Although we have all adapted to the virtual work environment quite comfortably. Yet there might be times when we may feel frustrated while conducting and being a part of virtual meetings. So here we are with this blog with the ultimate answer to the question “Why are virtual meetings harder?”
Virtual meetings became the new normal with the coming in of the Pandemic. While virtual meetings existed even prior to 2019, the extent to which everyone was involved in the virtual world has changed drastically.
Virtual meetings are nothing but a form of online communication that is held between 2 or more people.
In fact, to understand the extent of penetration of virtual meetings in our lives, check out the list below and tick down all the apps that you have heard of or used in the past couple of years:
- Google meet
- Cisco WebEx
If you have checked most of the apps, then you can very well be aware of the importance of these virtual meetings in effective communication and productivity at work or school. In short online meetings have become a very important part of our lives.
If this is the case then why are in-person meeting still favored over virtual meetings?
Why are in-person meetings better than online meetings?
1. Chance of spontaneous interactions
In person meetings encourage more spontaneous interactions during and after the meeting. Such spontaneous interactions also help in building connections and better relationships with your coworkers. These are usually the things that we miss out on during virtual meetings.
2. More involvement
One of the biggest disadvantages of virtual meetings is how there are only 1 or 2 people talking or contributing to the meeting while the rest simply stay on mute. This is a barrier that in-person meetings completely do away with.
Once you are in the same environment as everyone, you might find it more comfortable to share your thoughts or opinions with the team. You may also get your doubts cleared at that very point which you might probably not do sitting behind the screen.
3. Focused attention
In-person meetings do away with yet another limitation of virtual meetings, i.e., distributed attention backed by multitasking tendencies.
Often, during an online meeting, we may be browsing through other tabs. Or we could be doing something completely different besides attending the meeting.
Meetings in-person compulsorily require don’t give individuals the liberty to spread out their attention across many things. Hence, everyone is in some way forced to be attentive to what is being said or discussed in the meeting.
4. Suitable environment
In terms of environmental or external distractions too, in-person meetings are easier as compared to virtual meetings. The reason is because, often, in-person meetings are held in rooms or places where there is little to no chance of getting distracted.
Besides that, In-person meetings also provide a suitable environment for everyone to interact. This is opposed to virtual meetings where people might face network issues, external disturbances of may simply not cooperate.
5. Show your dedication
Lastly, in-person meetings require efforts on your end in terms of traveling and showing up. This could be seen as your level of dedication from the client’s point of view. Hence, in the end, it can prove beneficial to you and your organization.
Why have virtual meetings?
Despite knowing the fact that virtual meetings are indeed harder as compared to in-person meetings, why do we still end up subscribing to the same model?
The answer to this lies in understanding that virtual meetings are no longer a choice, but a necessity.
While many organizations have already started working in offices, a large chunk of them are still working in a hybrid setting. A hybrid work environment is when you are working both from home and in-office.
Apart from that, understanding the various pros and cons of virtual meetings would give you a better understanding on the same. As it would help you choose whether you should go ahead with virtual or in-person meetings.
Pros and cons of virtual meetings
|Saves time and cost||Interactions are difficult|
|More convenient/ accessible||Less opportunity to build rapport|
|Opportunity for all to attend||Less Dynamic|
|Frequent and quick meetings||Poor technological connections|
|Easy to retain data||Environmental disturbances|
|Ease of sharing information||Poor knowledge of technology|
|Sustainable||No personal space|
It might seem very tricky to understand why would someone want to go ahead with virtual meetings if they are harder than in-person meetings?
And here is when we need to take a deeper look into 2 very important questions.
Why are virtual meetings better?
What are the advantages of virtual meetings?
1. Saves time and cost
In our extremely busy lives, who wouldn’t want to save time and money? Virtual meetings meet these very criteria. It saves a lot of your and the organization’s time. Add to that, the amount that is saved in terms of conducting an in-person meeting is huge.
2. It is more convenient/ accessible
Think about it? How convenient is it to get ready and switch on your laptops or PCs to join in the meeting as opposed to going and attending the meeting?
It is very convenient and easy to access, especially if you have the right devices and software in place.
3. An opportunity for all to attend
Virtual meetings can be attended by anyone from literally anywhere. So you could be attending from California while your other teammate could be in India. This is a very big advantage that virtual meetings have over in-person meetings.
4. Frequent and quick meetings
Unlike in-person meetings that need a lot of planning to schedule and execute, virtual meetings can take place on short notice.
In fact, quick virtual meetings have become extremely common. You can easily and quickly address your issues in these short meetings and get back to work later which would not be the case had the entire team met in person.
5. Easy to retain data
When it comes to virtual meetings, it is very easy to either record the call or the meeting. This recording can then be used later in case you miss out on anything. This again happens to be a limitation to in-person meetings wherein you might have to take down notes. And further you’ll have no data to go back to.
6. Ease of sharing information
Virtual meetings make it so much easier to share information or documents online. It is literally a click away. This ends up being extremely convenient, especially when you compare it with sharing physical copies in Offline meetings.
This brings us to the next advantage of virtual meetings: sustainability.
Since most of the data and files are shared online in virtual meetings, it makes it more sustainable as compared to in-person meetings.
Despite these various advantages of virtual meetings, why is it that we often feel drained once we are done with the meeting?
In simpler terms,
Why are virtual meetings exhausting?
