Hosting Virtual Book Clubs
Hosting Virtual Book Clubs
Virtual meetings have been around and utilized in business and organizations long before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world into our homes to work or connect online.
And it’s just in 2020 that the general population logged into the world of Zoom, Google Meet, and other videoconferencing platforms to try and “do life” in a whole new way—from exercise and yoga classes to cooking classes to…you guessed it…book clubs!
Although nothing can replace the in-person connection we feel attending a live BooknBrunch event in a physical venue, virtual events have allowed us to imagine and broaden the possibilities of what we can do. USA Today offers a guide on starting an online virtual book club here. It offers some conversation starter ideas and is overall an excellent resource if you’re interested in starting your own book club.
Choose your video conferencing platform: Currently, the most popular is Zoom and it’s the one most of your attendees may be most comfortable using. More than anything, the success of your event will rely on everyone focused on your program, not worrying about the technology in any way. BooknBrunch hosts can take advantage of using the Zoom login to host their events.
Success is all about access: Select a date to attract your audience! Factor in holidays, time zones (if opening up to beyond local) and any non-virtual materials or food that needs to arrive on time.
Choose an accessible book: In multiple formats from a variety of sources; online, in print, and audio. If you can suggest local, independent booksellers to support, even better. Select a book that will motivate people to interact—even a controversial book to add a “bit of spice” to the dialogue is suggested.
Focus on the experience: Encourage those who can’t or didn’t finish the book to still attend! The discussion may inspire them to read it later!
Keep it manageable and intimate: Live BooknBrunch events were successful with about 20 people and that makes for high-quality, inclusive conversations around a table. Book clubs are, by nature, more intimate than meetings or parties. To be a gracious host, bring that same vibe to your virtual event to allow every person to engage at the virtual table.
Elevate the Experience
The best part about BooknBrunch events is the creativity a host has to bring the story to life for the participants. In 2020, the book industry really “turned the page” on how authors are able to engage with their fans through virtual book tours, on social media, and through platforms that connect them directly with interested book clubs anywhere in the world.
Invite The author and watch as interest and ticket sales surge! Authors are flattered for recognition and exposure. Do your homework before reaching out to make an enticing pitch. Many authors post Book Club Reading Guides on their own websites that you can link with and include them in the event invitation.
The best way to thank the author for participating is to have thoughtful questions prepared for them. Take advantage of BooknBrunch social media accounts and the Event Messaging or Host Tools features to poll participants and invite selected guests to ask their questions on the call.
Bring the book and the event to life: The best part about books is traveling to other places, spaces and time; experiencing new worlds or similar ones from new voices. Historical novels, books set amongst different cultures, unique locations, or focusing on interesting, exciting, and experiential vocations are perfect muses for you to…
Set the scene: One of my favorite tips from USA Today’s guide is the option of using virtual backgrounds to enhance the experience and transport participants to faraway places. Since the BooknBrunch event planning platform has a feature to help you include digital materials, it’s easy to send your guests to Renaissance England or to the Moon! I am definitely using this idea for an event in April.
Dress up the conversation: Come up with ideas for attire to suit the story! Keep the ideas fun, easy and optional such as a glam accessory for a Hollywood or Riviera setting, or a cozy sweater for a self-discovery memoir.
Deliver the goods: Whether a unique memento or item to be included as part of the event experience, think carefully about how to highlight this element to full advantage for your guests and the participating event partner(s); from the PR to logistics of delivery and into embedding the item within the event program itself.
Cater to the story: Adding food and beverage to a virtual event will elevate the experience for everyone. Plan this part carefully to ensure this element is memorable for all the right reasons!
- If a meal or snack is involved, plan to eat together online either before or after the main book discussion begins.
- Be mindful of food allergies and dietary restrictions when offering outside food & beverages.
- Unless the food is part of an online live cooking class, send the recipe/shopping list in an email and/or have the food kit delivered ahead of time so participants have the dish ready to eat or ingredients pre-assembled. Keep constant contact with the supplier(s) for updates on guest count, delivery information and program timeline.
- An easier, less-fussy option could offer participants a voucher or gift card from a participating restaurant, cafe or food artisan that a guest can have delivered or pick up beforehand. It can be delivered digitally to participants once they have purchased a ticket.
- Go local! BooknBrunch is an ardent advocate for supporting your local small businesses as well as female and diverse entrepreneurs!They are often eager to work with you in planning events and offers a unique flavour and a more personal touch to your event.
- Include alcoholic or mocktail beverages or link to suggestions. Get creative with matching the drink to the era or locale. Wine for a story set in Napa; a Bellini set in 1930’s Venezia.
- The #grazingbox and #charcuteriebox food trend that was gaining popularity is now a full-blown phenomenon! Many creative restaurants, catering companies and cottage specialty businesses adapted to the #COVID19Lockdown and learned how to scale up to produce and deliver to multiple locations on a larger scale. What a delicious win for virtual book clubs!
- BooknBrunch hosts should consider reaching out to our current venues to see how we can best support them and if they can adapt to virtual menus. Let them know BooknBrunch is working on adapting the Venue portal to make this possible going forward.
The age of the virtual book club is here to stay. Even when we can get back to hosting live events (and we all look forward to that!), there could still be online elements included. Virtual events will be incorporated into the BooknBrunch permanent platform.
The ideas for making your event a virtual success are as creative and endless as the list of books to choose from. Embrace it and I can’t wait to attend yours next!
Here is to more reading, meeting and eating!
Tracey (aka “Your Book Concierge”)
P.S. Ever dreamed of hosting your own book club? Now is your chance! Learn more on How to be a BooknBrunch Host. Once approved, there is a wealth of resources—manuals, FAQ’s and guides to assist in planning, hosting and promoting your book club events. A #SLACK Host Support community is another resource you can join to get direct help and encouragement from fellow hosts.
A New Year calls for a reinvention! So, I’m reinventing my wedding and event planning business identity, known as “Your Las Vegas Wedding Concierge,” to become “Your Book Concierge” here in the BooknBrunch community.
I’m excited to see where this will take me in the future! Being a #Brookie and a Host embraces all my skills and passions that make MY life meaningful—creativity, curiosity and connection!
I love red wine, a glass of fizz, a perfectly frothy cappuccino served with savoury or sweet delights and sparkling conversation about books on a sunny patio or tucked into cozy chairs
A Book that Changed My Life: “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown
Favourite Comfort Foods: Rigatoni Bolognese and Matzoh Ball Soup
Favourite Song: “Besume Mucho” (Performed by Andrea Bocelli)
Favourite Film: Cinema Paradiso