that you are after input, participation
and having people involved in the conversation. Don’t let it
become a lecture.
8. Keep the group involved. Beyond the group’s
involvement in the conversation itself, get everyone’s input
into future meeting times, setups, facilitators, and perhaps
most of all, books. When people feel involved, they will be more
invested in the success of the next event, and beyond.
I have helped organizations think through how to start these
groups and have facilitated these discussions.
While we have
talked about the benefits that can be gained by individuals who
participate in these groups, the organizational benefits can be
huge as well. For the investment in a book for each person,
organizations can create powerful conversation, deep
professional development and better relationships.