Book Clubs have been popular for decades; now we have virtual, online versions of book club even when we can’t meet face to face. But why not combine your love of books and reading with a drink and favorite foods?
While you can’t literally share food with the other club members online, it can still be a rich and fun experience. Sounds like something you can see yourself doing? Learn how to create and maintain a fun online book, bites & beverage club.
7 steps for planning and launching an online book club
We usually read on our own, but most of us enjoy sharing thoughts, ideas, and feelings about books with like-minded people. Launching a book club will feed your healthy book addiction and provide a relaxed, welcoming social forum. Here are some ideas on where to start.
Decide what format you want to use
Will you all members read the same or a different book? Are you especially interested in one genre? How much time will be spent talking about books and how much on social chat over drinks and food, or will they happen at the same time? How often will you meet?
Think of the options and pick the most suitable format for you and other founder members.
Select the technology you will use
There are several online forums that allow you to see and hear each other, including Google Hangouts, Zoom, and FaceTime. Just keep in mind there may be costs, so do your research first.
At the same time, look into online security. Since you’ll be dealing with people’s private information like full name, email address, and other sensitive details–it’s important to protect this data.
A good starting point to protect yourself, and those you connect with, is by installing a reputable VPN which encrypts incoming and outgoing data. Do some comparative shopping – for example, Nord VPN vs Surfshark – to find the best one for your needs.
Determine group size and membership
Many book club administrators believe smaller is better. You don’t want a group so large it becomes unwieldy or impractical, and each member should have an opportunity to speak if they want to.
Decide who you will invite and if you want to share admin rights with someone else.
Meet with other potential members
Don’t make the launch meeting too formal.
Take the opportunity to get to know each other and talk about your ideas for the club and their expectations. All members should feel free to drink and eat so it feels like a shared, relaxed social event.
Follow up with an email or text message confirming the time and date of the next meeting and any other details, such as the selected book, theme, etc.
You could use a WhatsApp group for these communications or even dedicated book club organizing websites like Bookclubs.
Don’t forget to find a catchy, descriptive name for your club!
Establish ground rules
You want lively discussion at your meetings, but groups can get out of hand unless you agree on some basic guidelines.
For example, “Don’t talk over each other,” and a hand signal such as a thumbs up means, “I’d like to say something.”
Make sure the rules are written down and kept somewhere accessible so that everyone can find them easily.
Set the scene
Even if you are meeting online, you should aim to create a warm and inviting environment. The most popular option is to host from your home.
However, if you have a portable device and internet connection, you could do so from other venues such as coffee shops or, in good weather, a park or garden. The venue could change regularly, too, to keep things fresh.
Think about the décor, lighting, food and drink, and sounds.
You could match them to the book or theme for the month, if possible.
For instance, flowers, tea, and cake might be perfect for an English, Victorian romance novel. Matching the food and drink to the book is a great deal of fun but should be voluntary.
Plan the next meeting
If your group decided you would all read the same book, choose the one you will read next.
Alternatively, select a genre, and pick a book of your choice. If you are going to match food and drink to the book, now is the time to do so.
Otherwise, you can all suit your own tastes. Finally, you need to decide the date and time for your next meeting.
Enjoyable ideas for your Book Club to make it interactive
The idea of book clubs is, of course, to talk about books.
However, they don’t have to be academic exercises. Members should make an effort to have read the book and to formulate comments and/or questions.
But it’s okay to be casual or go off point briefly. Your get-togethers also don’t have to just consist of discussions.
- Organize a quiz: Quizzes are a lot of fun and can be wonderful icebreakers. You could draw up your own or get them from publishers’ sites such as the Penguin site.
- Watch a movie/TV series based on a book: You can watch it together using video conferencing or watch it individually and meet to compare the film/series with the book.
- Select books according to theme or country: You can explore the various issues that go with them… and the cuisines.
- Read classics as well as new releases: Even if you read them at school, you may respond to them differently as an adult, and that can lead to great discussions.
These are just a few ideas that you could try. No doubt your group will think of others that suit them best!
Plan your online Book Club before you invite people to join it and hold your first session to launch it.
There are all sorts of things you can do as a group to make it interactive, vibrant, and fresh. The inclusion of drinks and food adds a further layer of sharing and discovery.
Start planning your online Book, Bites, and Beverages Club today!