The 21 Best Facilitation & Workshop Books To Read in 2023

Are you looking for the best workshop and facilitation books to add to your reading list? Here are our 21 top picks for 2023, expert-approved by AJ&Smart.

Are you looking for the best workshop and facilitation books to add to your reading list? 

Then look no further. We’ve rounded up our 21 absolute favorites right here in this guide. Whether you’re a new or aspiring facilitator or an experienced Workshopper, there’s something for everyone. 

Here are our hot picks, in no particular order—just click on any title to skip to those you’re most interested in, or browse through the entire list:

Ready to read your way to facilitation mastery? Let’s go!

The Secrets of Facilitation

1. The Secrets of Facilitation by Michael Wilkinson 

The first book on our list is The Secrets of Facilitation: A SMART Guide to Getting Results with Groups by Michael Wilkinson. SMART stands for “Structured Meeting and Relating Techniques” and, as the title suggests, this book is full of practical, applicable techniques you can use to get the best out of groups and teams.

Whether it’s conflict resolution, consulting, managing, teaching, or essentially any other scenario that requires group work, The Secrets of Facilitation has you covered. The 2nd edition has also been updated to include new chapters on facilitating virtual meetings, facilitating conferences, and building internal facilitator capability. 

Complete with examples, an ancillary website with forms, checklists, and a sample facilitator guide, this is a must-read for anyone who wants to achieve consistently amazing results with groups. 

About the author:

Michael Wilkinson is a leading Certified Master Facilitator and the CEO of Leadership Strategies, Inc. He’s one of the most sought-after facilitators in the business, having trained thousands of people around the world on how to unlock their teams’ full potential. 

Facilitation book: Gamestorming

2. Gamestorming by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown & James Macanufo

Believe it or not, games are one of the most effective ways to spark creative thinking and strengthen communication in the workplace. That’s the premise of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers which contains over 80 games you can play to break down barriers, improve communication, and generate new ideas. 

You’ll find team games to help overcome conflict, visual thinking techniques to improve collaboration, role playing exercises, idea generation and problem-solving strategies, and much, much more. 

This is a treasure trove of gems that will help you encourage engagement and creativity while establishing more structure and clarity in the workplace. 

About the authors:

Dave Gray is the founder of XPLANE, a consultancy focused on building clarity, alignment, and understanding in organizations. Sunni Brown is an expert facilitator, social entrepreneur, and Innovator-in-Residence at MURAL. She was named one of the “100 Most Creative People in Business” and one of the “10 Most Creative People on Twitter” by Fast Company. James Macanufo is a senior consultant at XPLANE, where he leads the Visual Thinking practice. 

Together, they make up a creative thinking dream team, and Gamestorming is a compilation of all their combined wisdom and proven techniques for collaboration and innovation. 

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Visual thinking

3. Visual Thinking by Willemien Brand

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and visual thinking and drawing are increasingly used in business to break down complex problems and to generate and communicate new ideas. 

Visual Thinking: Empowering People and Organizations through Visual Collaboration is the go-to book if you want to develop your visualization skills. It spans fundamentals such as what pens to use and how to draw people, through to more complex visual storytelling techniques, with examples, tips, and tricks throughout. 

As the blurb says: You don’t need Van Gogh’s artistic talent or Einstein’s intelligence to harness the power of visual thinking and make your company more successful. So: dive in with this book and have fun developing your own signature visualization style!

About the author:

Willemien Brand is a designer and visual artist who has turned her passion for drawing into a successful business. Throughout her design career, she saw how drawing and visual thinking are powerful tools that can break down complex problems, engage employees, and build bridges between businesses and their customers. She now helps to empower people and organizations through visual collaboration. You can learn more about Willemien’s visual thinking agency, Buro BRAND, here.

The Workshopper Playbook

4. The Workshopper Playbook by Jonathan Courtney

People spend more than 80% of their time at work on “busy work”, unproductive meetings, pointless discussions, and projects and ideas that never actually come to fruition. Sound familiar? 

Well, The Workshopper Playbook is the antidote to that. Created by AJ&Smart’s Jonathan Courtney, The Workshopper Playbook will teach you how to become a problem-solving and decision-making expert. 

You’ll learn about different workshops you can run to effectively solve problems, pick up expert facilitation hacks based on Jonathan’s 8+ years of experience working with major companies, and learn how to design your own workshop for any outcome. 

