Stop having them.
I don’t know why meetings have such a bad reputation to be honest, I generally like them and find them productive and effective. I also come from a military background where meetings are very regimented, with strict rules and expectations.
Let me use my experience to try and help you clean up your meeting madness, by asking, and addressing these questions:
Why do you have this meeting? If you can’t answer this question then the meeting should be cancelled and anything accomplished in the meeting should be re-routed to another means of communication and completion. You need a goal for your meeting, what is meant to be accomplished by having it? Do you as the boss need to be informed on operations, do you need to provide direction and make decisions? Do different sections need face-time to deconflict and resolve issues? Is it an information session for all employees?
Write down the purpose of your meeting at the top of a sheet of paper, take it into the meeting with you, write bullet points down each time an issue is brought up or resolved which meets that purpose. Keep another list of what’s covered that doesn’t meet that purpose. If one list is longer than the other you may need to dissolve, change or create two different meetings.
Having the piece of paper in front of you will also help you to stay on track during the meeting. And also check in at how many times throughout the week you refer back to your piece of paper, even if the meeting met it’s purpose, did you really need the information you received?
Who is giving and receiving information in this meeting? Trying to accomplish too much in a meeting is bad, you need to have a big picture understanding, based on the purpose of the meeting (see point 1) to determine who needs to be there. When you have too many people in a meeting, especially when they have no need to be there, they become restless and tend to interject unnecessarily to justify their participation.
Here are two things the military does with meetings to ensure they’re effectively oriented for success:
First, there is one meeting chair, or official receiver of information. The strict hierarchical nature of the military makes this really easy and obvious. They might also have a delegate who arranges and organizes the meeting and also keeps everyone on track, covering the points they should be covering, reining them in if they go off on a tangent and letting them know if they speak over their time.
Second, there is a seating arrangement. This is an especially good tool to make you meeting not only efficient but also more effective. Sit down and think about who you want to hear from first and why, move around your meeting table or room in a deliberate and organized fashion. If certain sections will answer the questions that other sections might have arrange who speaks when accordingly.
That ends Part 1
Part 3 will cover materials, note-taking and presentation.