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Why are my virtual meetings terrible? (And how to fix them)

I can still remember when my family first discovered the digital meeting space. It was maybe six years ago now, and for the first time, we couldn’t all gather for the holidays. So we decided to try this “new technology” called Zoom. 

It was awful. Choppy reception. Incompatible systems. And even when it worked, no one knew when to speak or when to pay attention. The world of online meeting spaces had existed for a few years already, but only a few of us had tried them out. Family holidays are already notorious for awkward moments and miscommunications, but no one was ready to transplant that into an online space. 

We do the same thing in our digital workspaces today. 

A few years ago, the world was thrust into the digital space like never before. Companies that were exclusively in-person were suddenly and forever changed into digital or hybrid environments. 

When the pandemic hit, we were understandably in survival mode. Most of us were trying anything and everything to keep afloat and keep our teams connected. But some of our adopted patterns and habits are not ideal or sustainable as a new normal. Let’s face it. Plenty of those online team meetings you are leading or attending feel a lot more like an awkward family gathering. 

Let’s change that. 

Why aren’t my meetings working? 

First, let’s talk about some of the top reasons why your digital spaces aren’t fostering the kind of culture and community you need:

Disengagement and Lack of Insight:

Virtual team meetings sometimes lack the personal interactions and visual cues that in-person meetings offer. So much happens in those margins between meetings when we’re in person—a quick question leading to clarity, a simple joke shared between coworkers, or a moment to check in about someone’s personal life all help build trust and community. As a result, teams may feel disconnected online, leading to disengagement and a lack of insightful interactions. Leaders must be part savant, part psychic to foster healthy team culture in digital spaces. 

The Curse of Survey Fatigue:

Traditional culture assessments and surveys can provide valuable insights, but their effectiveness diminishes when teams face survey fatigue. Lengthy surveys can be time-consuming and tiresome, leading to incomplete responses and skewed results. Pausing your normal rhythms to conduct these surveys can stall productivity and can lead to choppy results. There’s also that added reality that people tend to respond in ways that they think the boss wants them to respond rather than giving honest feedback. 

Cultural Alignment in a Digital World:

Maintaining cultural alignment is another challenge. When interactions are limited to virtual spaces, translating company values and culture becomes more complex. All of the natural moments that happen in person vanish, and it becomes much harder to feel like a real team. Your people may struggle to embody shared values and maintain any sense of belonging.

We need to stop meeting like this! 

Let’s talk about some real solutions you can try today. Start with the basics. Encourage open conversations where team members share their wins, hurdles, and thoughts, building a foundation of trust. Embrace psychological safety, making sure everyone's ideas are valued without fear. Spice up meetings with interactive elements like icebreakers or brainstorming sessions to inject energy and engagement. Bring people into the meeting by asking their opinion. These things are possible online, but they require much more intentionality than when you were in person. 

Here are three out-of-the-box ways to kick up your meetings: 


Hand over the reigns: Switch up meeting facilitators to let different team members lead, boosting collaboration and confidence all at once. If it’s possible, give every person a chance to lead. This will foster greater ownership, and here’s the kicker—everyone will be cheering on their teammate because they know they will be up to bat soon.


Tour each person’s video background: When we moved to online work, we all became painfully aware of what people see in the background of all our videos. Take a meeting to have everyone share what they decided to put as their backdrop. NOTE: Give people a heads-up a week in advance. Encourage them to think about what they want in their background so they’re ready to share. 


Finance a background revamp: This goes well with the suggestion above. I once had a team leader who approved a $20 expense for each teammate to go out and buy a new office plant. We took time in our next meeting to share why we chose what we did, and it was a fun way to get to know each other. Consider setting a budget and giving people a week or two to revamp their home office space with some flair and personality. 

Invite Instill Sense™ to join your meetings

We saved the best for last. Instill Sense™ is one of the new powerful AI tools you get when joining Instill’s platform. Actively participating in your meetings, it gauges language patterns and sentiment in real-time, providing instant insights without the survey grind. Seamlessly integrating with platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, Instill Sense™ offers real-time feedback for prompt issue resolution and celebration. With ease, you’ll be able to look back at past meeting summaries and whole transcripts and see personalized recommendations to know how well your meetings align with your values. It really is possible to turn your virtual meetings into vibrant hubs of productivity, innovation, and connection. 


Click HERE  today to learn more about how Instill Sense™ can make crappy meetings a thing of the past. 


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