If you want to master the art of running awesome workshops and be seen as the innovation expert by your company or clients, pick up your copy of The Workshopper Playbook right now!

About the author:

Jonathan Courtney is the CEO of AJ&Smart, a Berlin-based innovation agency. His passion is helping people work better together and empowering individuals to make real change in their organization. Jonathan has worked with everyone from General Electric to LEGO and Airbnb, and he wrote The Workshopper Playbook to share the tactics that have enabled AJ&Smart to achieve multi-million dollar success. 

5. Sprint by Jake Knapp

You’ve no doubt heard of this New York Times bestseller written by Jake Knapp, the inventor of the famous Design Sprint. So what’s it all about? 

Entrepreneurs and leaders face big questions every day—like what’s the most important place to focus your efforts, and how do you begin? What will your idea look like in real life? Then, of course, there’s the question of how many meetings and discussions it’ll take before you reach the right solution.

Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days teaches you an incredibly effective method for answering these questions: the Design Sprint. 

Designer Jake Knapp invented the Design Sprint method while working at Google, and you can master the process yourself thanks to the Sprint book. This is a practical guide to answering critical business questions, and it’s been written for anyone who has a big opportunity, problem, or idea. 

About the author:

Jake Knapp is renowned for being the inventor of the Design Sprint. Previously, he built products like Microsoft Encarta and Gmail, and co-founded Google Meet. He’s coached hundreds of teams at places like Miro, Slack, LEGO, IDEO, and NASA on product strategy and time management, and is a guest instructor at Harvard Business School. Jake is also a co-founder of Character Ventures, where he helps startups find product-market fit using the Design Sprint methodology. 

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The Workshop Book

6. The Workshop Book by Pamela Hamilton

Do you want to learn how to design and run effective workshops? Then you’ll love The Workshop Book by Pamela Hamilton. 

A quick and easy read, The Workshop Book is a highly visual, practical guide showing you how to design and lead successful, productive workshops. It covers the tools you need to design your own workshops, methods to enhance the collective intelligence of any team and keep them focused and engaged, as well as tricks and tips for structuring time in order to ensure maximum productivity in any session. 

You’ll also find ideas for different workshops, exercises, and games to suit various scenarios and problems. This is a great starting point for learning the fundamentals of workshopping. 

About the author:

Pamela Hamilton is a teamwork and collaboration expert with two bestselling books to her name (check out her other book Supercharged Teams: 30 Tools of Great Teamwork). Her mission is to change the way people work together and to help teams build trust, create a vision, and overcome team conflict and misalignment. 

The Art of Facilitation

7. The Art of Facilitation by Dale Hunter

The Art of Facilitation: The Essentials for Leading Great Meetings and Creating Group Synergy is a must-read for anyone involved in, or responsible for, managing and ensuring effective group dynamics. 

It features all the latest research on facilitation and group dynamics, diving into the role of a facilitator, the key elements of facilitation, and the biggest challenges that facilitators commonly come up against. It’s not all theory, though; the book also teaches specific processes facilitators can use in their practice. 

If you want to learn more about managing group dynamics and unlocking the true potential of group work for reaching common goals, be sure to add this one to your library. 

About the author:

Dr. Dale Hunter is a group facilitator, mediator, coach, and author. She co-founded Zenergy Ltd, a New Zealand-based company providing facilitation, mediation, and coaching services to government, business, and community sectors. 

The Facilitation Guidebook

8. The Facilitation Guidebook by Jonathan Courtney

Do you want to improve collaboration within your team or organization? Or bring even more value to your clients by learning how to facilitate decision-making, strategy, or innovation meetings and workshops? 

Then you’ll love The Facilitation Guidebook, another gem from AJ&Smart’s Jonathan Courtney. 

In this user-friendly guide, you’ll unlock the key facilitation practices needed to run successful workshops, learn how to keep any group engaged and energized throughout, master the art of communicating your ideas clearly and reaching team alignment, and learn effective strategies for dealing with workshop skeptics (a very handy skill to have!) 

The guide is available to download, so you can start reading right away. Get your copy here.

About the author:

Jonathan Courtney is the CEO of AJ&Smart, a Berlin-based innovation agency. His passion is helping people work better together and empowering individuals to make real change in their organization. Jonathan has worked with everyone from General Electric to LEGO and Airbnb.

The Art of Gathering

9. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker has been hailed as transformative, remarkable, brilliant, and eminently practical (to quote just a few reader reviews). And we have to agree!

