Busy people resent few things more than having to attend a meeting with an open agenda--or,just as bad, a nebulous one. The best meetings have a clear focus, a distinct purpose, and a time limit. They also have agendas that arecirculated in advance to everyone attending.

Frederick DeJohn, a director at the Western New York Technology Development Center, in Amherst, N.Y., puts together groups of companies for on-sitevisits and discussions. He says that making sure host companies prepare adequately is a crucial part of his job. "Once the meeting is under way, it's underway--to jump in would be like trying to stop the Queen Mary. The biggest problem is time: people get so wrapped up in what they're saying that they don'twant to stop."

To keep the meetings efficient and prevent people from getting sidetracked, DeJohn advises hosts to set time limits for each area of discussion. All attendeesare sent or faxed a schedule in advance, so they can prepare their thoughts and have a feel for how the meeting will be paced. Right before the meeting,DeJohn reminds people that they will be sticking diligently to the schedule. "In some sessions we have timekeepers, who will clink a glass when there are twominutes left for each section."