The 10 most common issues in online meetings explained
Did you know that the majority of workers experience that up to 95% of meetings start late?
“Sorry, we’ll get started soon – we’re just some having technical difficulties.” Indeed, technical difficulties and usability struggles with web conferencing software is the number one contributing factor to meetings starting late.
This results in an incredible amount of lost time and money. And with virtual meetings growing at an incredible pace, the economic damage is rising continuously.
If you ever wondered why there are still so many issues with web conferencing, read on and you’ll understand why.
Virtual meetings are on a meteoric rise
There are more meetings than ever before. The average employee meets 8 times per week, executives in high tech industries 17 times, according to Ovum.
An increasingly collaborative, connected workforce is fueling rapid growth in virtual meetings. More than 1/3 of all meetings are virtual, with participants attending from remote offices, from the road or literally anywhere with a phone or Internet connection. A study released by IWG revealed that 70% of professionals work remotely — a phenomenon known as telecommuting — at least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.
The era of the dominance of the PC and projector in the meeting room is coming to an end, with employees increasingly taking devices such as tablets and laptops into the meeting room, blurring the lines between what is a physical and what is a virtual meeting. The consumerization of the workplace is transforming the way teams work together and poses substantial challenges to existing web conferencing tools.
Web conferencing is a pain
Currently available web conferencing tools are not sufficient to meet the requirements of the new agile, collaborative workforce.
Ovum found that 30% of sales professionals believe that the web conferencing tools they are using today are in fact a material hindrance to sales, rather than an enabler.
67% of employees report that more than half of the meetings they attend are not of value. Key reasons are late start times. The vast majority of workers experience that up to 95% of meetings start late. This leads to an unacceptable number of meetings that are perceived to have no value and is costing executives about 3 hours every week in lost time and productivity. The number of lost hours each week sums up to incredible five 24-hour days and 19 hours per year.
As a result, the majority of corporate buyers is looking for new conferencing solutions that are a better fit for changing workforce behavior.
Reasons? Difficulties in scheduling and joining meetings and a complex screen sharing technology that is prone to malfunction and definitely not designed for professional remote conversations with highly valuable prospects and customers.
In the following, I’ll decompose the complex problem into its parts.
Difficulties in scheduling and joining meetings
For the modern worker, it has become an all-too common refrain at the top of a majority of their meetings: “Sorry, we’ll get started soon – we’re just some having technical difficulties.” Indeed, technical difficulties and usability struggles with web conferencing software is the number one contributing factor to meetings starting late, closely followed by the challenges of checking who has joined the call – the roll call process that can eat into available meeting time.
There may be various reasons why your guest is late or not able to join the meeting at all, but in most cases it’s one of those:
1. Download required to join the meeting
A large portion of web conferencing solutions require participants to download an application on their local desktop environment to join the meeting. Downloads take time and pose a significant friction to potential buyers of your product. We also see that client software updates are a frequent issues for meeting delays.
2. Corporate firewall or incompatible browser blocking use of conferencing software
More modern conferencing providers are already trying to address the download issue. Even though the host is always required to install a software on-premise, they provide guests with the ability to join the meeting via a web client that runs from the browser. However, those clients often work only with the most recent Chrome and Firefox versions. If you are running on an older version or use Internet Explorer, you’re out of the game. Corporate firewalls also frequently block web clients by default, hindering guests from joining the meeting.
3. Bad conferencing information provided
Let’s assume you were able to get that far: You are asked to enter your meeting PIN and dial in to the conference. Searching for your PIN eats into meeting time. Local dial-in numbers are provided. Somewhere. In an interminable list . With a complicated system asking you to type in meeting IDs and hashtags. By the time you join the meeting you are already 10 minutes late, bugged and not really in the mood for having a great sales conversation.
Now let’s get to the online meeting itself. There are two core functions of web conferencing software: Audio conferencing and screen sharing. Video conferencing is increasingly being used, but remains niche to date with 62% of workers infrequently or never using it for work purposes.
Poor audio conferencing quality
Audio conferencing turns out to be especially critical in meetings with company external parties, because poor audio quality is associated with a lack of professional competence.
Reasons for bad audio quality are either inherent to the technology built in the conferencing tool or caused by the invitees’ poor technical equipment and missing experience with using computer telephony.
4. Conferencing tool lacks state-of-the-art audio conferencing technology
Today, most larger conferencing providers do provide sufficient call quality from a technical standpoint. They use latest transmission technologies and route calls to the nearest data center around the world. However, there are still some free conferencing service providers that don’t provide state-of-the-art technology. Also, the ability to see who has dialed in is not a standard feature, even though it is critical to know who has joined, who’s talking and to have the ability to unmute participants in order to host professional meeting.
