This is mostly for when you’re meeting a colleague. It doesn’t work so well if you ring up Steven Spielberg and ask for a meeting when he’s never heard of you.
But when they have heard of you and you can get meeting with them, do it like this. Say immediately, right up front, now when exactly you want it. So rather than get into the “can we meet? when’s good for you cycle”, ask: “Can we meet on Tuesday at 11am to discuss X?”.
The first and most startling thing you’ll see is that it is preposterous how many times people say yes. But even if they don’t, the next most likely thing is that they’ll say no, how about Wednesday? You already a step or three down the line. But above all that, this also tells them that you’re serious, it therefore tells them that this is genuine and purposeful meeting, and it can start to train them to be the same back.
When you get them, make meetings shorter than you think you need and also be very clear about that. When you schedule a meeting, email everybody saying what the start and end time is, plus a list of things that will be covered.
Then cover them, assign each task to somebody (though it’s usually you), and end the meeting. Get out to your next thing and you’ll train people (including you) to cut out the nonsense vocal exercises that are most meetings most of the time.
I recommend 15 minutes and the fewest number of people you can manage. Also, as well as sending everyone that start-and-end-time kind of agenda, email them after the meeting too. This like the news thing: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them it, then tell them what you’ve told them. Those headlines again: short meetings, specific actions, reminders afterwards.
When I run a meeting and also take the minutes, I do send them around as an attachment the next morning but I also append a text task list to the email body. Few people read the minutes to any meeting in any organisation but this way they can see what they’ve promised to do.