Any basic tips for leading a discussion group?

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Tips tips tips

These are the norms for the simple things the participants can count on and expect- and these will vary from one book group to another, but I thought you might like to see mine. They may seem obvious, but I fumbled my way through early book clubs, not having thought of some of these. There will be more substantive tips in future blogs about leading the group, but don’t underestimate the value of tending to these little things.

They need to know routine procedures related to bringing refreshments, parking at the site, location of bathrooms, etc.

You need a simple name which will pop right out at readers on the subject line of your contacts. Don’t spend a lot of time on this. Just suggest one and ask if that would be a good way for them to recognize a memo that comes in. And, voila, you have it. My groups are called “WOKE. Just bcre8iv (a friend’s clever license plate). “WOKE memo” on a subject line is a lot easier than “Your political book group memo”.

Establish procedures in the event of cancellation (In our case, there is no attempt to reschedule, because of the otherwise busy schedules of all involved). I ask participants planning to attend to double-check their e-mail or texts before heading out for the meeting, especially in the winter, in case a cancellation notice is posted. I get that posted by 2 hours before the meeting. It is rare that we cancel, but various book group meetings have coincided with dangerous icy conditions or a site having no heat.  

Encourage participants to attend even if they have not finished the book, so long as they have provided themselves with a solid background on the book’s theme

Promise that the focus will be on the big picture, not the myriad details- readers are encouraged to skim parts that are bogging them down

Participants can request the discussion questions in advance, as I generally have prepared them the month before the meeting