In today's fast-paced digital world, it's more important than ever to stay connected with customers, colleagues across other teams, and partners. Meetings are an essential part of any business because they provide a platform for communication, collaboration, and decision-making.
They offer us a chance to have facetime (either in-person or virtually) with others to brainstorm new ideas, solve problems, or make business-critical decisions.
One of the biggest advantages of meetings is that they allow teams to communicate and collaborate effectively. Whether you're working on a project with a colleague or presenting a proposal to a prospect, meetings give you an opportunity to exchange ideas in a way that's not always possible (or as effective) through email or other forms of communication.
When run well, meetings can help to build trust and rapport between teams, which is essential for fostering a positive and productive work environment.
Meetings help us bring key stakeholders and decision-makers together so that we can make important decisions on time instead of going back and forth to discuss the same issue over email, chat, or other mediums. This is particularly crucial for businesses where decisions need to be made quickly, such as in early-stage startups or fast-growing revenue teams.
But we have all been in meetings that are run poorly, involve the wrong people, and don’t always lead to any concrete outcomes. Most meetings suck because they aren’t run efficiently, run too long, or are simply running on empty calories—without a clear objective or agenda.
In this post, we will talk about the different problems that are inherent in the different types of meetings that are staple, but critical, to every business’ growth.
Problems with internal meetings
From unclear objectives to poor attendance, several challenges derail the usefulness of internal meetings and leave people feeling frustrated or unfulfilled. Here are a few problems that business teams face in their internal meetings.
Meetings that lack a clear agenda or purpose
Internal meetings can be frustrating and unproductive if you don't have a clear agenda or purpose. When people don't know what the meeting is about, they struggle to contribute effectively or stay engaged. In some cases, meetings without clear objectives can devolve into tangential discussions that don't lead to any real outcomes or action items.
Solution: Build a culture of sharing meeting agendas beforehand and share it with all participants in advance. The agenda should outline the topics to be discussed, the goals of the meeting, and the desired outcomes. For recurring meetings, have agenda templates in place for making the agenda-sharing process more efficient.
Problems with remote meetings
Working from home can be great, but it also comes with its fair share of distractions. Whether it's a barking dog or noisy kids, distractions at home can make it tough to stay focused and engaged during remote meetings.
Below are some of the most common problems that all remote workers go through when working virtually:
Lack of human interaction and communication cues
One of the biggest challenges with remote meetings is that they can feel less personal and interactive than in-person meetings. It’s tough to establish a connection with others without the ability to make natural eye contact or read non-verbal cues. Meeting remotely can sometimes also feel too formal and structured, which can make it more complicated to build rapport and have natural conversations.
Solution: Build a culture of encouraging people to engage in small talk or a casual conversation at the beginning of the meeting to help build rapport. Make everyone understand the value of keeping videos on so that everyone can see each other’s faces and body language. This helps recreate some of the social cues you would normally get in an in-person meeting.
On that note, you might want to read our insights on how to build rapport in the context of remove selling:
Remote meetings and technical snags are two sides of the same coin. Poor internet connections, audio issues, and software glitches can disrupt the flow of the meeting and make it harder to communicate effectively. This can be especially frustrating when trying to share important information or making critical decisions. The more meeting participants, the more chances of technical glitches ruining your meeting experience.
Solution: Make sure everyone in your team has access to reliable technology at their disposal for meetings to function efficiently. If you have the same set of issues recurring over and again, troubleshoot them before the next meeting.
Distractions at home
Remote meetings also come with the added challenge of dealing with distractions at home. A barking dog, your neighbor’s lawn mower, or the constant ambient noise from the street outside your house are all sources of distractions that can disrupt the meeting and make it harder for you to stay focused. It’s particularly challenging for those who are working from home for the first time and are not accustomed to the potential distractions.
