In Theres no such thing as the one-hour meeting, Jason Fried points out that a meeting of one hour with 5 people is a five hour meeting. I've had my share of frustrating time-wasting meetings, but there also are colleagues I'll meet with gladly because I know that we'll be productive.
In the MLP magazine FORUM, I found some basic hints how to make meetings successful. I wish everyone inviting me to meetings would have read them.
Preparation: Make clear the goal of the meeting. Define date and participants. Invite timely in writing. Prepare the room and visualization tools (e.g., flipchart).
Goal: Express goal and agenda clearly. Prioritize agenda items.
Time frame: Start punctual presenting the agenda. If the participants don't know each other, include an introduction round.
Participants: Define who has to participate necessarily and for whom a copy of the minutes suffices. Inform the participants in writing.
Moderation: The meeting leader takes on the moderation: he/she guides verbal contributions, attends to the time and structures the meeting.
Visualization: Use a flipchart to visualize the most important issues. That way, the course of the meeting can be followed.
Pauses: Long meetings need periodic pauses (at the latest after 90 or 120 minutes).
Disturbances: Switch off mobile phones. The meeting leader has to firmly moderate distinguishing behaviour. Trouble makers should be addressed directly without marginalizing them.
Summary: The meeting leader should summarize the results regularly, thus preventing misunderstandings.
Minutes: As soon as possible, participants should get copies of the meeting minutes including an exact action plan: Who is supposed to do what until when?