Every meeting MUST have 3 elements: purpose, agenda and maximum duration. If any of these items is missing, the meeting is meaningless and should not happen.
Make sure you are able to define a purpose for the meeting in a maximum of 2 sentences, for instance:”This meeting is to plan the new developments for the project X”. This way, everyone will know why they are there, what needs to be done and how to proceed in order to well-succeed.
Define a clear agenda in advance. Make a list of all the items to be discussed, revised, analysed, displayed etc. When I conduct meetings, my personal strategy is to allocate a time limit for each item in the agenda and to assign the responsability to lead the discussion to someone in the group. Works as a charm.
Define a duration for the meeting, how many minutes/hours it should last. From the start make crystal clear to everyone what time the meeting will start and, sometimes more importantly, when it will end. It is amazing the number of managers who have absolutely no control of their meetings and do not know how to enforce the finishing rule. If you think you have this habit…CHANGE THIS !!!
Do not wait for the delayed people. Meetings must start on the agreeded time. Do not wait about late arrivals. Do not wait for those who need to be called for the meeting. You just make sure everyone gets notified, then when someone arrives after the meeting have started, DO NOT STOP TO REVIEW WHAT WAS SAID. Do this as a proof of respect to those who arrived on time.
If the meeting’s organizer is late, Consider the meeting cancelled, and get back to work. How long is considered late? Depends on the company, but I would not wait more than 5 minutes.
Document your meeting. What I do is to put someone in charge of writing down the notes. What to put in the meeting notes? Basically the name of the attendants, the discussed subject, the agreed points, the next developments and/or actions with dates and their respective responsibles.
When the meeting is over – do not wait more than 24 hours – the meeting notes must be sent to: All the participants, to those who could not make it to the meeting and to those who might be influenced by upcoming decisions.
Keep the focus. Every meeting must have a regulator to notify the others when someone is discussing any subject outside the scope of the current topic. Ask one of the presents to volunteer for this task when the meeting is about to start. His/her task is to interrupt the meeting at any given time when the focus is lost and bring back the main subject. This new outside topic can maybe then be noted and even can be discussed in future meetings. In case of doubt regarding a specific topic being in or outside the scope, the meeting organizer has the final word.