Virtual meetings are a way of life nowadays, but that doesn't mean people always like participating in them very much.
The fact of the matter is, there are plenty of things at work we don't enjoy but still have to deal with on a regular basis. However, virtual meetings are known to be especially loathed by many.
For all of the major events in our lives, video calls have enhanced not only our work but also our social lives too. As a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, we have pretty much all recently gained expertise in using video tools.
The convenience of web conferencing is one of the benefits of using online meeting platforms, particularly when people are spread across a country or round the World. Despite learning how to use such tools, not everyone is able to do so effectively.
Today we’re going to go over why everyone hates online meetings, but most importantly what you can do to improve them.
Why do we hate online meetings?
Using virtual meeting tools isn’t a new phenomenon. Before the pandemic, businesses with employees spread around the globe used virtual tools to communicate for years.
With Covid-19 still prevalent, companies are increasingly turning to remote work, making these meetings crucial for a business’s success. Virtual meetings can be part of the project management plan for any of your products or services as well.
In a remote setting, the right communication and collaboration tools are indispensable for holding a smooth virtual meeting. But online meetings can’t always be adequate substitutes for face-to-face interactions at work, especially if you don’t know how to enhance engagement during your webinars.
Virtual meetings have added a whole host of new ways in which meetings can be awful. An online meeting can be pretty unpleasant because of all the problems it entails — from stumbling through tech issues, through staring at yourself on a screen for hours, to watching in horror as your coworker doesn’t realize they’re on mute.
These meetings can often seem like a waste of time if you’re a newbie and you lack a thorough plan. Having an unclear agenda can leave you wondering what the point of a meeting was in the first place. When you know what to do before, during and after a webinar, you can avoid such questions once and for all.
Nevertheless, like most things at work, virtual meetings can be improved in order to increase productivity and inclusivity. But before we get to the exact solutions to the issues, let’s discuss some things people get wrong when it comes to online meetings.
No backup plan for technical problems
Despite the many advantages of technology today, it has also made our lives more frustrating in many ways. There’s always a chance that something can go wrong if the software you’re using isn’t powerful enough to handle your online events.
Video conferencing platforms that are free to use don't always incorporate the most cutting-edge technologies. Additionally, older online meeting platforms might have outdated systems, making them more difficult to manage.
Combine all of these issues with the fact that not everyone is tech-savvy, and it’s easy to see why online meetings can become challenging. There are often no backup plans or troubleshooting options when issues arise during an online meeting. This, in turn, causes delays and wasted time.
Nowadays, it seems that every conferencing platform provides good quality, both technically and in terms of call management. However, this is often not the case.
When trying to pick “the one” from all of the available platforms, check whether calls are routed to the nearest data center using the latest transmission technology, providing a high-quality experience. That’s how LiveWebinar works by the way.
Lack of collaboration
Ineffective online meetings may not be down to technical problems but engagement issues.
Meetings are best characterized by collaboration and discussion resulting from audience participation. A virtual meeting makes collaboration significantly more difficult and often results in the exact opposite of everyone getting involved.
Almost all video conferencing platforms struggle with preventing participants from becoming disengaged. When we conduct meetings through our computers, we can easily browse the internet while they’re ongoing without anyone else knowing.
Asking questions, conducting real-time surveys, or handing over control can help engage participants. However, again, transmission problems might occur if your webinar platform isn’t able to manage multiple users at once (which today is a must).
You may also run into trouble if an employee wishes to share something with you on their screen - for example, if your lead designer needs to go over a content strategy, or your marketer wants help with analytics. You'll usually be expected to install software, activate screen sharing, and give them access to the main screen. These processes are time-consuming and can result in a meeting situation getting out of your control.
Actually, you can avoid these issues with a platform that enables you to:
- Assign tasks according to the specific roles of your attendees, such as host, collaborator, or audience member.
- Join a meeting straight from a browser, without the need to download an app.
What's also truly important in terms of engagement is to make room for conversation. Breakout rooms are the perfect way to help those who tune out when they feel like they're being talked at instead of included in the conversation. Moreover, it's a great way to stay in touch at a time when close contact isn't always possible.
Leaving no space for networking
A big mistake with virtual conferences is that people often don’t leave enough time for networking.
With the right networking, you can find opportunities you wouldn't otherwise have access to. You might learn about different fields, what employers are looking for, or how to improve professionally by tapping into your network.
When you attend meetings in person, you always have time afterward to chat with others. However, virtual meetings take place in a digital space, so attendees don’t always have the same opportunities to interact with peers after the presentation
At the end of every session, 5 to 10 extra minutes for networking may be worth a lot. It can help create the same in-person atmosphere that enhances a sense of community in which we can get to know our colleagues better.
