Tips for Hosting an Engaging Virtual Book Club
Pandemic staple Zoom isn’t going anywhere. Here’s how to use video chat platforms for broadening your post-pandemic social connections in a virtual book club.
Over the past year, we’ve used online video platforms to connect with our family, friends, and coworkers. As vaccinations increase, the spread of COVID-19 decreases and we’re able to see each other safely in-person more frequently, it appears apps that use video chat, like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime, will continue to be an integral part of our social life. And one fun way to use video chat apps is by hosting a virtual book club! In this blog focused on Social Wellbeing, we’ll uncover some of the advantages of hosting your book club virtually, how to start one, and some considerations for hosting it online.
One of the most powerful aspects of hosting a virtual book club is that you are no longer bound by the limits of geography. By hosting your book club online, you can invite your friends who may not live close – but remember to keep time zones in mind! For example, if you plan to meet at 6 PM Eastern Standard Time, then you’ll have to be mindful that friends in other time zones may not even be off work yet. Don’t let this deter you though. Through communication and advance planning, your book club can include all your friends around the country or even the world. Think big – bringing in those from your network who are diverse in location, culture and backgrounds will lead to an enlightening, robust and engaging conversation, no matter the subject matter at hand.
Structure, But Not Too Much
Once you’ve gathered your members, you’ll likely want to consider a theme for your book club. The possibilities are endless. If most of your group is interested in true crime or mysteries, you can host a book club that focuses exclusively on mysteries. Give your club an on-theme name and weave this theme throughout the many components of your meetings, from the invitations to the suggested snacks and beyond.
It’s possible that everyone in your group enjoys different genres so you may want to cover all genres, and that’s great too. By not focusing on a specific genre, you may be encouraged to read something you might not read ordinarily, and you might discover a new favorite genre.
In addition to a theme or genre, there are some other factors you might take into consideration:
- Will you meet at the same time every month?
- How long should books be and are there any limits on what books can be chosen?
- How many members can join, and can members join at any time?
- How are the books chosen?
- Does every person get to pick one or will the group vote on the next book?
- Who leads the discussion, and should everyone come with their own discussion questions?
It may be helpful to have a planning meeting before your first book to go over some general guidelines about these topics.
Having a virtual book club comes with a few more considerations. Have you ever been on a Zoom call when everyone starts talking at once? It can be a bit chaotic and overwhelming. Depending on how many members are in your book club, it may be helpful to mute everyone but the speaker or use the “raise your hand” feature to indicate that you want a turn to talk. I’ve also been in meetings that use the emoji reacts to indicate agreement without speaking, thus making it easier for everyone to hear the speaker. Since features, like “raise your hand,” depend on having a host for the meeting, it will be important to decide who the host will be and if it will be the same host every meeting. Another factor is pricing. Many video meeting platforms have a monthly fee, so you’ll need to decide if it’s worth paying for with your group. For example, Zoom has a free option, but the meetings have a time limit of 40 minutes.
The Final Details
Ultimately, I would argue the most important part of a book club—virtual or in-person—is to have fun! For many people I know, their book club is often less about the book and more about the opportunity to meet with their friends regularly. So don’t worry if you don’t finish a book! Unless, of course, your group decides everyone must finish the book.
If you don’t finish the book because you don’t care for it, that can also be part of your discussion. You can explain what it was you didn’t care for or why you had a hard time getting in the book. Even if everyone else loves the book, a book club is a place for discussion and a good discussion can include different points of view. Bring an open mind to your discussion and have fun talking about the books with your friends.
About the Author
Rachel Boggs lives in sunny Orlando after spending most of her life in rainy Seattle. She graduated from Rollins College in 2018 with a degree in Communication Studies and Global Health. When she’s not writing about health topics, you can find her thrifting for vintage shirts or having fun at a theme park.
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