In The Art of Gathering, the author argues that the gatherings in our life—be it meetings or social occasions—are lackluster and unproductive. This is because we lean too heavily on routine and conventions around how gatherings should be, when actually, we should focus on the people involved.

Throughout the book, Parker proposes a human-centered approach to gathering that promises to create more meaningful experiences. She explores all different kinds of gatherings (conferences, meetings, courtrooms, a flash-mob party, an Arab-Israeli summer camp…) to evaluate what works and what doesn’t when it comes to humans getting together. 

Bursting with ideas for real-world application, The Art of Gathering promises to forever alter the way you view your next meeting, conference, or dinner party. A fascinating read for anyone and everyone, but especially those interested in workshops and facilitation. 

About the author:

Priya Parker is a facilitator, strategic advisor, acclaimed author, and host of the New York Times podcast “Together Apart.” She has over 15 years’ experience helping leaders and communities have complicated conversations about community, identity, and vision at moments of transition. 

The Design Thinking Playbook

10. The Design Thinking Playbook by Michael Lewrick, Patrick Link & Larry Leifer

You’ve probably somewhat familiar with Design Thinking—a mindset for creative problem-solving developed by Larry Leifer, David Kelley, and Terry Winograd at Stanford University. Essentially, Design Thinking aims to bring together as many

different perspectives as possible in relation to a specific problem, ultimately leading to breakthrough innovations. 

If you’re new to Design Thinking, or just want to learn more about how to apply it in your own work, The Design Thinking Playbook is a great place to start. It’s packed with solutions and visual discussions to empower you to foster radical innovation, gather the right people to build highly motivated teams, and apply Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Big Data Analytics, and Lean practices using new tools and a fresh perspective. 

The playbook offers valuable insight into what it means to adopt a Design Thinking mindset—a staple for anyone who wants to become a better problem-solver and innovator. 

About the authors:

Michael Lewrick is an award-winning design thinking and business ecosystem design thought leader, entrepreneur, and best-selling author. 

Patrick Link is a design thinking and innovation expert. In addition to co-authoring The Design Thinking Playbook and The Design Thinking Toolbook, Patrick is a design thinking and lean innovation coach, and co-founder of Trihow AG

Larry Leifer is a professor of mechanical engineering design and founding director of the Center for Design Research at Stanford University. 

The Workshop Survival Guide

11. The Workshop Survival Guide by Devin Hunt & Rob Fitzpatrick 

You don’t need to be a gifted public speaker or ooze charisma to run a successful workshop. All you need is the right tools—and that’s exactly what The Workshop Survival Guide will equip you with.

This book focuses on the work that goes into designing a successful workshop ahead of the event itself, offering a simple process that anyone can learn. Ideal for beginners, this handy guide promises to take the stress and drama out of running a workshop. 

And, if you want to try before you buy, you can join The Workshop Survival Guide mailing list for a free preview of the book. 

About the authors:

Devin Hunt is a designer, educator, and entrepreneur who has founded two tech companies. Rob Fitzpatrick is a tech entrepreneur, author, and experienced workshop leader. Together, Devin and Rob have designed and run all kinds of workshops, teaching for the likes of HP, Deloitte, Oxford University, and NYU. 

The Art and Science of Facilitation

12. The Art & Science of Facilitation by Marsha Acker

The Art & Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams is an important read for anyone in a leadership position who wants to move their team forward and lead with self-awareness. 

Based on the Five Guiding Principles of the Facilitation Stance (1: Holding the group’s agenda, 2: Honoring the wisdom of the group, 3: Maintaining neutrality, 4: Upholding the agile mindset and principles, and 5: Standing in the storm), The Art & Science of Facilitation teaches invaluable lessons about leadership and facilitation. 

You’ll learn how to lead teams towards effective collaboration, how to welcome and embrace different points of view (even if it creates conflict), how to remain unbiased in high-stakes situations, and how to recognize what the group needs while navigating tricky interpersonal dynamics.

Leading teams is no easy task, but this book will help you do so with competence and confidence. 

About the author:

Marsha Acker is a professional facilitator and executive coach. Her passion and expertise lies in helping leaders and teams identify and break through stuck patterns that get in their way of performance. Marsha founded TeamCatapult, a coaching and change leadership firm, in 2005. 

The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures

13. The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures by Henri Lipmanowicz & Keith McCandless

All too often, conventional workplace structures prevent people from doing their best work. They tend to be either too restrictive or too disorganized, leaving people disengaged and unable to be innovative, creative, or productive.

