Some of us prefer short meetings. We look forward to a concise agenda, terse discussion, and thoughful but efficient decision-making, without losing a signficant portion of the work day.

But not everybody favors that scenario.

Board and committee members who travel from out of town often have little incentive to conduct their meetings speedily. They can't run back to homes or offices, but they can enjoy face-to-face contact with colleagues, some of whom they may not see again all year. If a meeting concludes early, where will they go? So, the meeting drags on longer than necessary.

Local associations, too, encounter meeting lengtheners. Board or committee members who drive downtown from an outlying suburb may expect a meeting to last longer than the drive into town. Commuter rail users who miss a return train may have to wait an hour for the next one. Sitting through a meeting trumps waiting at the station.

Stay-at-home moms often relish the opportunity to meet with adults to discuss adult topics. They don't want meetings to wrap up quickly. They may have hired sitters or told their husbands to rush home to watch the kids. They are counting on the full amount of time scheduled (or more).

Efficient meetings are beneficial to everyone. But efficient does not always mean short.