As a general rule, whether meetings are productive or a waste of time is determined by the facilitator. If you find yourself responsible for convening meetings, consider these points before you send out your invitation:
Have a purpose before you convene a meeting.
And be clear up front what the purpose is: to share information, make a decision, get input, evaluate a strategy, etc. And if you don't have an explicit purpose, cancel the meeting. Just because something is scheduled for every week, doesn't mean it needs to happen every week.
Time frames and membership aren't set in stone.
To achieve some meeting goals, it requires extended time together. Other groups can meet briefly or less frequently. Adapt your meeting times to the purpose. The same is true with membership: add an unusual suspect for a new perspective, bring on new staff to help them learn, rotate people off regularly, or have people attend only as guests when needed and not regular members.
Effective meetings require preparation and follow up.
Have a written agenda and share it in advance.Outline expectations and what is needed to prepare or bring to the meeting. Keep a running list of agenda items that need to be discussed in the future. Take notes and indicate specific follow up actions/assignments that are necessary (assigned to a specific person). Use the notes to develop the topics for the next meeting.
Link your environment to your meeting purpose. A brainstorming session will be less effective around a formal board table. A large room does not work well for a small group. It is harder to engage in discussion at a long table vs. a round one. A one-to-one meeting is best at a small table instead of across a desk.
Many people spend much of their work day in meetings yet don't give thought as to how to make them better. Dedicate some energy to the meeting format itself, and chances are that the content and outcome will be better for it.
-- beth triplett