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7 Virtual Meeting Mistakes to Avoid

To run an effective virtual meeting, it’s key to clarify objectives, collaborate on the team meeting agenda, and incorporate team feedback. Let’s get started.


In this post, we’re looking at you, meeting managers. You may not be new to virtual meetings, but when was the last time you assessed yourself, updated your processes, or collected constructive feedback from your team?

Our State of Virtual Meetings survey found that we’re spending five times more time in meetings now than we did pre-pandemic. But is all of that time used effectively? 

To answer that, see if some of these scenarios are familiar:

  • Skipping icebreakers in order to get straight down to business
  • Leaving one meeting only to rush straight into the next without resetting your focus and preparing your tech
  • Hastily preparing a meeting agenda without collaborating on it with other attendees
  • Duplicating a meeting attendee list from another meeting without assessing who is actually needed and who isn’t?

If you’ve experienced some of these situations, you may have fallen into some bad meeting habits that can cost you and your team. But don’t worry — we’re here to help.

In this article, we’ll address:


The cost of a bad meeting

People in a virtual meeting showing different emotionsHolding a bad or ineffective meeting comes at a cost. Every meeting uses valuable working hours, and bad meetings can completely throw off someone’s day, erode morale, and, in time, lead to employee turnover.

But if those costs aren’t enough to make you concerned, let’s talk about the actual money you can lose because of a bad meeting.

You can calculate this cost by multiplying the sum of the wages of each attendee by the time the meeting takes. If an employee makes $80,000 USD/year, they make roughly $38 USD/hour or $0.64 USD/minute.

Now, multiply that by the length of the meeting. A 60-minute one-on-one will cost $38.40 (plus the cost of your own time.) But a video conference of 12 people costs $460.80. Of course, this is a simplification since everyone on your team makes a different amount of money. Add in a CEO’s $300,000/year salary, and your meeting cost will jump drastically.

To help you calculate the cost of any meeting, Harvard Business Review built a handy calculator that shows you the total salaries of your meeting attendees.

Avoid the wasted costs of a bad meeting by avoiding these common virtual meeting mistakes.

7 virtual meeting mistakes to avoid 

People in a virtual meetingCould your virtual meetings use a bit of a makeover? To run effective virtual meetings, you must continually accept feedback as well as reflect on and adapt your processes. What worked once may not always work, and as a manager, your own continuous improvement mindset will help you run successful virtual meetings for your remote team.

1. Not starting with a clear objective 🏔

Let’s get this big one out of the way first: Without a clear meeting objective, attendees are left wondering why the meeting is occurring in the first place. If you are unable to nail down a clear purpose and objective for the meeting, there’s a good chance the meeting doesn’t need to take place.

Meeting objectives get everyone on the same page about why the meeting is occurring, and what success looks like. And if you haven’t defined success to begin with, how can you know whether or not the meeting was successful?

Set a clear meeting objective that’s visible to all attendees for every meeting you hold. Whether it’s a quick one on one, a daily standup, or an all-hands meeting, this is a critical step you can’t risk skipping. 

2. Inviting the wrong people ✉️

Inviting the wrong people to your meeting causes confusion and wastes time. You don’t need us to remind you how busy a schedule can get, and every meeting that’s added on takes away from important working hours. 

Inviting people to the meeting who aren’t needed pulls them away from their other work; understandably, this can annoy attendees who made time in their day for a meeting in which they’re not actually needed. On the other side of the coin, not inviting team members who should be a part of the meeting can slow down your process and prevent you from making any real progress on your meeting objective. 

Carefully craft every invite list. Do not repeat the same guest list over and over again just because you used it before. Look at the meeting objective and what you hope to accomplish to decide who is needed and who isn’t.

3. Building the meeting agenda alone 🔨

The most effective meeting agendas are collaborative. Do you build your meeting agenda all alone? Do you utilize the same meeting agenda over and over again without tailoring it to each specific meeting?

Not bringing other attendees into your meeting agenda process means you’re waiting until the actual meeting to begin sorting out the details. This wastes valuable (and limited 😬) time, and it can cause confusion and even conflict among your coworkers during the meeting. 

Bringing in multiple perspectives to create the meeting agenda prevents roadblocks before they occur. Meeting attendees can raise concerns and add necessary talking points. A collaborative agenda also allows attendees to get on the same page about who will need to speak and what additional materials or prework is required.

