Latecomers can sink your raid before it even begins. If you have an announced start time, stick to it, and if you have space for a few more, let the responsibility of catching up to the raid fall on them. Unless you know you can't field a viable raid force with the numbers you have at start time, there's no reason not to head in, especially since the beginning of the raid is usually trash mobs that don't require full strength.
Raiders often take it easy on trash mobs, but when you consider that most of the raid's time is spent on clearing trash to get to a few bosses, the priority should be on clearing them as quickly as possible. Stress the importance of not sneaking off to AFK on trash, and encourage people to DPS as hard as they do on a boss fight. Clearing trash quickly not only gives you more time to work on bosses, but it also keeps people sharp for when that time comes.
Don't be slowed by death
If someone dies during trash clearing, don't wait for them to get rezzed before moving. Assign someone to clean-up duty, and continue clearing. Newly rezzed players can buff on the fly, and chances are that the hassle of rezzing, begging for rebuffs, and scrambling to catch up to the raid will encourage raiders to be more careful next time.
Wipes are more serious, but they don't need to be the brick wall that completely stops your raid's momentum. If the raid wipes, rez and buff as fast as possible (no ninja AFKs!), and don't spend too much time talking about why. Often, the reason for a wipe isn't the strategy but the execution, and it's not necessary to spend several minutes talking about something that is easily corrected.
Loot and scoot
Loot is another factor that can slow down the raid. If the loot is tradeable, consider assigning a master looter to collect everything and distribute it at the end. If it's not, try to put a time limit on loot decisions. Encourage members to review their gear before the raid so you don't have to stand around waiting for them to ponder whether it's an upgrade or not. You could even take an extra step and post up loot tables for bosses you'll be hitting. This will give members the opportunity to compare ahead of time.
Treat it like a sports game, part I
Pacing is very important in sports. Timeouts, line changes, and fixed game times play an important role, because players push themselves to work their hardest during play, knowing there are defined breaks for rest and a finite amount of playtime. Approach raiding the same way. Consider keeping a timer going, and plan for hard stops at a reasonable time. Discourage ninja AFKs by announcing periodic (but short) pauses during the raid.
Treat it like a sports game, part II
There's always a lot of focus on trying to top the parse, and often, players think that the key to a great raid force is if everyone's cranking out a lot of dps or healing. While high parses are helpful, it's just one way to speed up a raid, and it is arguably not as crucial as players make it out to be. Just as with sports teams, individuals on a raid need to coordinate with one another in several different ways. Tanks need to work together to keep pulls coming fast, but they also need to coordinate with healers to make sure they're able to keep them alive. Consider having tanks practice tag team pulling, so that while one tank is holding trash for the raid to burn, another is out grabbing up the next round.
Treat it like a sports game, part III
Good coaches are able to correct mistakes by their players, but great coaches are able to anticipate those mistakes and prevent them from happening. It's challenging to try to be the eyes of every single raider, but great raid leaders know when to call out important reminders and adjustments during a fight. They also know when to push for better execution, without getting to the point that they're nagging. Raid leaders need to know how to clearly communicate without getting wordy and repetitive, so that the instructions they do give resonate with the raid force.
Just because you're pushing hard and maximizing time doesn't mean you can't have friendly banter. Legolas and Gimli finished off dozens of orcs and were also able to do a little trash-talking at the same time. Some guilds prefer to raid with a quiet voice chat, and that's fine if it fits your guild's personality. But if your guild is chatty, there's no reason they can't do a little yapping as long as it doesn't become a distraction.
Keep them eager for more at the end
Try to end your raids on a high note. That can mean a neat and tidy raid that succeeds in clearing the zone just in time for the hard stop. But even a wipe could be a good way to end the raid. If you've led a nicely-paced, productive raid, chances are that everyone had an enjoyable time and will be hungry for a return trip the next time you raid.
Raiding does take time, but it doesn't have to take as much time as people assume. And with these quick fixes, even a casual guild can cruise through a raid zone and make progress. By paying more attention to the pace of your raid, you'll make your raids more productive but also more enjoyable, and instead of begging people to join along, you'll have players lining up to get a spot.
Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.