I posted a poll on what the major problems were in meetings. The top-voted answer was that most meetings were pointless and had no goal. I see two things that always get in the way of having meaningful meetings.
#1 No one actually knows what the problem is.
Either no topic or a broad topic is given that the meeting will be about, which leaves a lot of room for speculation from each team member as they enter the meeting. Broad speculation leads to assumptions. Each individual’s assumptions are an idea in a different direction leading to a non-cohesive meeting and team. Which then leads to yet another pointless meeting.
#2 Circular discussion
Because there is no alignment on the problem, open conversations begging to envelop the meeting with only the more senior or HIPPOs (hights paid person with an opinion) winning out the discussion. This is the biggest team killer, it leads to a breakdown in team culture by alienating the majority of your team, and undermines supporting business systems that require everyone to be on the same page.
A great team will see that in a broad topic there are many problems and will work on aligning on the most important issue first. This will make for a more focused discussion.
However, even the best discussion gets off the topic if not managed properly. To avoid this either time box (give a time limit) each discussion topic to limit subject creep or have a silent discussion using sticky notes to act as the voice of each team member.
I like the silent discussion because it will lead to an improved team culture because everyone has a voice, the ideas are anonymous, making all of the ideas uninfluenced by rank or the loudest person in the room.
In conclusion, align on your topic then have controlled discussions. I hope this helps lead your team to fewer pointless meetings and fewer meetings overall.
Let me know if you have tried these or want to try either of these approaches for more effective meetings.