Get the right attendees and be aggressive about it. Invite people who can contribute and when people sustainably fail to contribute, un-invite them.
Make coming and going kosher. Halfway through a meeting and you realize you can’t contribute or don’t need to be there? Leave. Hold meetings in open areas where coming and going is more natural and fuss-free. Or remove the chairs from the conference room and stand up. You’ve just made the door easier to get to.
Big agendas mean lots of time switching topics. Too many decision points means too much debate. A long list of topics ensures that some people won’t have a stake in some topics and that’s a poor use of those people’s time. Single purpose meetings are the best: this is what we are here to do, now let’s use the meeting time to do it.
Multiple presenters — the more, the less merry. Each one has to do their little warm up and wind down and each must pay the technology tax of switching laptops and dorking around with display settings.
Follow up a scheduled meeting with scheduled work time. If a meeting has a purpose and requires action to be taken (like any good meeting should), schedule time immediately following the meeting to take that action.
Build an anti-meeting culture within your organization. Every meeting is useless until proven otherwise. Meeting organizers need to be put on notice: make this meeting meaningful, it’s your job.
(1) A key reason bad meetings persist is that there’s no feedback loop from the attendees to the person running the meeting. Nobody asks the question “Was this meeting a good use of your time?” The solution is to do this.
(2) Re. Get the right attendees and be aggressive about it — cf. The optimal number of people in a meeting is…
(3) Re. Make coming and going kosher – see The antidote to bad meetings.
(4) Re. Meeting organizers need to be put on notice: make this meeting meaningful, it’s your job — cf. How to stop regular meetings from clogging up your time.