Looking to bring the strategies from The Unspoken Rules to life? Sharpen your professional skills and encourage reflection by hosting a book club at your organization, school, or on your own with peers!
Below, I’ve compiled my top tips for leading a successful book club discussion. You’ll find ideas on how to set up your meetings, how to break the ice, how to create a welcoming environment, and more.
To purchase copies of The Unspoken Rules in bulk for your book club, team, organization, or class, please visit The Unspoken Rules book page.
To download your free copy of the official The Unspoken Rules Book Club Discussion Guide, please click here.
To download this blog post as a PDF, please click here.
Planning your group
A few suggested strategies for leaders who are using The Unspoken Rules Book Club Discussion Guide. Remember: there isn't one "right" way to use this guide!
If you can, try assembling a group of somewhere between 3-6 people. You are welcome to complete these exercises on your own as well, of course!
If you have the time, meet with your group once per week over 6 weeks. Only have time to meet once? That's fine—just pick your favorite questions!
If you are leading a group of strangers, start with an icebreaker (or two). Then pick your questions, give everyone time to think, and then have everyone take turns responding.
If possible, every participant should have their own copy of the book, a copy of the official guide (or the questions you’d like to focus on), and a way to take notes.
Talking points to get started
Whether you're planning to lead these discussions with your team, mentees, students, or friends, try these 4 steps for facilitating successful conversations. Feel free to modify as much as you’d like!
Step 1: Introduce everyone
Make sure all participants have a chance to meet and learn something new about others in the group. The more comfortable people feel, the more likely they are to engage.
When in doubt, try saying this: “I’m not sure if everyone knows each other, so let’s all introduce ourselves. Please share your name, your [role and department], [how many years you’ve been at the firm], and what led you to join this book club. I’m especially curious about the last detail because it will help me better serve you all. I’ll go first and then will ‘popcorn’ to someone else. Then, that person will share and then pick the next person to speak. Sound good?”
Step 2: Establish norms
Make sure all participants understand the ground rules and have an opportunity to share their own suggestions. The more ownership people feel, the more likely they are to take the opportunity seriously.
When in doubt, try saying this: “Thanks so much, everyone! I am so inspired by each of your stories. Now, before we dive in, I wanted us to discuss ground rules. I’ve got one of my own, but I also want to hear from all of you. My rule is that what’s shared here, stays here: I want this to be a safe space for everyone—and this can only happen if everyone can feel confident that whatever they share won’t be shared outside of this room. Does anyone else have any other norms they’d like to share?”
Step 3: Share questions
Make sure all participants understand the structure of the discussion and what to expect. The more people know what to expect, the more prepared they will be to contribute.
When in doubt, try saying this: “First, let’s have someone read the first question, which you should have all received over email. Then, let’s all take two minutes to gather our thoughts. Feel free to write them down if it’s easier for you to remember. Then, let’s take turns sharing our answers. Would anyone like to read the first question?”
Step 4: Invite answers
It’s time to start your discussion! Ask who’d like to share their answer first, or if participants are hesitant to share, offer your own. The more you show your willingness to listen, the more likely people are to speak up.
Example: “OK, that’s two minutes! Would anyone like to kick things off by sharing their response?”
If discussion members are hesitant to contribute
- It may be because people don’t know what to say…
…so try being the first to answer the question!
- It may be because people are worried about being judged…
…so try sharing more examples of how you’ve stumbled!
- It may be because people aren’t yet comfortable around each other…
…so try another icebreaker.
Need help with icebreakers? Try these!
1. “Share one thing that happened this week at work or school that made you go ‘OMG!’ You can interpret ‘OMG’ in whatever way you’d like!”
2. “What is a topic outside of work or school that you know unusually well? What got you interested in this subject?”
3. “If you could live in any fictional world from a book, comic, movie, TV series, or other fictional media, what fictional world would you choose and why?”
One last quick tip
Be the most lively and talkative version of yourself! This won’t be easy. After all, you might be tired or distracted. Or, like me, you might be shy or introverted. Whatever the situation, know that you are in a position of authority as a discussion leader, so participants will be deriving energy from you. The more excited you are, the more likely people will be excited, too!
Most importantly? Have fun!
I hope you found these tips helpful. This blog post is a supplemental sheet to The Unspoken Rules Book Club Discussion Guide. Click here to download the official guide. Or, if you’d like to download this blog post as a PDF for easy reference, visit this link.