What Are Some Challenges of Online Meetings? 6 Examples

On the one hand, online meetings enable remote collaboration. Thanks to Zoom and other similar platforms, you can connect and chat with others regardless of the distance.

So long as the internet connection is stable, you should have no real problems hopping on your smartphone or laptop and connecting with another party.

Online meetings have proved to be extra valuable during the recent pandemic. The world stopped in many aspects, but many still had to carry out their work, which required constant communication with others.

In other words, there is no denying that online meetings solve a significant number of problems. At the same time, they are not a one-for-one alternative to meetings in person.

Meeting with others online comes at the price of facing certain challenges. These challenges vary from simple to relatively complex.

Some challenges are easy to avoid if you know what to expect. Others may be inevitable. Regardless, by understanding the most common online meeting challenges, you increase your odds of overcoming them.

Let’s take a look at what is causing the most problems for those participating in online meetings, including some examples and ways to deal with the challenges.

1. Reading body language

Non-verbal cues play a significant role in communicating. It’s much easier to read the room and how the person you are talking to is responding. Understanding another party is much easier when you can clearly see their entire body.

Meanwhile, online meetings mean looking at another person’s face most of the time. While face mimics also work as non-verbal cues, they are much easier to miss due to low video quality, delays, and so on.

Example: while talking to a candidate for a job, you don’t realize that the person interviewed has clear anxiety issues and will likely struggle in a job that requires mental fortitude.

On the other hand, interviewing such a candidate in person gives enough cues that they are uncomfortable.

Solutions: ideally, for really important interviews, it would be best to arrange in-person meetings if possible. Or, at the very least, arrange the setup so that the entire body is visible instead of just a face.

For general online meetings, it’s imperative to check on team members to ensure that they are doing fine. The lack of visual cues makes it harder to determine how well one is doing. Hence, regular check-ins help.

2. Ensuring security and privacy

Security and privacy are concerns as well. Given how many online threats there are these days, one small misstep could lead to a single person jeopardizing an important meeting.

Example: a company has higher-ups discussing new features to add to their product. A competitor manages to breach the meeting and record the conversation, stealing ideas.

Solutions: considering how prominent cybersecurity threats are, it makes sense to find different kinds of ways to fend off unwanted parties snooping around.

Ensuring the security and privacy of both individuals and an organization as a whole is imperative. A company has to have dedicated IT and security teams that monitor and react to warnings.

From an individual perspective, employees should be aware of threats for their personal or work devices. They should also be encouraged to use virtual private networks.

For more important secret meetings, it’s a must to be careful about who receives a password to join the meeting.

3. Overcoming technical difficulties

Technical difficulties can come down to something wrong with the software or something wrong on the user’s end.

Less tech-savvy users may require extra time to solve problems if there is nobody on the spot to help them out. This, in turn, leads to delays and frustration for other participants.

And if the problem is on the software side, you are stuck until the developers fix it, or you can find an alternative tool to host a meeting on.

Example: a regular check-in meeting calls for participants to quickly share how their workday went. One of the people cannot hear others and fails to realize that it’s because they muted the meeting tool audio or the audio of their device.

Solutions: whether online meetings are regular or not, it’s worth having somebody on standby who can inquire about technical difficulties and help participants address the issues.

And if the issue is on the software side, whoever organizes a meeting should have an alternative option in mind so everyone can switch and minimize the delays.

4. Accommodating different time zones

Time zone accommodation is a tricky challenge. When you work for an international company, there are usually some employees who live on the other side of the world compared to the rest.

One or two hours are not a big deal, but if it’s six or more, then finding a way to accommodate such a participant is tricky.

Example: one of your coworkers goes abroad and has to report not just to the supervisor but to other colleagues.

Solutions: find a timeframe that makes sense for both parties involved. If it’s noon in one place and early evening in another, organizing a meeting should not be too much of a problem.

It’s when one party has to participate during ungodly hours that really makes this a nuisance.

5. Avoiding distractions

Distractions might come when you least expect them, putting the meeting to a halt. Disrupting the flow also means disrupting the meeting, which is not ideal when there are multiple people involved who want the meeting to go smoothly.

Example: you are presenting an idea and have one of your family members barging into your room without them realizing that you are in an important meeting.

Solutions: ensure that you have no distractions from your side. Let other people know beforehand. Next, double-check to confirm that everything is working to minimize the odds of technical struggles.

Also, aim to save time as much as you can so the meeting picks up after somebody gets distracted and off track. If you need to present the information quickly while on your MacBook, be sure to know various tricks like how to screenshot to text on Mac or how to record a quick video and share it with others if visual instructions are necessary.

Of course, preparing for things like instructions in advance before the meeting starts is also a great way to save everyone some time.

6. Lacking side conversations

In-person meetings with many people lead to various side conversations that may hold more value than the main meeting. Sometimes, going with another person aside and chatting could help establish a stronger relationship or catch up.

Online meetings don’t offer such an opportunity. Virtually everyone is in a single room, listening to one person speaking.

Example: you want to impress a client and get into the rhythm of giving the best possible presentation ever, only to forget a crucial aspect. Your colleague quickly leans in and mentions the missing piece to you, saving the day. Pulling something like this off in a virtual meeting is much more challenging.

Solutions: finding a solution for this particular challenge is quite problematic. Suddenly, interrupting a speaker may seem rude, and it can destroy the whole meeting dynamic.

If it’s between two colleagues, having an online chat to exchange messages in real-time might be one way to help each other out. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about strangers because these things require preparations in advance.

Wrapping up

A reliable online meeting tool is a foundation for good online meetings. However, you should not discard the possibility of the tool malfunctioning from time to time.

Combining that possibility with other difficulties, there are a fair few challenges online meetings present. Hopefully, this article presents decent alternatives and ways to overcome the said challenges.