Meetings can be powerful tools when used properly. Before planning any meeting, start by considering those questions:
1 - What is the main goal of the meeting?
2 - What should be accomplished at the end of the meeting?
3 - Who will actually and actively act on the decision taken during the meeting?
Over the years, I've followed a few simple rules to make these meetings effective and productive. There three kinds of meetings: Issue meetings, Follow-up meetings an Informative meetings.
These meetings are meant to find a solution to an issue. They are often critical and can last up to 2 hours. Only the main leader and the main resource should attend. The idea is to find a solution as fast and as effective as possible. Those two persons are the main actors in the situation and are those that will take direct actions to solve the issue.
At then end of the meeting, concrete solutions and ideas should be on the table, A short summary can then be sent to all team members using emails. Do not send "FYI" as it does imply you are sharing the information to be polite but it does not really matter if people reads it or not. Ask for comments and suggestions in your message, involving everyone in the process without having 98% of your resources wasting their time.
A follow-up is short and sweet. All team members are attending and a team leader is the one doing the talking. This is not the place to find a solution or o discuss about personal goals. They are often referred to as scrums in the software industries.
Basically, the team leader is asking each member: What have you completed, what are your working on and what issues are you facing? In about 2-3 minutes, each member will report her/his current status and the team leader will dispatch new tasks if any decisions must be taken.
A follow-up can be executed in less than 15 minutes each morning. This ensures that everybody is on the same page and that all team members had a chance to report any issue. In the event that an issue has been raised, the team leader can then schedule an issue meeting for the main actors on the stated issue.
An informative meetings is a big announcement. It often last around 30 minutes and everybody is invited. The meeting agenda is planned ahead up to the minutes and a written summary is available. Those meetings are used as way to communicate important decisions an should not last more than 30 minutes.
Consider using other means of communications ff the main subject is a big "FYI". Informative meetings are a more personal approach of communicating with a large group of people when the news is important.
In the end...
Anything else is a social gathering and a time waster. A meeting is a work process that should be effective and profitable for business and for the employees. The less people attending, the better it is. The shorter it is, the more effective it will prove.
I always plan my meetings a bit shorter than they really are. Assuming that I will require a full hour with another colleague, I will schedule the meeting for 30 minutes instead. I know it's a bit short, my colleague knows it's a bit short... This puts a bit of pressure on getting straight to the point and avoiding stories about our last week-end party.
Try it for yourself and let me know how it worked out for you and your team.
Have a nice day!