The Surprising Power of Liberating Structures is here to change all that. It contains simple yet effective rules and methods for creating a culture of innovation. For each structure, you’ll find a detailed description showing you how to put it into practice, as well as common traps and pitfalls to avoid. 

You’ll learn about the conceptual framework and vocabulary of Liberating Structures, get guidelines for experimenting with these practices in different group settings, hear stories from those who have implemented Liberating Structures, and follow step-by-step explanations of how to use each of the 33 Liberating Structures. 

If you’re not ready to buy the book, you can discover all 33 Liberating Structures on the website.

About the authors:

Henri Lipmanowicz is the former president of Merck Intercontinental and Japan, and co-founder of the Plexus Institute. He now enjoys mentoring people and seeing them grow, and describes Liberating Structures as a labor of love. 

Keith McCandless is a founding partner of the Social Invention Group and Liberating Structures co-developer. His expertise is grounded in organization development, complexity science, business strategy, and graphic facilitation. 

Visual Meetings

14. Visual Meetings by David Sibbet

Visualization and visual tools are taking the business world by storm (you may remember book number 3 on our list, Visual Thinking by Willemien Brand). Another must-read on the topic is David Sibbet’s Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes, and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity. 

This book introduces what’s being called the visual meeting movement, and it’s all about using visual tools to get people energized and inject a much-needed dose of creativity and productivity into meetings and group work. 

Learn about the visual tools being used in Silicon Valley and beyond to facilitate both in-person and virtual group work, and prepare to try them out yourself. From storyboarding and idea mapping to visual planning, graphic recording, and more, this is your ultimate toolbox for communicating in a more playful, engaging manner. And, as you might expect, Visual Meetings is beautifully illustrated throughout. 

About the author:

David Sibbet is the founder of The Grove Consultants International and pioneer of the field of visual, organizational consulting. He is a master facilitator with a passion for the evolving cultures of collaboration that can meet the challenges of our times. 

Unlocking the magic of facilitation

15. Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation by Sam Killermann & Meg Bolger 

The best meetings and workshops are those that engage us—those where time flies and we feel like we’ve achieved something. Those meetings and workshops have been sprinkled with the magic of facilitation, and Sam Killermann and Meg Bolger have written this book to help you unlock that magic for yourself.

Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation: 11 Key Concepts You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know is jam-packed with actionable advice and anecdotes about facilitation, giving you invaluable insight into what it takes to run a great workshop. 

As Sam Killermann writes: “I wrote Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation with Meg Bolger after spending a few years doing train-the-trainers with her through The Safe Zone Project. We set out to put down all the things we weren’t able to get into every training, and would regret not being able to share.”

You can learn more about Unlocking the Magic of Facilitation and order your copy here.

About the authors:

Sam Killermann is an expert facilitator, artist, author, and award-winning activist who focuses on themes of gender, sexuality, and global justice. Meg Bolger is an entrepreneur and social justice facilitator and founder. 

Mastering Facilitation

16. Mastering Facilitation by Dr. Morgan L. Jones

Whether you’re a novice or experienced facilitator, there’s lots you can learn from Dr. Jones’ Mastering Facilitation: A Guide for Assisting Teams and Achieving Great Outcomes

For those new to facilitation, the first part of the book focuses on core basic skills and how to apply them in different situations, with examples and exercises throughout. Then, for seasoned facilitators, you’ll cover more advanced skills and strategies for tackling difficult situations. 

Ultimately, this is a worthwhile read for anyone looking to master the art of facilitation and discover proven techniques for getting the best out of groups. 

Let's Stop Meeting Like This

17. Let’s Stop Meeting Like This by Dick & Emily Axelrod

Let’s be honest. Meetings have a terrible reputation, and we rarely go into them expecting to be productive. But they don’t have to be this way. 

Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done offers a fresh approach to meetings, giving you a clear process you can follow to shake things up and ensure that every meeting is engaging, intentional, and productive. 

This is a short but impactful read covering every step that goes into a successful meeting—from how to greet people at the beginning to wrapping up with meaning. 

If you want to run your next meeting with confidence, pick up a copy of this book and prepare to transform the way meetings are done forever. 

About the authors:

For over 30 years, Emily Axelrod has used strategic visioning, work redesign, and team development to build sustainable enterprises. She is a highly sought-after speaker and coach, and co-founder and principal of the Axelrod Group, Inc.

