The Better Meetings Book List

April 22, 2015 at 1:46 PM by Elise Keith in leadership & facilitation, book review

The bookshelves in the Lucid Meetings main office are jam-packed with business books, technical references, Esther Gokhale’s fabulous 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back (posture, people!), and TONS and tons of books about meetings.

Many of which we’ve actually read, some that we aspire to read more deeply, all of which we’ve skimmed, and a handful that we keep dog-eared on the desk.

Should you wish to grace your workplace with some fabulous meeting-related reading, take a look at our list of top reads below. And if you’re in a book-buying mood, you’ll find handy links to all the recommendations here: The Better Meetings Book List on Amazon

A picture of some of our meeting books on the conference table. For fun.
Look at all those meeting books on the conference table!

Getting Religion

Does this sound like something you or your colleagues might say?

“Meetings are terrible! They’re a plague on modern society, the bane of the corporate world, draining our essences like a skeksi drains a gelfling. Whatever can we do?”

A gelflng from the Dark Crystal has it's essence drained
No! Not another soul-sucking meeting!
Source: http://macmcentire.com/2014/03/04/the-dark-crystal-scene-by-scene-part-22/

These books examine what might be going awry in your every day meetings, and provide guidance for whipping those meetings into shape. If you're just starting to think about improving your meetings, read one of these. Read them all and you’ll see the same themes: prepare, engage, document, distribute!

  • Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli
    This is essentially a manifesto. Short and deliberately provocative, read and share this one when you need to make the case for running better meetings in your organization.
  • Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni
    This popular leadership tale makes the problem with most company’s meetings relate-able and clear.
  • Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done by Dick and Emily Axelrod
    One of the newest books on this list, this one provides a clear framework for inspiring better meetings in an organization.
  • How to Make Meetings Work! by Michael Doyle
    Many meeting experts practicing today were first inspired by this book. While some of the language reflects a different era (sensitive feminists be warned), this book provided a foundational language about how to run meetings that others have built on ever since.
  • Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings by Tom LaForce
    Will changing the meetings in your organization be an uphill battle? Let this book inspire you to fight the good fight, and be a meeting hero for your team and company.

Learn to run those meetings online

Most advice about meetings assumes you’re all sitting in the same room, which is increasingly unlikely. Part tech help, part facilitator’s guide, these books help translate the best practices explained in the books above to an online world.

  • Meet Like You Mean It: A Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings by Wayne Turmel
    The first of two books that cover how to run effective meetings online. Very useful if you want to get beyond the technology and run meetings that actually achieve something in a virtual setting.
    See John’s full review here.
  • Click: The Virtual Meetings Book by Michael Wilkinson and Richard Smith
    Written in the same clear, scannable way as their other books on facilitation, this guide to selecting online meeting software and running complex meetings online is full of solid advice.

Learn to make those meetings feel like play

  • Game storming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown and James Macanufo
    The “Games” here are really advanced meeting techniques and tools you can use to get a group engaged and working towards a shared goal. While I won’t be playing “SWOT Analysis” with my toddler any time soon, it’s great to understand how to use this and other meeting techniques in a business setting.
    The authors also maintain a Gamestorming wiki where you can search for new games.
  • Big Book of Virtual Teambuilding Games: Quick, Effective Activities to Build Communication, Trust and Collaboration from Anywhere! by Mary Scannell, Michael Abrams and Mike Mulvihill
    Games online! Online gaming! Again, these aren’t compelling games for the teenagers, but definitely handy for building some connection between people who have to work together but may never have met in person.
    Some are a bit silly for our team, your mileage may vary.

Get agile and manage those projects!

Once your basic meeting foundation is in place, it’s time to get specialized. For many people leading projects or product development today, that means learning how to run agile meetings. These books are for you.

  • Collaboration Explained: Facilitation Skills for Software Project Leaders by Jean Tabaka
    This classic outlines the core meeting techniques that have been adapted and used by agile teams around the world. If you want to really understand the thinking behind the traditional agile team meetings, this is the book for you.
  • Liftoff: Launching Agile Teams & Projects by Diana Larsen and Ainsley Nies
    Start as you mean to end. Diana does a fabulous job describing how to align and motivate a team right at the start of a project by running a masterful “liftoff” meeting.
  • Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby, Diana Larsen and Ken Schwaber
    How can a group learn anything from their experiences if they never stop to reflect and share that learning? Retrospectives are key to the success of all modern learning organizations, and this book explains how to do them right.

Get official with the board

Board and committee meetings run by a formal set of rules. If you want to be proficient and successful in these meetings, study up!

  • Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th edition by Henry M. III Robert
    If you run or participate in committee and board meetings, you should own a copy of Robert’s Rules. Designed originally to reconcile competing parliamentary rule sets, RRONR lays out how to behave and a process for reaching agreements. The rules are now practiced like an art form in many committees.
  • The Guerrilla Guide to Robert’s Rules by Nancy Sylvester
    If you know the rules of the game, you’ll know how to maneuver the pieces to your advantage. This book takes the strategic practice of Robert’s Rules in competitive committees head on. If you’re in a group that plays the game, read this to learn how to win.
  • Breaking Robert’s Rules: The New Way to Run Your Meeting, Build Consensus, and Get Results by Lawrence E. Susskind and Jeffrey L. Cruikshank
    Some people really don’t like the formalism of the parliamentary procedure. This book provides an opposing perspective and an approach for anyone chafing under their group’s use of Robert’s Rules.
  • Running Board Meetings: How to Get the Most from Them by Patrick Dunne
    Is it wrong that I really enjoyed this one? If you’re going to run board meetings, you’ll probably enjoy this approachable, pragmatic guide too.

Learn to run Meetings (with a capital M!)

The vast majority of meetings last an hour or less and involve a handful of people working to move the day-to-day business along.

Then there are Meetings. Strategic planning sessions. Workshops. Issue resolution. Those meetings where the stakes are high, the topics controversial, and the personalities challenging.

When you’re faced with a Meeting like this, you need a plan and you need the skills to run that plan. You need to facilitate.

For me, this is where it gets exciting. When you’re ready to finally stop winging it and take control of your meeting results, learn how to facilitate with these resources.

  • The Secrets of Facilitation: The SMART Guide to Getting Results with Groups by Michael Wilkinson
    Michael’s Effective Facilitator course was my first deep-dive into facilitation, which teaches the techniques in this book. I still reference it frequently when I have an important session to plan.
  • Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making (Jossey-Bass Business & Management Series) by Sam Kaner
    I found the title to this book scary, but shouldn’t have. It’s for facilitators by facilitators, and their fundamental mission is to make things easy!
    This is a surprisingly digestible and useful book full of simple diagrams. A great reference for those core facilitation skills.
  • Facilitating with Ease! Core Skills for Facilitators, Team Leaders and Members, Managers, Consultants, and Trainers by Ingrid Bens
    Here’s another great resource for those critical business discussions. The sample agendas and dialogues towards the back of the book are especially useful.
  • Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
    Hugely influential and popular, this book addresses ways to approach those difficult moments we all have when working with others.
  • Mission Critical Meetings: 81 Practical Facilitation Techniques by Ava S. Butler
    Sometimes you just want a big list to reference (especially when you build meeting software). How handy is this?

What did I miss?

For those of you who swim in the better meeting seas, which books have you found most useful? Add your recommendations in the comments below!

And just again in case you missed the link earlier, you can find all these books on Amazon here.



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