There are three reasons to have a meeting - to share information, create insight, or gain agreement.
How many meetings do you attend where there are too many people in the room, and the agenda's so crammed that you are certain never to get through it, plus you're immediately irked because the topic you're there for is last on the agenda and is sure to get postponed? Why do people create meetings like this? I suppose for the same reason that a dinner party host fears that the food will run out, or not enough people will show up.
I can understand that about the eating, but not the meeting. If the point is to share, create, or gain agreement, don't all of those things come before time-keeping? Saying "sorry, as interesting as this is, we have to cut it off so that we can get through the agenda and be finished on time" is an indication of failure.
We all know that when they buzz through the last few slides or points, what gets cut off or rushed is either the payoff of the presentation or the vital discussion afterward. We also know that by rushing or cutting things off, the real goal is rarely accomplished.
This last part is also when the nay-sayers get to debate the issue, resolve concerns, and become supporters; where those that didn't fully understand can see the whole picture; or where the presenter can really land their critical message; etc. Cutting that off is like missing the last 10 minutes of your favorite sporting event ('cause the TV station had to cut over to a soap opera), or if your Rear Window DVD breaks right when Grace Kelly is inside the bad guy's apartment, and he's about to walk in.
If I want to achieve "share," "create," or "gain agreement" - doesn't that matter? Doesn't that matter most? Forsaking actually effective meetings in favor of on-time, well-attended meetings is, well ...pointless.
What's wrong with having one objective, accomplishing it, and getting done early?
Large organizations send employees to trainings on running effective meetings/events. The classes teach you to plan the meeting/event, impose structure, send everyone a pre-read and the agenda, and account for every minute of the meeting.
So you embark on your meeting just as the course prescribes, with high hopes of a good outcome. Then someone questions a critical premise, key people don't show up, and yet a third (more senior than you) person wishes to discuss and debate an issue beyond the allotted time, and you kiss your happy ending goodbye.
I've met "executives" (especially in large, MBA-ridden corporations) who actually "evaluate" meetings! They will judge a meeting to be a poor execution that just happened to go well (got lucky) because there wasn't a crisp, clear agenda, with well-defined outcomes; the meeting was too open-ended; progress didn't occur in the "proper" way; and the organizer appeared inadequately "driven."
The ensuing email: "That a good outcome occurred is unfortunate given the failed execution of process. XXX's inability to orchestrate an effective meeting raises concerns about their competence as a manager, and their eligibility for our leadership program."
The failure is that the meeting has become an outcome unto itself; this is especially true in highly matrixed organizations, and is a classic example of micro-thinking. It contributes to a lack of agility, arrested decision-making, and profound inefficiency because so many meetings are required to actually get something done.
To be a great meeting convener, you need the maturity (understanding of human nature, patience, wisdom, confidence), combined with the cojones (confidence, wisdom, patience, understanding of human nature) to overcome the corporate training and overzealous MBA-types, and stand firm in the conviction that less is so much more than more.
Sadly, people who have developed this level of sensei-ness tend to avoid meetings altogether.