Most distractions are annoying and a hindrance to your productivity. Although, sometimes, some interruptions are welcome distractions that can make you world famous! Like this family who became viral because of the kids’ antics during their dad’s work hours:
Solution: For company-wide meetings, set ground rules such as no multitasking or checking email during the call. To minimize distractions, encourage participants to find a quiet, private space so that they can focus on the meeting. Also, keep meetings short and to the point.
Inability to read body language
Perhaps the biggest challenge of remote meetings is that it can be harder to read body language and other nonverbal cues. Without the ability to see facial expressions, gestures, and other nonverbal signals, it can be harder to gauge how other meeting participants are feeling or reacting to the discussion. This makes it harder for people to build trust and establish effective communication.
Solution: Use hand gestures or facial expressions to help convey your message better. Make sure everybody has good lighting so you can see each other clearly. Over-communicate on the important stuff.
Difficulty in building relationships and trust
Remote meetings can pose challenges for you to build authentic relationships and establish trust. When you are forced to interact with colleagues and customers through digital screens, you don’t have the opportunity to build a natural connection and earn their trust. This is doubly challenging for people who are new to the organization or who are working with customers or partners for the first time.
Solution: Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. Be open and transparent in your communication. Follow up after the meeting with clear action items and next steps to show that you're committed to moving forward together.
Problems with hybrid meetings
While the world is still torn between on-site versus remote-friendly work environments, hybrid work has emerged as a viable alternative.
Meetings in hybrid work culture offer many benefits—from increased flexibility to improved work-life balance—but they also come with some challenges. Here are some common problems that usually take place during hybrid meetings.
With hybrid meetings, it can be challenging to ensure that everyone is able to participate equally. In-person attendees may have an easier time speaking up and participating in discussions, while remote attendees may struggle to be heard over background noise or technical issues. This creates an unequal playing field and makes it harder for teams to achieve productive outcomes.
Solution: To ensure equal participation, set the right expectations for everyone and encourage active participation from all quarters. Allocate time for people joining in virtually to voice their opinions. Whether they are joining remotely or in person, ask people to contribute their ideas and ask for their input often—especially the ones that tend to remain silent.
Meetings in the hybrid teams come with the added challenge of managing technical logistics. From buying web conferencing licenses for all your team members to ensuring that remote attendees can hear and see everything that's going on, to managing the necessary equipment to facilitate the meeting—there are many potential technical hurdles that can make it harder to achieve seamless communication and collaboration.
Solution: Rule #1: Choose high-quality, scalable web conferencing tools that you can rely on. As a norm, also lean on asynchronous communication channels to compensate for the frequently occurring technical glitches.
Difficulties in building relationships and trust
One of the key benefits of in-person meetings is the opportunity to build relationships and trust through social connection and networking opportunities. With hybrid meetings, this can be more challenging. People in the office have more opportunities to connect and build relationships in a face-to-face setup, while remote attendees may miss out on these opportunities—making it harder to establish trust and build rapport.
Solution: Create a friendly environment for people to interact and get to know each other. Encourage everyone to share their thoughts to make them feel that their ideas matter.
Lack of social connection and networking
Hybrid meetings don’t always provide the same level of social connection and networking opportunities like in-person meetings do. Without the ability to chat casually before or after the meeting, or to grab a cup of coffee with teammates, it can be harder to build connections and establish a sense of community. For people who are new to the organization, it can be tricky to navigate around this problem.
Solution: Consider organizing virtual happy hours or other team-building events to build connections and camaraderie. Make sure to check in with remote participants regularly to ensure they feel included and engaged.
Meetings that run too long
We often tend to run meetings that drag on for too long or are otherwise inefficient. When meetings run over their allotted time, people start to lose focus or become disengaged. This usually exacerbates when meetings lack structure or are poorly organized.
Solution: As per Parkinson’s law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. If you schedule a meeting for 60 minutes, people will meet for 60 minutes. People deviate from the original topics of interest and there is no urgency to conclude the meeting sooner.
