Want to make remote meetings more effective and productive for your teams? Here are 8 virtual meeting challenges and how to overcome them.
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Imagine you’re on an expedition into uncharted territory. But your map is torn into pieces, your GPS is on the fritz, and your fellow explorers are scattered across the land without phones or walkie-talkies. Instead of going somewhere together, you’re each following your own path.
Virtual meetings on traditional video conferencing platforms can feel like this. They’re not always set up to help you work together on different projects, especially if you need to switch between apps to make it happen. But meetings are an essential part of remote collaboration and, with the right approach, they can improve both your teamwork and productivity.
To get more done together–and get your brave explorers excited about the adventure–you need to use strategies and software that help, not hinder, collaboration and forward progress.
In this piece, we’ll hike you through the challenges of virtual meetings and offer actionable suggestions and tools to conquer the remote work wilderness. We’ll also discuss how Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace helps you create an environment where teamwork thrives, communication is clear, and everyone can forge a path through the remote work jungle together.
Want to get everyone moving in the same direction on virtual meetings?
With its visual, browser-based workspace, Switchboard is your guide to the land of better virtual collaboration and team communications.
Sign up for free.
8 Common virtual meeting challenges and their solutions
The road to making virtual meetings more engaging might seem long, but the right roadmap and equipment can make the trip go a lot more smoothly. Here are some challenges you might face and some ways to overcome them.
1. Collaboration challenges
1. Meetings feel transactional and lack spontaneity
All meetings should have a purpose and structure, but they shouldn't be one-sided exchanges that lack human connection. Transactional meetings are more like watching a travel documentary instead of going on the adventure yourself. They’re about following a strict agenda and listening to one person talk, rather than creating a space for open, unplanned discussions and spontaneous or creative interactions that benefit innovation and team culture.
By contrast, meetings where everyone can interact and participate encourage team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns freely. This opens it up to brainstorming, creative problem-solving, and discussion. The focus isn’t on checking off the to-do list, but on working together, generating new ideas, and exploring new territories beyond the meeting agenda.
When video calls are more interactive and spontaneous, people are less likely to multitask, turn off their cameras, or zone out. Instead, they’re active participants, building stronger relationships and breaking new ground together.
Here are some ways to create a more spontaneous, engaging meeting experience:
- Take turns hosting. Instead of having the meeting host dictate the agenda, let different team members take turns leading the call and sharing their agenda items. This empowers them to bring their own topics and encourages spontaneous discussions and fresh perspectives, breaking away from the monotony of a fixed agenda.
- Give other people the mic. Ask team members for input during the meeting, so the meeting facilitator isn’t the only one talking. Find out if things make sense, if they have any questions, or if someone would like to offer an alternative solution. This way everyone feels heard and like they can contribute.
- Bring polls into it. Live polls are a great way to let people feel heard and take ownership of the direction of the project. You can set up your poll before or during the online meeting. Just keep the questions simple so people can answer quickly and efficiently. For example, if you’re planning for an upcoming training workshop, you can ask them to vote for the topic they’d like to prioritize.
- One-word-story improv theater game. This is a collaborative storytelling session where you take turns going around in a circle, each person contributing one or two words to build a story. Set a timer for each individual to add their part by saying the first word that comes to mind. This exercise promotes active engagement, sparks the imagination, and puts team members in a creative mindset that’s perfect for brainstorming.
- Mind-mapping. Replace traditional slide presentations with a visual collaboration tool like FigJam that lets participants work together like they’re in the same room. Switchboard’s digital whiteboard also lets you work asynchronously, so if one of your intrepid explorers can’t make it to the meeting they can still contribute to moving the project along afterward.
Pro tip: Switchboard is a digital workspace that lets you and your team visually work together on documents and apps inside a permanent virtual room. When you hold your meetings in Switchboard, you can use its polling feature to quickly gauge how people feel about a certain topic.
2. It’s hard to read body language
When you communicate in person, you rely on a lot of non-verbal cues to understand each other's emotions, intentions, and feedback. That makes it easier to tell whether people are on board with what you’re saying or if they’re confused and have questions.
But when all you’re looking at is faces on a screen, it’s harder to pick up on body language. These cues often get distorted, delayed, or lost completely. This can leave you feeling like adventurers who’ve just lost cell signal—disconnected, frustrated, or isolated. It also makes it harder for leaders and people managers to pick up on the warning signs of remote work burnout.
Here are some virtual meeting best practices to help understand how your team members feel—without relying on in-person signals:
- Foster psychological safety. When team members trust you and feel safe, they’re more likely to speak up with concerns, feedback, or questions without fearing negative consequences. This is particularly important in remote teams because it promotes open communication between people who can’t interact in person.
- Do a temperature check before meetings. Begin the call with a brief emotional check-in. Ask team members to share how they are feeling and if it’s a “red, yellow, or green” day. Red means they’re feeling stressed and need support, yellow is okay but could be better, and green means they’re on top of their game and can support other team members. You can also use polls to make it easier to provide input.
- Schedule more 1:1 check-ins. Frequent, informal 1:1s let you touch base with people and gather feedback on how you can improve meetings. It’s also a chance to ask about how your people generally feel about their work so you can support them better.
Pro tip: On Switchboard, you can create dedicated, persistent 1:1 rooms for each team member so you can quickly jump on a call anytime. It saves whatever material you put in there–like a recurring meeting agenda–so you never have to spend time prepping again. Just pick up the trail where you left off.
3. They don’t allow for important side conversations
During in-person meetings or conferences, some of the best encounters happen away from the main events. But traditional online meeting platforms don’t make space for the important side conversations that can help us feel more connected to our colleagues and contribute to creating a positive work environment.
