Leigh Espy is a practicing IT project manager with over 15 years of experience, but she has also worked as a counselor to at-risk families and served in the Peace Corps. In addition, she coaches and writes about project management, leadership, and performance at ProjectBliss.net. From that background, Leigh has crafted a book that manages to both cover the basics and provide a detailed compendium of techniques and best practices.
The opening sections explain how to use the book and who can benefit from it, followed by the rhetorical question: Do I really need to hold a meeting? Leigh describes some of the most common types of meetings and when they are appropriate.
Part 1: The Basics is quite a bit more than the name might imply. This part covers actions to be taken before, during and after the meeting. Preparation includes everything from establishing the purpose and selecting participants to creating and sharing an agenda and supporting documents. The sections on “during” cover best practices, such as ways to manage conflict, take notes, drive decisions, and identify action items. “After” begins with the wrap-up, followed by preparing and distributing meeting notes and action items and soliciting feedback.
Part 2: Boosting Your Impact is essentially a reference book. The first few sections describe meeting types, with the objective, recommended approach and common challenges. A number of sections address common behavioral and situational problems you may encounter and effective ways to address them. Leigh also goes into professional presence and communication skills, including cultural sensitivities. She closes with seven(!) alternative meeting room layouts and points to consider when selecting them.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Leigh writes clearly and succinctly and stresses positive outcomes even when explaining how to deal with obstacles. The result is a book that you’ll reach for several times a year, and recommend (or gift) to colleagues who struggle to keep their meetings effective.