I reluctantly admit that face-to-face meetings have side-benefits in terms of getting to know people in coffee and lunch breaks. But most of my meetings are internal to the business, and I usually manage to opt for audio conferences - there is limited benefit to travelling for 7 hours to spend 2 hours round a table. Audio cons seem more productive - people are less distracted and cannot get chatty with the person next to them.
In support of your view that we should try to encourage better meetings, we have to start with a clear purpose - "why are we geeting these people together and what is the end product". A good Chair makes a huge difference, to keep up the pace and focus on the agenda, to raise the quality of participation expected, and not to be afraid to chastise those who are poorly prepared and disorganised. A really good Chair is chasing people a week ahead - it's more like being a project manager.
My personal bugbears are
- people not reading Minutes (and associated briefings and papers) before the meeting - it's not held for them to sit and read but to make brief contributions to discussions before the meeting actually does or decides something
- people debating with colleagues matters that their own sub-group should have decided ahead of the main meeting
- people using their laptops/Blackberries during meetings. This is a matter of degree - if someone is presenting or minute-taking, that's one thing; deciding to read your e-mails simply undermines the meeting, and is surely a give-away that it is being run poorly. If you have free time or are bored, perhaps you're the wrong person, at the wrong meeting.