Meetings are often a waste of time, energy and money. It would amaze most people to measure the hourly rate of people in a meeting and then calculate the total cost of a meeting. Thousands of dollars are wasted every year on meetings that don't improve the operations of a company or the service given to a customer.
Recently I read an article in Business Week that gave some tips on running a great meeting from the Google perspective. Three of the points jumped out at me as the key ones. First, have a firm set agenda. With an agenda that participants are able to read and think about ahead of time, each member of the meeting can add value. This also keeps the meeting on point.
Secondly, use data not personal opinion or stories. It is easy to get into a meeting and then have a discussion or a decision made based on a story of something that happened in the past or someones personal opinion. The best way to get a good decision is to push for data and let the data influence the outcome.
Third, stick to the clock. If a meeting is planned for thirty minutes or an hour - stop at that point. When meetings go long, people's eyes glaze over and their attention is now on what isn't getting done. I believe it is better to stop a meeting and then set an agenda for the next meeting instead of going over. A well run productive meeting is one of the best tools a company has to serve the customer.