Remote work has a lot going for it. It helps employee productivity and improves work-life balance. But asynchronous meetings are a brave new frontier for many business leaders. The idea sounds simple: Rather than get everybody on a team together at the same time and place for a meeting, everybody can log in over the course of a day to communicate and collaborate. Asynchronous meetings let teams get together from across time zones to collaborate without the need to juggle schedules to get on the same Zoom call or be in the same meeting room.
Understandably, business managers could use some help with tips and best practices for running asynchronous meetings. Here’s our look at how to get started.
What are asynchronous meetings and presentations?
Asynchronous meetings and presentations don’t depend on immediate responses or viewing from attendees. If you’ve ever been caught in a reply-all web or watched a recording on Loom, you’ve attended a kind of asynchronous meeting. With no expectation of an immediate reply, workers communicate over time and work toward a goal.
Just like a synchronous meeting – the kind run in-person with coffee and treats or on a live Zoom call – managers need a plan for an asynchronous meeting. You’ll want to choose who is going to participate, have an objective for the meeting, and lay out an agenda. Similar to an in-person meeting, you’ll want to keep a record of the meeting (don’t worry; there’s an app for that). The obvious difference is that workers are choosing when, over the course of a day or two, to join in the conversation and offer their opinions.
There are several types of asynchronous presentations, but the dominant form is a narrated video presentation that employees can watch at a time that’s convenient for them. But that’s not to say you’re just throwing a message into the void. Collaboration and communication are vital to asynchronous meetings. Make sure you hear what workers have to say via a Google Form survey, Slack channel feedback, or direct comments on videos.
How to add asynchronous communication into company culture
There are a few golden rules to interoffice communications. You probably know the basics: Never use sarcasm in an email because you will likely be misunderstood; don’t expect immediate replies to messages regardless of how they’re sent; candy left in an open container is meant for sharing and starting conversations.
As a starting place, those rules all apply to asynchronous meetings. This isn’t the Wild West just because it’s a different way of running things. Asynchronous meetings and presentations are for straightforward communication. They are not good for disciplinary discussions, performance evaluations, or any conversation that should be nuanced or that has the potential to be emotional. Those meetings should be live and, if possible, in person (or at least on a video call).
The focus should be on creating a culture of mental health for employees while also maintaining high company standards. By watching meetings when they’re available, workers stay heavily engaged with their work. Employees stay engaged with doing high-quality work instead of stopping to log into yet another Zoom call. Asynchronous meetings are for transmitting facts and information, not anything else. Workers can absorb meeting information while on a walk or while eating lunch, like they do with podcasts when they’re away from their desks.
Async best practices
Let’s start at the beginning and walk through the process of an asynchronous meeting.
- If your group has never used one before, you’ll need to explain to your workers why you want to meet this way.
- You also need to define how you’ll be communicating. Will this just be on email or are you going to incorporate video snippets, Slack or Google Slide presentations? (We have a list of apps to consider using in the last section.)
- You’ll want to be very clear about timing and agendas. Meetings cannot run indefinitely.
- Have a clear plan for the meeting, including how often you expect people to check in on progress.
- Set a finish date, at which point you’ll provide a summary of the meeting takeaways.
- Lastly, just like in-office meetings, it’s possible for a couple of strong personalities to take over an asynchronous meeting and run it sideways. Keep your meeting on point by soliciting feedback from specific people and engage with them.
Examples of async meetings
Weekly team updates: Why force everybody to get together at the same time? Put together a team update template in Google Sheets or Slides or even in video form on a tool like Clearword. Change the numbers and narration every week and share with the team on Fridays.
Daily stand-ups: These can be light or devout. Online services and a variety of Slack apps allow you to poll the group and see who’s responding (and how). Or provide personal reflection questions for workers to ponder when they’re not invested in work.
Hiring interview debriefs: There’s no need for yet another meeting on top of live interviews with job candidates. Start a Slack channel for discussion and keep the talking points to pros and cons for candidates. Tools like Workable also make it easy to hire async and get the best candidate chosen faster.
Presentations: Whether this is a simple recorded video about a new policy or rolling out new quarterly goals with slide deck demos, presentations are among the easiest to transition into an asynchronous space because they don’t require instant feedback or questions.
Brainstorming: This can be a simple email chain, but Slack, Notion and even whiteboarding tools like Miro can provide faster feedback and turn into a live group chat once all ideas are fleshed out and you’re ready to tackle next steps.
CEO updates: In a centralized location, whether it’s an internal site, shared drive, or another place where you store relevant company documents, share videos covering topics the CEO wants to prioritize and discuss. At Clearword, our CEO Dave sends a weekly video in the Clearword platform that we all can watch, comment on and chat about whenever we have time. Most of us listen to it while out for walks!
Tools to help get started
Automated meeting notes: A good online meeting platform, like Clearword, will keep a record of your meeting. Clearword records audio or visual and provides a smart meeting summary, as well as a full transcription and automated notes.
Project management: Trello is already an industry favorite for its light software footprint and flexibility. Jira is a leading project management tool that features a free option for small companies. And Basecamp is the industry leader that’s inspired quite a few competitors.
Asynchronous work benefits both employers and employees. Companies get increased productivity and better collaboration; workers get the flexibility and focus they crave. Asynchronous work lets companies bridge time-zone gaps and is the lynchpin to successful remote and hybrid workplaces. If you need support in your transition, Clearword has many of the resources you need to move your team into asynchronous meetings.