Read This: Meeting-Planning Lessons From Book Clubs

A look at four elements of successful book clubs that could also make for successful meetings.

Almost every time I go to my parents’ house, I ask my mom what book she’s currently reading for her book club. Her club doesn’t have a theme, so depending on who did the choosing that month, the book could be anything from a historical biography to a murder mystery.

After everyone’s read that month’s selection, my mom and some other women who live in the neighborhood gather at someone’s house on a weekday morning and talk about it. There’s discussion, breakfast treats, a fair amount of gossip—and, from what I’ve heard, the occasional mimosa.

Although you might not think book clubs could serve as inspiration for association meetings and events, consider these elements of successful book clubs that I think could also lead to more successful meetings:

Book clubs encourage everyone’s perspective. It’s not news that meeting attendees don’t want to learn only from the experts on the stage but also from one another. Book clubs are a great example of this. Participants come to each gathering with their own takeaways to share with other club members. While there may be a discussion leader, everyone goes in knowing that they’re expected to share what they learned. As you’re planning your meeting, look to incorporate sessions where attendees can learn from one another. For example, the Truckload Carriers Association held “Trucking in the Round” discussions at its convention last month. Attendees discussed timely and relevant issues—like getting more women involved in the industry—with their colleagues.

Book clubs increase diversity. In my mom’s club, members have free reign as to which books they can select for the group to read. This means that members read things they probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and they are exposed to new authors and perspectives. Attendees likely come to your meetings to be exposed to new ideas and thought leaders, so keep that in mind as you’re choosing keynoters and session speakers. Heck, you may even want to give some thought to inviting a speaker whose position on an issue is the opposite of your attendees’ stance.

Book clubs foster community and relationships. My mom’s book club has been around for a few years, and the group of women has stayed mostly the same. This has allowed them to build relationships that go beyond books. That’s not to say that these relationships wouldn’t have happened without a book club, but having a dedicated time each month to get together definitely helps. As a meeting planner, consider how you can help your attendees foster their relationships after a meeting ends. One way to do it could be to organize attendees in small local groups (10-15) to meet up post-conference.

Book clubs are just fun. Book clubs are a perfect excuse for people to schedule some time in their lives when they can get away from the stress of work and family and just focus on books and friends. What could you offer at your meeting that would give your attendees that same chance to unwind? Maybe it’s a creative team-building activity or a wellness initiative.

What other elements of a book club have takeaways for meeting planning? Share your ideas in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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