Book by Eller, Sheila and Eller, John
Review by BJ Hausman
Dean of Student Success
Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL

Heads bobbing, side conversations and lack of participation are just some of the easy to spot signs of a meeting in need of pizzazz. Whether as a meeting participant or, even worse, as a meeting leader, we have all experienced these occurrences. Energizing Staff Meetings was written as a practical guide to understanding the problems and finding the solutions to meeting doldrums. Each chapter examines an ineffective aspect of a meeting and provides a number of suggested approaches or specific exercises to address the problem. Sheila and John Eller have used their experiences in educational institutions to frame their suggestions in ways that are easy to relate to our own uses.

One of the strengths of the book is the manner in which the authors examine each meeting aspect, describe how problems might hamper the effectiveness of a meeting and then provide numerous approaches to positively impact a meeting. Many of the strategies are in the form of exercises designed for  a particular outcome. Some are tried and true approaches such as the use of music or different twists on the game of bingo. The descriptions serve as a reminder of how you might apply this strategy for specific outcomes. Other strategies are unique and new and provide very interesting approaches. One of my favorites was “See the Ripple Effects,” in which a group contemplates the effects a decision may have on different levels or populations. This strategy clearly helps a group evaluate a decision on many levels. Another exercise called “Snowball Fight” is one I plan to use at an upcoming retreat. The book is filled with fun and engaging activities. It is very easy to read and see the applicability of the content.

One caveat needs to be mentioned and underscored. In order to use this information effectively, the meeting planner must know the audience well before selecting and using any of the activities outlined in this book. Selecting the wrong activity could easily have a negative effect on a meeting’s productivity and indeed place future meetings in jeopardy. If meeting participants believe the activity is a bad use of their time or inappropriate for their professional level, the result could be disastrous. In order for the suggested activities to be effective, they must be relevant to the task at hand. We all know the value of laughter and creativity when used in the right context. Being mindful on the nature of the audience is a critical part in the effective use of this book.

Energizing Staff Meetings is a book I will keep on my office shelf for ready reference. Even though I have used many of the activities outlined in the book, it provided a welcome refresher course for me as I contemplate my next meeting. I recommend this book to anyone who plans meetings. In fact, I can think of a few colleagues who could benefit from borrowing my copy and will suggest it if I can think of a tactful way to do it. Sheila and John, do you have any suggestions?

Energizing Staff Meetings. (2006). Book by Eller, Sheila and Eller, John. Review by BJ Hausman. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. $27.95. 180 pp. ISBN # 1-4129-2433-2
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