Meetings take up a lot of time; 31 hours per month, to be exact.
This is wasteful, inefficient, and stressful. It's especially bad post-pandemic, where we run 6x more group meetings and 12x more one-to-ones (Doodle).
Enter asynchronous meetings.
Async communication is a way to connect without time waste, burnout, or boredom. It's a way to free time for deep work that matters. And it's a way to stay in touch with distributed team members across time zones.
On this page, we'll cover what async means and why you should care. We'll also cover 8 powerful asynchronous meeting best practices you can use internally and externally.
What are asynchronous meetings?
Asynchronous meetings, a.k.a. async meetings, are meetings that don't happen in real time.
They usually consist of:
- Texts shared in Slack, Telegram, e-mail, etc
- Asynchronous video messages shared in 1-on-1 and group environments.
Async lets groups hold meetings at times convenient for team members. When done right, async videos are a smarter way to stay connected in the new normal.
Why use asynchronous meetings?
Here are some key benefits of using asynchronous meetings and communications.
Get more work done
Async meetings let team members work uninterrupted. Everyone can finish what they're doing, then catch up on discussions and respond.
Even better? Team members can only engage with (and respond to) topics that are relevant to them. No more sitting in on unproductive meetings.
All of this means more productivity with less burnout and waste.
The only caveat is that organizations new to async meetings do need to stay on top of people to ensure participation. We recommend asking team members to timebox 30 minutes every day to stay on top of async meetings at first.
Hear what everyone has to say
Async meetings make it easier for everyone to say their piece and be heard. Here are 3 reasons why.
- Team members can attend an async meeting no matter where they are.
- There's less risk of louder Type A types dominating async meetings. It's easier for quieter, more reserved team members to say their piece.
- Colleagues can always rewind a video if they miss anything.
This lets you hear more diverse opinions than you'd usually get with synchronous communication.
Work with the best talent
Async meetings enable effective communication across time zones. When your team is good at them, you can hire talent from absolutely anywhere.
Async makes it easy to pause conversations and clarify points you don't understand. You can always send a colleague a DM asking them to explain something... Or rewatch the video they sent as many times as you need.
This is especially useful for new team members and mixed-language groups. Everyone is included, no matter their first language or experience level.
What about real time communication?
Asynchronous meetings don't replace synchronous, real-time ones; they complement them.
With synchronous communication, your meetings should focus on important decisions, key talking points and internal messages, critical feedback. Informal meetings can focus on networking and having fun.
Meanwhile, anything that doesn't absolutely need to be a meeting - most feedback, daily updates, etc - can and should happen async. This is a key way to staving off burnout, meeting fatigue, and disengagement.
When should I use async?
Remote and hybrid work
One way to use async is for internal communications with teammates. This increases engagement, prevents unproductive meetings, and makes remote work easier. Both group and one-on-one meetings benefit from async communication.
Communication across time zones
Async is perfect for staying in touch with remote employees, partners, and customers. It lets you communicate with engaging, information-rich videos and audio recordings without having to be online at the same time.
Another way to use async is for customer-facing communication. Just add async videos to your business development, customer happiness, and sales workflows.
This way, you're not leaving your customer alone from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting. You're with them at all times, answering questions; providing important content; guiding their journey.
8 asynchronous meeting best practices
1. Limit the number of participants
Too many people in an async meeting means two things. First, someone probably doesn't have to be there. Someone's sitting through an unnecessary meeting.
Second, with too many people you get too many messages and videos to go through. This can take the energy out of an async meeting, leading to disengagement and stalled meetings.
So make sure to only invite people who need to be present. Limit the number of participants in your meetings. You can always forward meeting notes to other team members later.
2. Have a clear agenda for async meeting channels
To keep everyone focused, set a clear topic, agenda, and scope before each meeting.
Avoid the temptation to extend meetings beyond their agenda. Once you're done, end the meeting - or at least pause it. You can always propose a new meeting, with a new agenda, if necessary.
3. Use voice and audio messages; not just text
The 7-38-55 rule says that 7% of our message is in the words; 38% is in our tone of voice; 55% is in our body language.
With recorded videos, you get everything - words, voice, body language - which makes them the best media type for async comms. It helps that videos are fast and easy to record once you have a little practice. Use Sendspark - and online video platform - to easily record quick videos.
Avoid devolving into long, text-only threads. These can be confusing and wasteful.
4. Take notes and make minutes
Asynchronous meetings can be long and involve lots of participants. To keep track of important messages, goals, decisions, and questions, summarize your meetings. You can do this using free-form notes or more formal minutes (for key meetings).
It's especially helpful to attach your notes and minutes to async meetings that follow on from previous asyncs. This way, everyone can quickly catch up on the previous meeting without going through a backlog of messages.
5. Set a time limit on async meetings
Some meetings need to happen at specific times, whether they're async or not. One example: daily standups. Since teammates use these to share yesterday's progress and today's plans, you want to get through these meetings early in the day.
We recommend keeping most meetings between a few hours and a full week in length. When possible, try to wrap up meetings before weekends and holidays. Otherwise, people might forget what they were doing and talking about by the time they're back.
6. Give everyone a chance to speak
Real time communication can be hard for non-native speakers, quieter personalities, and remote-only employees. But with async meetings, you can give everyone a chance to share their opinion in a low-key environment. This gives you more valuable opinions and points of view than a synchronous meeting does.
One way to get everyone talking is to ask people what they think. Another is to make responses mandatory, i.e. meetings don't end before every team member shares a response, opinion, proposed course of action, etc.
7. Use sync meetings together with async ones
Synchronous meetings still have their uses. Internally, they keep teams connected and prevent isolation. They are also good for fast-paced activities like brainstorming, problem-solving, and big decisions.
Externally, synchronous meetings are good for important sales calls; live Q&A sessions; real-time screen-sharing.
8. Give team members an easy way to record videos
Recording videos is the main way to hold asynchronous meetings. It's important you give team members an easy way to make them.
One solution is to use Sendspark: a light, secure video recording app. Sendspark runs as a Chrome extension, so team members can use it without installing any new apps. Sendspark makes it easy to record and share videos as emails or video links (in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or anywhere). And the best part... it's totally free to get started!
Async meetings are a powerful way to communicate internally and externally in the new normal. They save time, make communications clearer, and help teams preserve sanity.
You should still use sync communication for some meetings. But most of the time, async is the better option. Use the best practices on this page to make the most of it.