Ever since the pandemic, we have all been bombarded with back-to-back virtual meetings. Now that can be extremely exhausting for anyone. This sort of exhaustion from virtual meetings is popularly called “Zoom Fatigue.” And no, it’s not just limited to Zoom.
Zoom fatigue can make you feel burnt out or anxious. It can strain your eyes, give you headaches and affect your concentration.
To overcome your zoom fatigue, you can try to limit your exposure to the screen and switch to either audio meetings or shorten the duration of the meetings (if possible).
You can also schedule the meetings in a way that you end up getting at least some breaks between 2 meetings.
Talking about zoom fatigue would make you wonder about other challenges that virtual meetings bring with them. And obviously, we have got you covered!
What are the challenges of virtual meetings?
1. Interactions are difficult
Interacting with people online can be quite challenging, especially when we don’t know them very well. Add to that the amount of technological glitches which make it difficult to comprehend what is being said. All of these things largely make the interactions very challenging.
2. Less opportunity to build rapport
Building rapport with people happens to be a crucial aspect when it comes to both the teams and the clients. With the cameras kept off, online environment steals that opportunity from us which could have been leveraged in an in-person setting.
However, you can still manage to engage everyone despite having the cameras turned off. Want to know how?
Check out our video here on 7 Effective Ways to Engage a Virtual Audience
3. Less Dynamic
When it comes to virtual meetings, more often than not, there is only one or two people talking while the rest simply listen. This makes it less dynamic and less engaging. At times it could take the form of a lecture rather than a fruitful meeting.
4. Poor technological connections
The biggest drawback of virtual meetings is when the technology is poor. It could be the network from your end or from others’ end or even the devices.
- Can you hear me?
- I can hear you. Can you hear me?
- Am I visible?
How often have we said this during any virtual calls?
Tons of time, right?
Technological issues come in the way of smooth communication. It creates a break in communication leading to the eventual loss of interest.
5. Environmental disturbances
When everyone attends the meeting remotely, the chances of them getting distracted is very high. You could see people moving around them in the background. Sometimes people end up unmuting themselves and you can hear their babies cry or falling crockery and what not!
How do you imagine such a meeting would lead to a productive or effective outcome?
6. Poor knowledge of technology
If having access to proper technology is an issue, then not having proper understanding of the technology is a bigger issue.
At times, despite having access to technology, people may find it challenging to carry out the tasks like recording the meeting, sharing one’s screen, use of more interactive features like surveys, breakouts and more.
Although this might not seem like a big issue, it surely comes in way of carrying out productive presentations and meetings.
7. No personal space
Attending meetings from anywhere. Although it can be a blessing most of the time, it can also end up being one’s worst nightmare. Imagine being extremely sick yet attending the meetings because, well, the meeting is virtual!
How to make virtual meetings more effective?
To make the best out of virtual meetings, it is important to keep a check on your virtual meeting etiquette.
Virtual etiquettes are simple, unspoken rules that you must follow when in a virtual meeting. These help in ensuring effective communication during meetings.
Why is virtual meeting etiquette important?
These etiquette ensure that the meeting progresses in a productive and smooth way.
Besides helping you accomplish your targets, virtual meetings make sure that everyone feels respected.
Virtual meeting etiquette tips
1. Create an agenda or goal for the meeting
If you are the one hosting the meeting, then make sure to have your agenda or goal for the meeting ready. Make sure to send the goal to everyone in the team concerned. This will not only give directions for your meeting. It will also help the attending members understand the purpose behind a meeting and would help them prepare accordingly.
2. Dress appropriately
Despite being a virtual meeting, we should never take it so lightly to simply show up in our pajamas. Dress as per what the meeting requires from you. Dressing shabbily can suggest that you are not interested or being professional enough, which can cost you your job or client!
3. Check your equipment
As discussed, technological issues are one of the biggest challenges of virtual meetings. To avoid yourself from getting in such situations, make sure to test all the equipment that you’d be using for the meeting at least an hour prior. The reason for keeping the 1 hour buffer is that it would give you time to find an alternative if your device is indeed facing some issues.
4. Check your surroundings
Besides ensuring that you look presentable, check for your surroundings as well. Try to find a plain background or wall to sit in front of. Or try to get rid of any offensive, derogatory or inappropriate posters or art on your wall.
5. Put your mic on mute
For god’s sake, please put yourself on mute. And yes, keeping checking and rechecking to ensure it is switched off. No one is interred in your conversation with your family or the sound of your microwave timer!
The same is the case with video cameras. Make sure to have your camera switched on whenever necessary. If not, keep checking if your mic is on.
6. Don’t interrupt others.
This is the most basic communication etiquette. Don’t interrupt others. Let the person speak, and if you can’t hear them properly due to network issues, then wait for a minute or two before giving out your thoughts; think.
7. Don’t simply drop out of a call
This is something we are all familiar with. The number of dropout rates in virtual meetings is a huge bummer.
While virtual meetings have become the new normal, that in no way means that the challenges that these meetings carry with them are easier to tackle.
In fact virtual meetings can end up being a little harder as compared to the In-person meetings. A lot of factors like poor technology or lacking knowledge of technology can make it seem that virtual meetings are harder overall.
However, in terms of effectiveness, both forms of meetings are equally effective. Depending on the situation, be it virtual or in-person, both the meetings are quite effective.