Dick Axelrod is an author, teacher, and consultant with over 35 years’ experience. He co-founded Axelrod Group, Inc., with his wife Emily. 

Meet Like You Mean It

18. Meet Like You Mean It by Wayne Turmel

Virtual meetings are now a normal part of everyday life, but they bring with them a whole new host of challenges. Getting the most out of virtual meetings requires a special set of skills, tools, and tactics—and you can learn about them all in Wayne Turmel’s Meet Like You Mean It: A Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings.

Geared towards project managers and team leaders, Meet Like You Mean It is a staple for anyone working and meeting in the virtual world. We love this book as it’s full of specific hacks for how to get the most out of web-based meeting tools, complete with screenshots, real-world data, and anecdotes—all delivered with a good dose of humor. 

There’s no escaping the virtual meeting, so make sure you turn yours into something meaningful and productive with this awesome, practical guide. 

About the author:

Wayne Turmel is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur living and writing in Las Vegas. He co-founded The Remote Leadership Institute and has been writing about how to develop

leadership and communication skills for almost 20 years. Wayne has also taught and consulted at Fortune 500 companies all around the world. 

Click The Virtual Meetings Book

19. Click: The Virtual Meetings Book by Michael Wilkinson & Richard Smith

Continuing with the virtual meeting theme, the next must-read on our list is Click: The Virtual Meetings Book by Michael Wilkinson and Richard Smith. 

In it, you’ll find 60 tried-and-true strategies for planning and leading successful virtual meetings, spread out across twelve chapters. This is your ultimate guide for tackling some of the biggest virtual meeting conundrums, like how do you keep engagement high? How do you avoid technical issues, and what do you do if you’re facing a hybrid meeting scenario where only some of the group are remote? 

This is a highly practical, user-friendly guide to virtual meetings. You can get your copy here

About the authors:

Michael Wilkinson is a leading Certified Master Facilitator and the CEO of Leadership Strategies, Inc. He’s one of the most sought-after facilitators in the business, having trained thousands of people around the world on how to unlock their teams’ full potential. 

Richard Smith is a Certified Master Facilitator with over 25 years of training, consulting, software, and organizational development experience. He is licensed to deliver courses in facilitation, consulting, strategic planning, leadership, and communication skills, with in-depth experience of virtual training and meetings. 

Meeting Hero book

20. Meeting Hero by Tom LaForce

If you’re looking for practical advice you can implement right away to run better meetings, check out Meeting Hero: Plan and Lead Engaging, Productive Meetings by Tom LaForce. 

This book leaves no stone unturned, spanning topics such as how to determine if a meeting is needed in the first place, alternatives to calling a meeting, the definition of a meeting, and the different types of meetings. It then moves through all the key components of planning a meeting, inviting the right people, choosing and designing the meeting space, and getting your meeting off to a good start. 

You’ll learn powerful tactics such as how to use eye contact to manage the conversational flow, body language tricks to steer the meeting, getting quiet participants to join in, methods for reaching group decisions, overcoming conflict, and much, much more. 

This is a true meeting A-Z and will serve as a great source of wisdom and advice for any facilitator. 

About the author:

Tom LaForce is an organizational change management consultant, and an expert trainer, coach, facilitator, and consultant. He started his own meeting facilitation and training business in 1966, and has since worked with thousands of different groups, developing a deep understanding of the art of the facilitation. 

Read this before our next meeting

21. Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli

Last on our list (but by no means least) is Read This Before Our Next Meeting by Al Pittampalli. 

While there are plenty of books out there which focus on the responsibility leaders and managers have in creating a more productive meeting culture, Al Pittampalli considers the topic from the stance of personal responsibility. 

Read This Before Our Next Meeting encourages you to ask yourself what difference you can make to the success of a meeting, without needing input or buy-in from anyone else. You’ll learn seven critical principles of effective meeting management, empowering you to turn any meeting into a productive use of time—whether you’re running the meeting yourself, or simply attending. 

For a fresh perspective on successful meetings, grab your copy here

About the author: 

Al Pittampalli is an expert business consultant who has helped organizations like NASA, Hertz, Boeing, IBM, and more to transform the way they think about leadership. His debut book, Read This Before Our Next Meeting, was the most popular Kindle book in the world during the week of its release. Al also wrote Persuadable: How Great Leaders Change Their Minds to Change the World. 

Hungry for even more facilitation and workshop resources? Check out these guides:

Emily Stevens