Schedule shorter meetings and stick to the allocated time. Remind participants of the allotted time for each agenda item and establish a thumb rule to not exceed the time limit.
Lack of actionable items
Even if a meeting is well-run and has a clear agenda, it can still be frustrating if it doesn't lead to any concrete action items or follow-up steps. When attendees don't know what they're supposed to do after the meeting, they may feel like their time was wasted. This erodes people’s trust and makes it harder for you to achieve any productive results from the meetings.
Solution: Assign clear action items to specific individuals during the meeting and ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. At the end of the meeting, recap the content discussed and reiterate the next steps for everyone’s clarity.
Lack of active participation
People start to lose interest and become unresponsive to internal meetings when they start taking too long, aren’t efficient, lack an agenda, or aren’t actionable. It’s not unusual for some people in internal meetings to dominate the conversation or if there's a lack of diversity in perspectives or backgrounds among the attendees.
All these downsides of internal meetings make it harder to achieve consensus or move towards a fruitful outcome.
Solution: If you are the meeting host, ask open-ended questions, invite feedback, and create opportunities for discussion within the permissible time. Use interactive tools such as polls or breakout sessions to encourage engagement. Most importantly, make sure everyone has a chance to speak and participate, discourage a few people from dominating the meeting, and avoid side talks (in person or through chat).
Problems with customer meetings
Customer meetings can be make-or-break moments for your business. But navigating everything from technical difficulties to unengaged attendees can be a real challenge. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common problems with customer meetings.
Failure to understand customers’ needs
If you haven't done your homework ahead of time or if the customer's needs aren't clearly articulated—you will spectacularly fail to understand what the customers actually want. When you're not on the same page, you can end up wasting everyone's time, and even worse, potentially lose a business opportunity.
Solution: Do your research beforehand and make sure you understand your customer's needs and expectations. Prepare your presentation slides or other necessary materials in advance and make sure to tailor your approach to the customer's specific situation.
Miscommunication or misunderstandings
Misunderstandings are still pretty common in customer-facing meetings even if you think you're communicating clearly. It usually happens when you use jargon or technical language that the customers don’t understand, or if you aren’t asking the right questions to really get to the heart of what they need. These confusions often lead to frustrations or even conflicts.
Solution: Be clear and concise in your communication and actively listen to your customer's feedback and concerns. Use plain language and avoid jargon or technical terms that may confuse the customers.
Difficulty in building relationships and trust
Building relationships with customers takes time and it’s tough to do so in the context of a single meeting. And when you aren’t able to establish trust or rapport with the customers, it makes it much harder to work with them effectively down the line. Building rapport with customers is especially tough when you aren’t listening actively to their needs or if you are too busy taking notes or interrupting them frequently.
Solution: Demonstrate empathy and understanding. Show that you are invested in their success and are committed to helping them achieve their goals.
Inability to present information effectively
Most business teams aren’t great at presenting information to customers in a way that's engaging and easy to understand. If you're relying on dense, text-heavy slides or if you aren’t presenting your information succinctly, customers can’t follow along or stay engaged. This is especially true if you operate in a complex domain with lots of technicalities involved.
Solution: Practice your presentation and work on your delivery to ensure that your message is clear and engaging. Use visual aids and storytelling techniques to help convey your message effectively.
Be mindful of how you run meetings
Meetings are essential for business collaboration, but each type of meeting also comes with its own set of challenges. Whether you're conducting remote, hybrid, or internal meetings—they are riddled with problems that can slow down your team’s execution, bottleneck decisions, or go around in circles without any specific outcome.
The best way to navigate these problems is to address the common problems inherent in these meetings before they become problematic. By being mindful of things like communication, technical logistics, engagement, and relationship-building, you can make your meetings more productive—and fun.
Remember to set clear agendas, encourage active participation, and follow up with action items to ensure that your meetings are achieving their intended goals. Implement these tips to transform your meetings from tedious obligations to valuable opportunities for collaboration and growth.