"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
I’ve learned a lot as a reading group organizer. I started Think and Grow Rich Vancouver last year, and I’ve started Science of Getting Rich Vancouver this year. It’s not your typical reading group where each person is responsible for reading before-hand. We read the chapters in-person, at the meeting.
Why start a LIVE reading group?
Reading live removes all barrier to entry. Anybody can join, with no preparation. Come, listen, and discuss. That’s a huge plus.
Typically, I’ve found that the most insightful thoughts come right away while reading, and can be forgotten, or difficult to explain later. The best time to explain how a concept from the book is impactful, in your experience, is while reading it together. It also helps retain the information much better. The group becomes a master mind of sorts, with a combination of many backgrounds and experiences, easily able to put concepts into perspective with real examples. The group also becomes able to distill the meaning of the concepts, with different perspectives reframing what they believe it to mean. We are learning and teaching at the same time.
“Something once taught it something twice learned” — Joseph Joubert
Running the group itself is a lesson in organization, scheduling, and leadership. You gain as much as the attendees, if not more, even when you try hard to give back.
One thing that I’ve learned, that my attendees helped me reinforce, is being conscience of when to stop when there are impactful statements is the most valuable aspect. I’ve received much praise for this style of reading group, and I’m grateful people find it of value.
“You’ve started something brilliant here.”
“It’s unlike any other meetup I’ve been to before.”
Before creating the group
You’re going to want to choose a book. Look for a book that you want to read, is highly praised, ideally has some name value, and has chapters you can finish reading yourself within about 30 minutes. That will give you enough material for a 1–2 reading & discussion. If the book has lengthy chapters, break it up into multiple meetings.
You’re going to want to order multiple copies of the book. In my case I have 6 copies of each book. I usually have 6–8 attendees. Any more is too much, and you should consider limiting attendees. About half of the attendees bring their own books. However, watch out for multiple editions of the book. If anybody has a different edition, it can be confusing and difficult to keep pace. Before you start you will want to check the words in the first chapter match the same as any new attendees’ book. Otherwise give them a copy of your edition.
Creating the group
You’re going to need to pick a venue. Venue is a difficult thing. There’s a few ways you can approach it:
- Hold the meeting at your home. Easiest.
- Hold the meeting in a public place. Waves, Tim Hortons, or YMCA with or without asking for permission. Ask others if they wouldn’t mind buying something small.
- Hold the meeting at a reserved room. Waves has a room you can reserve, and I believe the library does as well.
- Hold the meeting outside if there’s nice weather.
Our tool of choice for organizing the group is Meetup.com. Note: fees increase with more membership. It can help to remove members who have never attended to the meetings.
Afterwards you’ll want to create the first meeting. Click here for an example.
When is the best day? On a weekday, I’ve found that in particular Wednesday worked best for the majority of people. Then Tuesday. Then Monday. On a weekend, any time.
When is the best time? On a weekday, I’ve found that most people are good to start 6:30PM–7:30PM, but not later, because they are tired. We found 7:00PM works best for us. On a weekend, any time.
I’ve found that weekend scheduling is hit or miss, so I avoid it.
Preparing for the meeting
You’re going to want to bring:
- Water. You may get dehydrated reading for too long.
- Extra copies of the book.
- Extra paper + pen, just incase.
I go into the meeting with this attitude:
- I will help somebody today, whether either of us know it yet.
- I will learn something from somebody today.
- I will promote surfacing thoughts, that could reshape our subconscious mind to be more aligned with our goals.
Starting the meeting
- Arrive early, and find a place to sit.
- Wait for others to arrive, and let people catch up.
- Get to business as soon as most people are silent. Time is valuable, and some people are running low on energy at night. If anybody comes late, keep reading and catch them up the next time there’s a break.
- You’re going to want to have a quick overview of the agenda, and how the meeting works.
- Welcome anybody who hasn’t been to the meeting before. Ask if they have read the book, if they haven’t tell them about the book.
- Tell them that you will be reading and stopping to reflect on key points.
- Tell everybody “if anyone wants to read, you are welcome, and please watch for signals if anybody wants to stop”.
While you are reading, try to pay attention to your pace. Try not to speak too fast or too slow. You can check with the attendees, “am I reading too fast?” If you feel like your voice may be too pitchy, a deeper voice has shown to be more soothing, and exudes more confidence. If you make a mistake, correct it and move along. If you’re making a lot of mistakes, try asking somebody else to read.
Promote reflection and discussion
Usually the author will make some bold statements. Either you can tell from that, or the reactions of the attendees, that now is a good time to stop and reflect. Take a moment, pause, and wait for somebody to speak. If nobody speaks, REQ. I may either 1) REFRAME what was said, 2) give an EXAMPLE from my life, or 3) I may ask a QUESTION. I try not to make it a yes or no question. “Does anybody have an experience like that?” or “How do you feel about that?” The point is to promote discussion. Discussion sparks thought. Thought can be transformative.
“Our thoughts control our feelings. and our feelings control our actions.” — Napoleon Hill
That may get the attendees comfortable enough to express their opinions. However, be aware not to stop too frequently, because generally the conversations are quite lengthy and we want to finish the chapter. Finishing the chapter and not going over time are important too.
During the discussion you may want to tone down your thoughts. Your job was to get people there. They can usually fill the pool enough. If you do express yourself, try not to be too sharp in your opinions. I don’t believe it matters who is the organizer, but some people may view it as overbearing — as an organizer you risk more by not being gentle to newcomers. In general, it’s a good communication skill to have. Bridging communication gaps by starting with your thought and backing it up with an example, and use contrasting when misunderstood. The book, Crucial Conversations, has been a tremendous help with that.
Don’t assume you know the answer or need to know the answer, just get people talking. Listen actively, and don’t just thoughtlessly agree. If you don’t understand, tell them, or ask them to clarify.
How to distribute the work
Some people love to read. Some people hate to read, or are running low on energy. People way want to read because they are auditorial learners, and/or like practice. People may not want to read because they get caught up reading and don’t process the information. Ideally, you’d like to find a couple people to read, rather than me having to speak for 1–2 hours. That tends to become easier with recurring attendees. One way to do that is after you’ve finished a chapter, say “would anybody else mind reading **one** chapter?”
One problem with that, is the person reading may not be conscience of when to stop either. If nobody else has the confidence to speak up and ask to stop, you want to be aware of when is the right place to stop and signal them yourself. Once the discussion has gone silent, ask them to continue.
Dealing with distractions
Generally, I promote remaining calm during distractions and not letting them get to us. In our case a few came up:
- Venue. There has been loud music playing at times, and generally we were able to ignore it. If there’s nothing you can do, speak louder.
- Rude attendees. There’s been a couple times when somebody new starts talking during reading, or makes inappropriate comments. I will ignore it, and assertively tell everybody I’m continuing. In rare cases I will have to tell the person to “please join us in the reading”.
I’ve learned that preparation, assertiveness, and frequently opening the floor to ideas is appreciated. I’ve learned that reading in-person with no preparation required is uncommon and appreciated. I’m always grateful people come out and add to the knowledge pool. Every meeting is special, and the exact same master mind will never be repeated.
Always keep conscious of when people want to stop and talk. Try not to keep it too lengthy. Be aware of your reading pace. Try not to stop too often, or blast through the entire chapter. You want thoughtful discussions and an entire grasp of the concept in one meeting.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
All the best in your journey!