4. Jumping into a meeting right when it starts ⌛️

Person at a meetingWe get it; you have a tight schedule. However, as the organizer of a meeting, you need to plan ahead and add buffer room between your meetings. Rushing to the meeting a few minutes before it begins doesn’t give you the time you need to check that you have a clean background, ensure your internet connection is solid, and test any features or tools you’ll need during the meeting, such as screen sharing.

If you don’t have any technical issues to worry about, you can use the extra few minutes to prepare your body and mind. Do breathing exercises to reset your focus, and complete a few vocal exercises to warm up your mouth. This will help you enunciate and speak clearly during the meeting.

5. Skipping icebreakers due to lack of time ❄️

Icebreakers are more than a bit of fun before the meeting begins. They set the tone for the meeting and provide invaluable team building for virtual teams who often miss out on face-to-face opportunities to build rapport.

If you're tight on time, it may be tempting to skip icebreakers and get straight to business. For the sake of your meeting and team morale, do not sideline the introductory section of your meeting. Make sure you allot a specific amount of time in your meeting agenda for icebreakers to ensure you always have time for them.

Try to avoid cliched questions or tired conversations, such as discussing the weather or talking about a sports team. Instead, we recommend including interactive polling, trivia questions, or Hot Takes. 

Hot Takes is our favorite for quick icebreakers since they help people relax in a low-pressure manner. People often have strong and interesting opinions about Hot Takes, so it’s a fun way to start some friendly debate. For example, cats or dogs? What’s the correct way to cut a sandwich? Star Trek or Star Wars? How toasted should toast be toasted? 🍞

6. Ignoring team feedback 💡

Constructive feedback is an invaluable resource to anyone who runs video meetings. Gathering feedback from your team will help you determine what’s working and what isn’t, and it can present you with ideas you’ve never considered before.

But collecting the feedback is not enough — you have to put it into practice. Incorporate the feedback you receive into your next meeting. If you can’t implement the feedback right away, make a note to follow up later.

And it’s not only about improving your meeting. You can use the data you receive from your team to gauge interest, engagement, morale, and more over time. Did your initial team meeting start strong, but now, a year later, enthusiasm is waning? What does the long-term data tell you about your team, and how can you use that data to make better long-term decisions as a manager and for the company as a whole?

Want feedback to be easier? Polly makes giving and receiving feedback seamless and instantaneous. Add Polly to Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams in seconds.

7. Not having clear conference call guidelines 📘

While you naturally may expect your team to adhere to a certain level of online meeting etiquette, setting clear meeting protocols ensures there’s no confusion around whether or not pants are required. (They are!😅)

Create a set of protocols that is available to everyone on your team. This document should include a range of video call etiquette tips as well as guidelines around how and when to schedule meetings. 

Etiquette protocols might include asking participants to limit their meeting room background noise, turn off computer and mobile device notifications, stay away from social media, and avoid distracting body language.

Other meeting guidelines might include defining what default virtual meeting software and meeting tools your team uses, how to handle multiple time zones, and how to collaborate on meeting agendas.

Let’s go over these mistakes one more time. Master virtual meetings by avoiding these common mistakes:

  1. Not starting with a clear objective
  2. Inviting the wrong people
  3. Building the meeting agenda alone
  4. Jumping into a meeting minutes before it starts
  5. Skipping icebreakers due to a lack of time
  6. Ignoring team feedback
  7. Not having clear conference call guidelines


The feedback tool dreams (and great meetings) are made of

Team holding starsRunning effective virtual meetings is no small feat. It takes practice, ongoing reflection, and a continuous improvement mindset to ensure you meet meeting objectives while keeping each attendee engaged.

Video conferencing software can help, and we believe you’ll love the live feedback and real-time data Polly offers remote teams. With Polly, you can ask in-meeting questions, do icebreakers, create and send polls, and gather constructive feedback faster than you can say “questionnaire.” And you can do all of this without leaving your virtual meeting platforms, including Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Learn more about Polly integrations and how your team can benefit from instantaneous, data-driven feedback.

📚 Further reading from the Polly blog: 11 Simple Ways to Lead Better Virtual Meetings.

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