The Most Common Challenges in Virtual Meetings

There has been a massive increase in the number of remote workers as a result of the global Coronavirus pandemic. Many companies around the globe now resort to virtual meetings instead of the regular face-to-face meetings in a bid to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19.

However, there are some challenges that many people face when it comes to virtual meetings.

Some of these challenges are associated with the tools used for setting up the meetings. In this article, we’ll discuss a few of these common challenges and give you some useful tips to help you tackle them. Let’s get started!

Distant Time Zone

The first challenge that many people face when it comes to virtual meetings is distant time zones. Sometimes, the attendants of your meeting may be from many continents with different time zones. As a manager or supervisor, especially without a proper digital facilitation tool, it may be challenging to set a time for your virtual meeting that’ll be convenient for everyone.

You will need to ask everyone that will be involved in the virtual meeting and show that they are considered and valued. Otherwise, you may end up creating a difficult environment for your virtual meeting if you schedule it for a time that is not accepted by many participants.

Problems Joining the Virtual Meeting

One other common challenge that many people face concerning virtual meetings is joining the meeting itself. To join any virtual meeting, the participants are usually required to download an app which may be a third-party app or a proprietary app. Aside from that, the whole process relies on the internet.

If some of your teammates cannot download the required app on their device or their internet connection is not strong enough, they may be unable to join the meeting. Even if they could, they may be unable to follow the meeting or make any contribution as a result of problems with their internet connection. This we have faced multiple times ourselves.

Sometimes the problem is within the hosts of the event or learning session: if the virtual facilitator hasn’t been delivering proper instructions on how to join, there might be surprises along the way.

As an example, we were attending a training session from a marketing agency. We were told that the session would be held in Zoom, but once the session started, some participants had trouble signing in, as they did not have Zoom downloaded to their device. On most cases this is not an issue, as one can participate via Zoom link, but this time attending required the software to be downloaded. This was not told beforehand, and let to problems when launching the training session. 

Screen Sharing Is Often Complex and Ineffective

Screen sharing is common in virtual meetings. This may be sharing of a screen that shows the chart of some data, a video or any other thing. One flaw with many video conferencing software is that screen sharing is slow and lags. This is because it is dependent on how good the internet connection is.

Thus, some participants of the virtual meeting may see the shared screen faster while for others, it may take some time. Apart from lagging, the resolution is sometimes poor and participants may not be able to see what is being shared clearly, especially if they are using a larger inch screen. One thing that has to be mentioned here is that the one who is sharing the screen might not have prepared to do so in the best possible way. This can lead to embarrassing situations: maybe there’s something on the screen that they wouldn’t care to share with a bunch of people after all!

Sensitive Data May Be Accidentally Shared

Because it is common for many people to use their personal desktop computer or mobile devices to join and participate in virtual meetings, there is the possibility that a participant may accidentally share sensitive data. Thankfully, many platforms now allow sharing of a single application and not the entire screen.

Distraction

With virtual meetings, it is easy for participants to get distracted. From kids running around the house to attention-seeking dogs, there are several factors that can distract and divert the focus of a participant in a virtual meeting. And when people are distracted, they find it difficult to contribute meaningfully.

Aside from that, it can be challenging for people to stay focused on a screen for hours. Thus, when scheduling virtual meetings, you should ensure that it doesn’t take too much time because the longer the time it takes, the shorter the attention span of the participant may be.

Social Cues

In face-to-face meetings, it’s easy to read social cues and know when your audience is bored, lost or engaged. However, the case is different for virtual meetings. Thus, there is a risk of a misunderstanding occurring, especially if some participants remain silent when they did not get the meaning of what is being said.

To help reduce the possibility of misunderstandings happening, you need to make the virtual meeting environment a friendly one where participants can ask questions without fear. Participants can also use reaction icons to indicate that they are lost or not in support of what is being said without interrupting the current speaker.

Too Many Meetings

Another major challenge of virtual meetings is that there tend to be too many meetings in a bid to track the productivity of remote workers or keep them in the loop on what is going on. However, instead of improving the productivity of the team, having too many meetings may do the opposite.

Before you schedule any meetings, ensure it is essential and also create a supercharged agenda for it. Every participant should be aware of this agenda prior to the start of the meeting to avoid using too much time. Additionally, you should incorporate real-time productivity tracking and communication tools to help keep everyone in the loop.

Virtual meeting problems

Unclear Expectations and Points

According to BayAtlantic University, there are four types of learners – visual, auditory, kinesthetic and reading/writing learners. Thus, when hosting a virtual meeting, you as well as other participants need to have all these types of learners in mind and communicate in a way that they will understand without leaving anyone behind.

Virtual meetings challenges

Use Visual Aids and Interaction

You may want to consider the use of visual aids and interactive tools such as document sharing to help capture visual learners. In addition, you can create bullet point notes which reading/writing learners will find useful, and also ask the auditory learners that are part of the meeting to comment on points.

Benefit More From Virtual Meetings

Despite all the challenges that come with virtual meetings, there is no denying that they are useful. When you use the right approach for scheduling your meeting and you use the right tools, then you can be confident that virtual meetings can help increase the productivity of your team at a low cost.

Not to mention that it’ll also help the whole team stay connected. As a manager or team lead, you should not rely only on virtual meetings as a way of improving the productivity of your team. Instead, you should encourage real-time communication among your team members so that everyone will be kept in the loop. 

Final Thoughts

We’ve explained some of the common challenges that many face when it comes to virtual meetings. These challenges are surmountable by using the right approach. Always have it in mind that virtual meetings cannot totally substitute face-to-face meetings, so whenever possible, you should let your team meet physically for meetings. During this pandemic this of course is not possible.