It’s possible to secure interviews or meetings with several companies through one contact if you are committed to creating and maintaining a connection. Yet if you exclude this time from your meetings, you will lose all of these valuable opportunities.
How can they be improved?
Following on from our discussion of why online meetings are so disliked, let's talk about how they can be improved.
It’s easy to get these things wrong when it comes to online meetings. But there’s a lot that can be done right too. While the coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to be a bit more forgiving and understanding about meeting distractions and technical glitches, we should all still strive to do our best to be respectful and keep things moving. Sometimes it’s better to start from the assumption of “better done than perfect” just to start the creative process and then learn from your own experiences.
Starting from the implementation of some small tips can significantly improve the virtual meeting experience for you and your team.
Teams that can’t meet face to face rely on great virtual meetings to build those lasting professional relationships that help them get work done.
So here’s a list of ways to improve your online meetings.
Familiarize yourself with the technology
When it comes to technology, not everyone is an expert from the beginning.
That being said, it’s important to ensure that all users are familiar with the virtual meeting app you decide to use. The easiest yet most effective thing you can do is to send an email with short instructions on how to use a particular software system.
Also, management and IT teams can help you and your group get up to speed.
Before conducting an important business meeting, those involved should practice before the meeting even starts. It's even better that many virtual meeting apps offer options to practice these things without actually starting a meeting.
Another thing to consider is other attendees' fields of view, the lighting in the room you’re in, and whether or not people are standing too close to their cameras.
You could also consider performing a workflow analysis to see how efficient your business processes are and where they can be improved. Once you have an idea of what can be improved, it can result in fewer unnecessary online meetings altogether.
Have someone help you with the technology
If you still don’t feel comfortable enough to use certain tools on your own, you could also get someone to help you.
There are countless tech-savvy people out there who can help you troubleshoot problems during an online meeting. There may even be people inside your company who can be of assistance. Elect a moderator to keep an eye on things while the meeting is taking place so you never have to waste valuable time again.
If you usually host such online meetings, it can be a relief to know that someone is there to fix any issues. Maybe you don’t have to go far! Technical support provided by your webinar system vendor should be willing to help you whenever necessary.
Make a plan for participation
Virtual meetings must have a participative element in order to achieve the same effect as in-person meetings.
If participants are unfamiliar with one another, you can encourage them to all get involved by asking them to introduce themselves.
Alternatively, if most of the people on a call already know each other, you can encourage participation by introducing a quick ice breaker prior to the meeting.
A great way to do this is by implementing a group activity that requires everyone’s involvement. Another simple way to start is by asking everyone how their day has been. Getting everyone to take part increases participation once the meeting begins.
One thing to keep in mind is that some members of the meeting might not be native English speakers. So make sure to use clear and concise language during your online meetings to be sure that all attendees can understand what is being said. You can also provide them with a glossary of the keywords you’ll be using so you can be confident that everyone understands the essential message of the webinar.
Have a clear and well-communicated agenda
It’s critical to have a clear agenda for online meetings. Meetings with unclear objectives usually result in a lot of wasted time.
To simplify meeting preparation, set a formal agenda with the key topics to be discussed and put them in order according to your business requirements. After you have done that, send the agenda to everyone who will be participating in the meeting so they can also get a good sense of what it will be about.
You should also outline the role that each participant will play during the meeting. The agenda should be sent at least 24 to 48 hours in advance, and make sure that receipt of it is acknowledged by all participants.
Often, meetings suffer from unrealistic expectations that group consensus will guide decision-making. Even though a consensus within the group is a great form of diplomacy in the workplace, it’s not always possible.
Those responsible should be clear to the group about it so that they can make decisions accurately and move on properly.
Put simply, keep the agenda short and clear so there’s no confusion.
Online meetings can be enjoyable
Communication is ripe with possibilities and fraught with challenges as we continue into this age of information and technology.
It can be difficult to manage online meetings when people are located in different cities or countries. Despite this, now that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon, virtual meetings have become more widely accepted.
By preparing in advance and ensuring that your meetings are well structured, moderated, and communicated, they can still be extremely useful for connecting different people in your company. Also, compare webinar software systems before you choose the right solution for you. See whether you can test the platform out first, for example, LiveWebinar offers 14-days use for free.
The upside is that such tools can help you save on travel and communication costs.
In order to remain effective, you need to make sure to apply the strategies listed above in your workplace. Hosting inefficient meetings is easy, but making a boring meeting more effective takes practice and effort.