Tips for online book discussions

Many book clubs have decided to host meetings online in this time of social distancing. Here at CMPLD, our staff has had the opportunity to lead several online book discussions via Zoom and it has worked very well! We highly recommend trying it, if you haven’t already. It’s a great way to keep those interpersonal connections going. If you do try a Zoom book club, here are some things we’ve learned:

  • Be careful about posting meeting info in a public space such as Facebook. Make sure you email it only to people you trust – otherwise you might find yourself with some unwelcome Zoom-bombers!
  • There’s a “Reactions” button on the bottom of the screen in Zoom. It allows you to post a clapping or a thumbs-up emoji. This is a great way to answer questions or respond to other people’s comments. My group used it for the unavoidable “did you like the book?” question.
  • Zoom also has a “hand raise” feature, which might be handy for larger groups. To access it, click on the “Participants” button at the bottom of the screen. You will see a bunch of icons, with the “raise hand” icon on the left. You will need to click it off manually, though, or the host can lower the hand for you.
  • Try not to talk over each other. Sometimes visual cues are hard to see online and multiple people speak at once. (Hence the hand raise feature.) If you’re the host, try to watch participants’ faces carefully. Note when someone is trying to say something and call on them.
  • If you want to share images related to your book (often useful for historical fiction or non-fiction books), you can just click on the “Share Screen” icon at the bottom of your screen.

While we’ve only worked with Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts are also options for online meetings. One advantage to those platforms is that they are free and offer more than a 40 minute meeting window (the free Zoom account limits you to 40 minutes). Facetime is a possibility too, although everyone in the group would have to have an Apple device or computer.

If you want an asynchronous meeting, another way to do book club online is by setting up a private group in Facebook or Goodreads. Then you can start threads with discussion prompts, and members can type out their answers whenever it’s convenient. I haven’t tried this yet, but I’d love to hear from anyone who has.

Have any tips you’d like to share? Please email them to meet at alarson@cooklib.org and I can pass them along via social media!

 

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