Once you know what is driving the meeting, create a meeting objective in action-oriented language. Post it, distribute it, and refer to it often before, during, and after the meeting. It should be a group mantra, not just something you say under your breath while trying to round up ramblers. Be prepared to direct the energy of the meeting by saying, "Let's get back to the objective," if necessary.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
It might save time (and face) to determine the limits of your tolerance before the meeting instead of in the middle of someone's description of where they ate dinner the night before. Decide what's acceptable ahead of time: 5 to 10 minutes of social talk at the beginning or end of the meeting, or not? Let participants know the rules of engagement by writ or proclamation, memo or e-mail, and do not waiver. If necessary, set up backups like a designated timekeeper or facilitator to keep the meeting on track.
BE AWARE OF DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES
Consultant Bernie Young points out that some participants completely miss the point of a meeting because it isn't geared to their learning style - visual, audio, or kinetic. Think about how to vary the way material is presented. You lose people's attention if the meeting is just talk.
As a rule, save anecdotes and jokes for after-dinner speeches. For meetings, speak clearly and use topic sentences, and summarize material at the end of each point to facilitate note-taking. (But rules are made to be broken, especially if people's faces are fuzzy and glazed as a Krispy Kreme doughnut.)
Use visual aids, hopefully a little perkier than tables and bar graphs. Anyone who is computer literate is used to having icons and graphics as reminders, so utilize the spectrum of computer graphics to supplement key points. When passing out written material, present it in an attractive package - a colored envelope or binder to attract the eye. And use your hands and body when you speak, which gives visual learners extra clues to what you're communicating.
Give people something to put in their hands or to actively work through if possible - a checklist and pen in a folder, for example. In addition, add a physical aspect to the meeting for kinetic learners, such as giving them a role in a hypothetical scenario that demonstrates a point.
PLAN TO FOLLOW UP
The excitement in the aftermath of a meeting fades fast. Where does the adrenaline go once the coffee is finished? Be prepared to setup a timeline for any implementation process decided on during a meeting. Make sure people know what they are expected to do, who they can call on for help, and when they must report back on their progress. A meeting isn't over until all the work's been done.