Let’s say you’re a content strategist in a small, remote marketing agency and you’re getting ready to present a client with their quarterly results. If you worked in a physical office, your coworker could lean over and remind you to mention the spike in website traffic you saw after the recent blog post.
But when you’re part of a virtual team, your team member needs to message you to give you the heads up. The problem is, it’s easy to miss message notifications when you’re following virtual meeting etiquette and paying close attention to what’s happening in the call.
To make space for important side chats while maximizing the effectiveness of remote meetings:
- Share meeting materials and allow everyone to work on them. Share a file or virtual whiteboard that everyone can work on before the meeting so team members can contribute ideas, questions, or comments in advance. This helps stimulate discussions, allows for relevant side conversations, and ensures you hear everyone out during the call.
- Use Switchboard to create dedicated meeting rooms. You can open multiple content types, like images and PDFs, work on them side by side, and chat while you do. Throughout the meeting, you can explore any file in the room, add sticky notes to write down your ideas, and move around to view whatever you want without getting in the way of others.
- Allow for spontaneous conversations. When you use a tool like Switchboard, you can empower your teams to have impromptu chats without losing time creating and sharing a meeting link. Just open your Switchboard room and invite anyone to join. They’ll get notified and will be able to immediately hop into the room and talk.
Now you understand some common virtual meeting challenges regardless of what tools you use, let’s look at some that are caused by your meeting tool.
2. Challenges posed by your meeting tool
Virtual meetings play a vital role in remote collaboration. But, given the limitations of traditional video conferencing tools, sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back, both in terms of getting work done and building relationships and company culture.
Let’s take a look at the specific challenges posed by traditional virtual meeting tools.
Here are some virtual meeting tool challenges and how to overcome them:
- One-sided screen sharing. It’s much harder to make meetings engaging when only one person holds the mic and you’re just watching them present. Being limited to waiting your turn to contribute hinders brainstorming and means you can’t work together on docs, apps, and files at the same time.
- Can only share one thing at a time. What if your group needs to work on an Excel file, jump to a project tracking software like Jira, take notes on Notion, and go back to Excel again? When you can only share one type of media at a time, you need to re-share your screen multiple times, which interrupts the flow.
- Start from zero, end with zero. With traditional meeting tools, you have to set everything up beforehand and, when the call ends, you lose all your progress. It’s like setting up your campsite in the wild, only to have to dismantle everything when the morning comes. It’s a frustrating cycle of prep and follow-up that leaves little room for continuity or progress.
- Finding the right link. The quest for the correct link is like wandering through a vast wilderness, desperately trying to track down the right path, only to find dead ends or detours. It’s frustrating and wastes precious time when you could be getting work done.
- Not the right format for quick conversations. Structured meetings can carry too much weight because of their formal nature and can feel like a chore to set up and attend. Sometimes, you just need to have a spontaneous, light chat to get things done or find answers.
But never fear: for each virtual meeting challenge, there’s a solution. Let’s take a look at those next.
Luckily, these challenges aren’t inevitable and meetings don’t have to be seen as a necessary evil. Just like Indiana Jones had his whip, fedora hat, and wit to aid him on his adventures, you need the right platform to keep your teams engaged and collaborating.
The first step is to think beyond traditional remote meeting platforms that only let one person share their screen. Instead, you need to invest in a tool with features that let everyone jump in, contribute, and work together.
Here’s how Switchboard helps you tackle each of those obstacles:
- Multiplayer experience and multiple screenshares in one room. In Switchboard, everyone can access and work side by side on browser-based apps, files and documents during meetings or co-working sessions. This lets you enjoy more effective real-time and async teamwork—and share in the adventure together.
- Multiple content types. Share and view links, PDFs, videos, browser-based apps, and files at the same time. Switchboard’s visual canvases organize your materials and give you ample space to access what you need.
- Persistent rooms. Switchboard saves your progress whether anyone is in the space or not. Let’s say you create a room for your report’s performance reviews. The notes, feedback, data, and supporting documents you use will stay there till the next month or quarter when you repeat the review again.
- Dedicated rooms for quick chats. With Switchboard, you can create rooms specifically for virtual team huddles. You don’t need a host, so you don’t have to wait for a team member to schedule a meeting and invite you to join. This is perfect for having spontaneous discussions to find quick fixes or build relationships
- No need for meeting links or invites. Create dedicated rooms for co-working, sprints, water cooler conversations, or even team-building games. Anyone can join them anytime, so you don’t need to create and share meeting links anymore.
Check out our guide to fun virtual meeting platforms for more ways and tools to make meetings more engaging. Also, see here for how Switchboard stacks up against Ideagen Huddle and Google Workspace.
Switchboard: your guide to conquering virtual meeting challenges
Compared to in-person, virtual meetings can be like a journey into unexplored territory. Your team members, as brave explorers, solve puzzles, discover hidden treasures, and navigate uncharted oceans. Sharing in these adventures brings your people closer together and lets you all make progress.
But traditional meeting tools are sometimes like setting off on your adventure only to realize you haven’t packed half the equipment (aka features) you need. This hinders engagement and makes it harder to work together. Meetings held on these platforms rely too much on one-sided screen sharing and can feel transactional, with no spontaneity.
That’s why as a leader of highly collaborative teams, you need strategies and tools that facilitate, not hold back, teamwork.
In this piece, we reviewed eight virtual meeting challenges and their solutions—from fostering psychological safety to scheduling more 1:1s to using polls and reverse agenda sharing.
We also discussed how Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace helps you foster team engagement and maximize the effectiveness of your meetings. It’s like your trusty, multipurpose Swiss army knife that has everything you need and nothing you don’t so your people can do more together, whether they’re on a call or not.
Want to get everyone moving in the same direction on virtual meetings?
With its browser-based, visual workspace, Switchboard is your guide into the land of better virtual collaboration and team communications.
Sign up for free.