Seems like hosting would be the easy part right? The first time I hosted a meeting I thought "no sweat, I'll just pop a lasagna in the oven, grab a bottle of red wine, and we'll talk about the book for hours!"
Boy was I wrong!
I know you might be thinking "what is up with all these rules?" I'm not just a control freak (although I fully admit to being one most of the time!) - I just truly have experienced an unstructured book club meeting and even though intentions were good it ended up being a complete disaster!
Below are a few of the things I've come to find important when it's my turn to hold the meeting.
Following a little bit of a schedule will make the meeting flow smoothly and stay on track. Our meetings are structured as follows:
6:00pm - 6:15pm Everyone arrives, Appetizers are waiting.
6:15pm - 7:00pm We sit down to dinner. Dinner conversation is catch up/gossip time. We NEVER begin the book discussion at the table.
7:00 - 8:00 We move into the room designated for book talk. This is usually a living or sitting room with comfortable seating. Desert is served during the conversation but without interrupting the discussion.
The meeting usually ends around 8pm unless we've had a 5-crown discussion, and then it may run over!
First, the "other" talk - not about books.
During the appetizers and dinner give everyone the chance to catch up and talk about anything at all. Often someone will bring up the book but give a little giggle and say "oh I'm not supposed to talk about the book yet." The reason I bring this up is because it's important that all the members know what type of conversation can be going on at certain times of the evening.
Seems silly, I know, but it ensures the fact that the book discussion will really be a book discussion. If everybody has had a chance to get their pleasantries out before hand there isn't anything to sidetrack you during the book talk.
Second, the "book" talk.
You, as the host, should keep the conversation moving. In our meetings we ALWAYS start off with the question "who liked the book, who didn't and why?" We rate the book based on our crown rating scale. The person who chose the book always gets to start.
After that if you're struggling for conversation begin with the general discussion questions. Hopefully they will spin off into interesting, debatable topics.
Also if you've asked each member to prepare a favorite quote or passage you can share these at any time to create more conversation.
Some book conversations are going to be off and running before you have a chance to get comfortable. Others will stagger along trying to get going, while still others will feel like pulling teeth. (You can avoid this last type by choosing the right book). Whatever happens just be sure that as the host you are prepared to help the meeting along - or mediate if passions get high!
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