5. Invitee is inexperienced with online meeting technology and/or lacks decent equipment
If you are working with customers active in a rather traditional industry – like construction or public sector – you are likely to have more issues with browser-based conference calling than you would have with customer working in tech. Imagine your participant sitting in a large conference room with a handful colleagues, dialing in with his computer without using a proper handset. Things get worse because he doesn’t know how to access speaker and microphone settings.
6. Lack of sufficient internet bandwidth
Having a proper internet connection speed is crucial to the viability of audio conferencing technology, possibly making or breaking communication efforts. Generally speaking, the lower your upload speed – or consequently your invitee’s upload speed -, the less reliably consistent the quality of your VoIP phone calls will be. Typically, only a broadband Internet connection can provide the minimum bandwidth for VoIP calls. And speed alone does not guarantee optimal results for VoIP. Consistency of network, concurrent downloads, and other factors could impact the quality of your call. According to a recent study from BusinessWire, in fact over 80% of businesses are experiencing internet connectivity problems. No wonder that they also frequently complain about insufficient VoIP call quality.
Screen sharing with currently available tools is complex and ineffective
Now we get to the most complex and ineffective but at the same time most important component of web conferencing: screen sharing.
There are three core use cases for screen sharing: presentation, collaboration, and technical assistance. If we put aside technical assistance, screen sharing is still being rejected in many situations perpetuating the continued use of email as a document-sharing tool (30% of all employees), despite email’s inherent problems: Email frequently stumbles with speed of transmission, file size, synchronized document navigation and compatibility on different device types – a key consideration on smartphones and tablets.
Screen sharing is excessively complex because of the inherent technology. Users suffer from slow transmission rates and lags, bad resolution, sensitive data accidentally being shared, detached participants and an unprofessional presentation flow. Let’s dive into the reasons behind each of those problems:
7. Transmission is slow and lags
When you activate screen sharing, you share your local desktop screen with the other party. To be able to share your screen you have to install a screen sharing software on-premise. When you start the screen share, the software records a video of your local desktop screen. This video is being uploaded to a server in the cloud via a constant stream. Your guests receive the video stream in turn by downloading it from that server, again in a constant stream. The upload stream is in fact the biggest bottleneck as the upload rate is per default lower than the download rate with broadband connections. At least by factor five, but often significantly lower. Considerable time delays and poor resolution are self-explanatory.
8. Participants often experience bad resolution
In fact, the presenter does not even notice the problems occuring on the viewer’s side. Also, when your share your screen, the content you share is optimized for the size of your local screen or application window. Imagine you sitting in your office, in front of your 24 inch monitor and sharing your screen with a customer who is sitting at the airport, using a 10 inch ipad and being connected to public Wifi. He very likely doesn’t experience your product demo as you’d like him to.
9. Sensitive data is accidentally being shared
Even though most screen sharing applications today let you share just the application window, most users still share the entire desktop because it’s more convenient. We have all been in those meetings where sensitive email notifications or embarrassing private chat messages were popping up in the corner. Apparently, it’s happening so frequently that there are entire businesses on tackling this problem (e.g. https://muzzleapp.com for Mac – check out their brilliant landing page). Presenters share sensitive data when fumbling around finding and going back and forth between multiple documents in private folders. After all, current screen sharing technology is not designed to have professional interactions with customers or business partners.
10. Interactive meetings are difficult to realize
Online meetings are likely not the most exciting and engaging events in work life. The current setup makes it difficult to prevent participants from getting detached quickly. You can somehow try to engage participants by asking questions and handing over control. However, the latter poses challenges due to transmission issues explained before. Plus, your participants would in fact access your local desktop. For company internal meetings the concept might be okay, but with external parties rather difficult. Now imagine your customer wants to show you something on his screen. It becomes even more complicated – he needs to install the software on his desktop, activate screen sharing and handover control. You are now in a meeting situation that you can’t control anymore. Besides, it’s somehow weird to work on your customers screen.
Tell me about your worst online meeting experience and you get three months Demodesk for free
Looking forward to your next online meeting? In fact you can. We’ve been working hard for for the last months and developed an entirely new approach to screen sharing and conferencing that solves common issues. Ok, let’s be honest: All of them except for a broken internet connection.
I’d love to hear your very own story of how you experience online meetings and what your specific problems are. Tell me about your worst online meeting experience and you get three months Demodesk for free, no obligations. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.