Online meetings are commonplace these days. Many employees are comfortable meeting via apps like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet.
But what if your colleagues span multiple time zones, including regions on the other side of the world?
In this case, face-to-face interactions are typically not an option. Alternatives for the meeting organizer include doing all business via email or instant messaging — or conducting an asynchronous meeting.
An asynchronous or “async” meeting may sound like an oxymoron, but we’ll explain how technology can host productive remote meetings online without requiring everyone’s presence at the same time.
An asynchronous meeting is a meeting in which the participants do not interact in real time. Instead, they engage with their teams at their convenience, primarily through written communication.
Though async meetings are becoming more popular, one-third of company leaders have never heard of them.
Organizing asynchronous meetings is complex. Unlike traditional online meetings, where everyone gathers in the same virtual space simultaneously, asynchronous meetings require certain skills and strategies. We’ll discuss a number of these below.
But first, a few reflections on the benefits and drawbacks of async meetings.
Asynchronous meetings come with a set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s discuss a few of each.
The advantages of async meetings include the following:
The challenges of asynchronous meetings include the following:
With these pros and cons in mind, let’s look at how to maximize the benefits of asynchronous meetings while minimizing their drawbacks — beginning with best practices.
To make asynchronous meetings work follow the best practices described below.
At the policy level, set (or request from HR) company-wide policies and guidelines for asynchronous meetings to avoid confusion among the participants and keep everyone on the same page.
These policies should include expectations for participation, response times, and the tools or platforms to be used in these formal company meetings.
Choose reliable communication and collaboration tools that support asynchronous meetings. Think of email threads, project management software, or dedicated platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Here’s an extensive list of some popular collaboration tools.
Ensure that all necessary individuals have access to the chosen communication tools, and, if necessary, provide them with training on using the software’s key features. Make sure everyone is comfortable with the technology.
Here’s a great guide on the best communication practices for 2024.
When scheduling deadlines, consider the range of time zones you’re dealing with, and make sure to accommodate participants from different regions.
You could do this by providing a reasonable window for contributions. Time zone conversion tools can help you find suitable meeting windows.
Since async meetings can span several days, prepare for unforeseen challenges or delays in contributions by having a backup plan.
An example of such a hiccup is one or more participants being confronted with unexpectedly busy schedules and having difficulty getting back to the discussion thread in the async communications.
The backup plan could include solutions such as shortening or extending the meeting timeframe or taking some discussion components offline.
Since team members aren’t in the same room at the same time in an async environment, it’s easy to lose track of discussion threads and decisions.
To support this, invest some time in thorough meeting documentation. Encourage participants to create meeting notes and summarize discussions, decisions, and action items to create a clear record of the meeting proceedings.
Running a successful asynchronous meeting involves some well-defined strategies. Here are eight steps and tips for meeting facilitators to make these team meetings interesting and productive.
Start with a well-defined meeting goal and a clear agenda to keep the event focused and manageable.
Next, specify the time frame for the meeting. For instance, “This meeting will take place over three days, from Tuesday at 9:00 AM ET through Thursday at 5:00 PM ET.
Send out these details and any relevant documents ahead of time to ensure that all participants know the purpose and dates of the meeting.
It’s helpful to create a consistent communication schedule for updating participants on the progress of the meeting. For instance, you could plan on sending out a progress report at the end of each half-day session.
Clearly articulate the participation level you expect. For example: “We’ll have three discussion rounds. I’d like everyone to contribute at least three ideas, suggestions, or questions in each round. Also, everyone should comment on two posts from other team members.”
Also, encourage the participants to communicate concisely and avoid unnecessary jargon, abbreviations, side comments, etc. Explain that these practices promote clarity so that their async conversations will be easily understood.
Keep the participants involved and engaged by posing questions, initiating new discussions, and encouraging them to comment on each other’s contributions. Use mentions or tags to notify specific individuals when their input is needed.
Another effective engagement tool is to assign responsibilities for meeting components. For instance, one person can keep a log of the decisions made, another can lead a discussion on a subtopic, and a third can summarize key points.
Lastly, encourage constructive feedback. Create a climate where participants can openly discuss the meeting’s progress, suggest improvements, and address any challenges that may affect the desired outcomes.
Make sure that all team members contribute regularly. If some participants are lagging in responding, gently remind them or provide additional context to help them further.
Consider recording key discussions or summaries to keep participants on track and help latecomers catch up. Make these recordings easily accessible for reference.
Periodically summarize key points, decisions, and action items.
Share these with the participants in chats, or post them in a designated work folder that’s accessible to everyone. This will help to keep everyone informed on the meeting’s progress and outcomes. Some tools can help you document meetings quickly. Check out our article for the best hybrid meeting equipment for more info.
Keep a well-organized folder of meeting documentation items, including meeting agendas, summaries, action item lists, and feedback records. Important recordings can also be archived there.
Access to this archive should be readily available to the team members as long as the team is working on that specific project.
It’s good practice to periodically gather feedback on your async meetings to evaluate their effectiveness — and use this information to make continuous improvements.
By following these hands-on steps and tips, you can facilitate asynchronous meetings that are engaging, productive, and instrumental for meaningful collaboration.
Beyond the policies and steps for effective asynchronous meetings we’ve discussed, you may be wondering about the meeting space itself. That’s where meeting room management comes in.
Dedicated tools like OfficeRnD Hybrid can be invaluable in helping you organize and manage this type of meeting for a hybrid workforce.
OfficeRnD Hybrid offers features designed to facilitate collaboration, streamline communication, and improve productivity in the context of hybrid work and asynchronous meetings.
Mastering asynchronous meetings is an important skill for greater collaboration and productivity in the modern remote work environment. You’ll be able to conduct more efficient and productive online meetings by following the practical tips and strategies outlined in this article.
If you’re dealing with a sizable hybrid workforce, consider OfficeRnD Hybrid as an easy-to-use, yet powerful hybrid worksolution. It can make your asynchronous meetings more effective and help you book office resources with ease whenever you need it.
“Asynchronous” means “not at the same time.” So, in a work setting, it refers to team members not connecting or collaborating in real-time. Instead, communication is spaced out over time at each person’s convenience.
Asynchronous meetings occur when participants engage at different times, allowing flexibility and time for thoughtful responses. Synchronous meetings happen in real-time, fostering immediate interaction and dynamic discussion. The key difference lies in the timing of participation: asynchronous meetings are time-independent, while synchronous meetings require simultaneous attendance.
The asynchronous meeting format involves participants contributing at different times, not requiring everyone to be present simultaneously.
This format allows for flexible schedules, extended thinking time, and contributions via various digital tools like email, message boards, or shared documents, fostering inclusivity and thoughtful responses.
Asynchronous does not mean no meeting; it refers to a different style of meeting where participants engage at separate times. This approach allows for collaboration without the need for real-time interaction, using tools like emails, forums, or shared documents to communicate and contribute.
The best example of asynchronous communication is email, where messages are sent and received at different times, allowing participants to respond at their convenience without the need for simultaneous interaction.
Yes, by its nature, email is an asynchronous communication method. There’s time between one person writing and another responding to the email, whether it’s minutes, hours, days, or weeks.
No, Zoom and other online meeting platforms utilize synchronous communication because all participants communicate at the same time. However, recording the meeting so employees who couldn’t attend can view it later is an asynchronous option to the typical Zoom meeting format.
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