Mastering the Virtual Practice: 10 Reasons Why Virtual Meetings Are Harder

Anyone who has conducted a conference call or teleconference meeting knows that virtual meetings are fundamentally different than live encounters. Our brains pick up hundreds of subtle indicators when we are face-to-face with another person and these signals provide a huge amount of information that goes missing in a virtual encounter. This means that virtual meetings aren’t just different, they’re harder to manage successfully.

Observations of many virtual meetings and interviews with dozens of professionals who are relying on virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed 10 major dimensions built into the virtual experience that make executing it effectively more challenging.

1. The Client Has Greater Control Over the Engagement

When not in the same room with the presenter, the listener feels free to disengage from the meeting and to check emails or texts or multitask in some way. This sense of distance and freedom leads to far less discipline around paying attention and staying fully engaged; it’s likely the client will give herself permission to disengage from time to time.

2. The Client Has Less Social Obligation and Constraint

Separation liberates us from some of the social norms we’ve grown up with. This can manifest itself in something as simple as not paying attention or displaying rude behavior. Most of us won’t check emails or cell phone texts during a live conversation, but we feel free to multitask during a virtual meeting. In addition, the client often feels more comfortable disagreeing with the presenter, ignoring important information or cutting the meeting short.

3. Distractions Are Harder to Manage

It’s one thing to ask a spouse, friend or child to put down a cell phone. Think twice before asking a client or prospect to do so. Whether the other person is working from her home or office, outside distractions occur and are much more likely to disrupt the flow of a virtual meeting than an in-person one.

4. Screen and Sound Quality Is Limited

Cell phone screens, computer monitors and low-quality speakers diminish what we see and hear. Because of this, virtual meetings are less real and less likely to penetrate the other person’s attention filter.