To me, one of the most detrimental things about parent-teacher conferences are the short, forced meetings. If a district demands that conferences occur on assigned days or evenings during an assigned block of time, then it doesn't reflect the needs of the teacher or the parents.
Teachers and parents must have choice in when they meet and for how long they meet. Nothing is more frustrating that not finishing a much needed conversation because the allotted 20 minutes are up. Some parents may wish to meet at a different point in the year. Other parents may wish to meet more frequently for shorter periods of time. This should be negotiated between the teacher and the parents.
Districts need to give teachers the flexibility to meet and to compensate their time (again, this should be the teacher's choice as to when the compensation is taken) for working after school hours. Communication is an on-going process, and face-to-face meetings are just one part of that communication at my school. This also needs to be recognized as valued work on the part of the teacher.