Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 6, 2010 9:41 PM

How To Start Your Very Own Business Book Club

Read anything good lately? If you have, why not share it while networking at the same time?

On April 15th, 2004, I started something called the Montreal Business Book Review. People were constantly asking me what I was reading, what they should be reading or what I thought about a particular book. I did some investigating and realized that there were not many business book clubs anywhere in the world, and it seemed like a great place to share ideas, brainstorm, discuss current events and have a light evening of heavy discussion.

It worked!

While I no longer run the business book club, it was an amazing learning experience. It was also a fairly simple and easy thing to pull together. Every so often, I get an email asking me for tips on how to set-up a business book club. In fact, I got one today from Danielle, so here is how I pulled mine together (and you can feel free to do the same).

How a business book club can work.

I wanted to keep it simple, so this is how it worked:

  • It was all done via email (if you want to get fancy, you can use a platform like MeetUp, a Facebook page or even a simple Blog platform).
  • Interested individuals emailed me their full name, title, company, email address and phone number.
  • There was no charge to take part in business book club.
  • We discussed one book every month. The next book would be announced at the event.
  • The discussions took place in person and they lasted about an hour, but people always hung around after to jam on ideas.
  • The discussions were held at Twist Image in our boardroom.
  • There were usually anywhere from four to fifteen people at a session.
  • Because it was one book per month, there were no strings attached, so people could come to the session/book discussion that interested them without missing anything from the previous sessions.
  • All book selections were made by me with tons of help and suggestions by the members, friends, Blogs, etc...

Here were the rules of the business book club (that I sent to people who wanted to attend)... 

  1. The first rule of The Montreal Business Book Club is that there is no Montreal Business Book Club - OK, that's from Fight Club but I am always dying to use that line. It's out of my system now.
  2. Please RSVP to me by email if you are going to be coming.
  3. Please let me know if you RSVP'd, but then can't make it.
  4. Please read the book selection.
  5. Show up on time.
  6. Have an open mind, but bring many questions.
  7. Bring as many snacks and drinks as you like - we all share.
  8. You know what they say about opinions.
  9. Play nice.
  10. No pitching your business. This is a business book club, please respect that.

What I learned about doing it...

  • All communication through Email was simple and worked. There was no need for a "page" anywhere.
  • I made sure that people looking for work didn't fill the room. I know that may not sound like the nicest thing to say, but there is a chasm between those looking for professional development and those looking for a job.
  • I always provided simple snacks (chips, fruits, drinks, etc...).
  • Having the monthly meetings forced me to stay on top of my own reading.
  • Meeting in person turned out to be an amazing way to network and grow my business... it also helped to build my reputation in the local business community.
  • The events were held right after work, so the people that came really wanted to be there (instead of being at home with their family). They cared.
  • You can easily do these in 30 minutes instead of 60 minutes - you have to get a feel for the group.
  • I would have a list of questions about the book (conversation starters), but I often defaulted to the group to initiate the conversation.
  • Choosing the book allowed me to choose something I was interested in (this kept me hunting for different and fresh titles).
  • People will always disappoint. They'll say that they are coming and not show up. Don't let that get you down.
  • People will come even though they didn't read the book. Don't let them overtake the conversation. I'd often shoot down people who would start a sentence with, "even though I didn't read the book, I think..."
  • Encourage networking. Discourage pitching. We once had a financial advisor come, not say a word, then as we were breaking for the night, he sprung into action whipping out his business cards like they were ninja stars.
  • Invite the author to attend by webinar, Skype or phone call. You would be surprised how often the author was flattered to take part (and how excited the group was to connect with the author).

Ultimately, my vision for The Montreal Business Book Review was to create an environment where business professionals could grow and learn from the latest business books coupled with the insights of their professional and intellectual peers. I was also hoping to foster literacy in the business community in hopes that one person would read a few books and pay it forward to their employees and colleagues.

Don't let it end.

My travel schedule and increasing demands from the agency made it hard to maintain a regular schedule, so I shut it down and turned the concept into an audio Podcast called, Foreword Thinking, where I would have conversations with business and motivational authors. In the end, I realized that the content was just as relevant for the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast, so I brought it all together under one roof. I miss the business book club, and it was an incredible experience with many layers of learning, friendship, business development and networking.

I have not heard of too many Marketing Business Book Clubs... why don't you start one?

By Mitch Joel