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Iryna Viter

From Real-Time to Any-Time: A Guide to Asynchronous Meetings

Asynchronous meetings offer a flexible and efficient way to collaborate. Here's what they're all about and how we use them to our advantage at Runn.

In a world where the boundaries between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred, the demand for flexible and efficient communication methods has never been higher.

Asynchronous meetings offer a solution to the challenge of balancing the need for collaboration with the need for personal time and space. They are the key to unlocking a world where work and life can coexist in harmony. Think of them as your own personal time-travel machine, allowing you to participate in meetings from the comfort of your own schedule.

In this guide, we explore the concept of asynchronous meetings, their advantages and disadvantages, and best practices for making them work for you and your team. Whether you're a remote worker, a busy professional, or someone who simply wants to make the most of your time, this article will provide valuable insights and tips for taking your meetings from real-time to any-time.

What is an asynchronous meeting?

An asynchronous meeting is a type of meeting that does not take place in real-time. Instead, participants communicate and collaborate on their own schedules, at their own pace, and in their own time zone. This type of meeting is often conducted through written or pre-recorded communication such as email, instant messaging, or video messaging.

An asynchronous meeting is basically the opposite of a synchronous meeting.

With synchronous meetings, all people have to be in one place at the same time (online or offline) — they have no choice. Asynchronous meetings, on the other hand, allow for flexibility and freedom.

Meetings are a necessary part of our work lives, but as you’ve probably noticed, they can be a huge time drain. At best, they slow down the important work you’re doing in your day job. At worst, they turn into a never-ending talk where you and your colleagues watch the clock and wish you were somewhere else, while questioning the value of that meeting altogether.

In short, asynchronous meetings are an excellent way to eliminate those unnecessary meetings that kill your time. In a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 71% of senior managers said their meetings are unproductive and inefficient, while 65% said those meetings keep them from doing their work.

The idea behind asynchronous meetings is to allow participants to work together effectively without the need for everyone to be available at the same time. This can be especially useful for remote workers or for teams spread across different time zones. It also eliminates the need for scheduling conflicts and allows individuals to work at their own pace and convenience.

But there's actually a lot more benefits to asynchronous meetings than you would think.

The pros and cons of asynchronous communication

First, let's look into some of the reasons you should try an effective asynchronous meeting.

Why it's a 'yes'

  1. It's easy to document things. If you have an important agenda item that needs to stick around for future reference, you don't have to worry about using up all your meeting minutes writing meeting notes down, or trying to remember it for later. Everything you need to say is written down in a clear and easy-to-find spot.
  2. It stimulates deep thinking. You have the time to get creative and lay out your points in the most concise manner. There's no pressure of being interrupted by someone before you're done writing out your point — you can take your time and make sure everything is just right before sending it.
  3. Works wonders for distributed teams. If your team is scattered across different cities, time zones and countries, getting everyone together at the same time can become an expensive and complicated affair. Asynchronous communication can help you avoid spending money on travel so you can spend it on something else — like your team.
  4. Reduces time on admin. When it comes to an async meeting, there is no admin as such. The very point of it is that you squeeze your otherwise online/offline-meeting into an email, a thread, a video, a board, or any other format your colleagues can review. No need to take the time out of your calendar to spot a window you and 20 of your other colleagues share. Or even worse, haggle to create it.
  5. Levels the playing field. Forget about the problem of having an extroverted colleague who takes over all the calls. In asynchronous meetings, everyone is equal and can contribute the same amount of value without getting interrupted.

Why it could be a 'no'

Before you try to run asynchronous meetings, thoroughly consider your case as they're not for everyone:

  1. Urgent work won't get done. If your project frequently requires an immediate response, asynchronous meetings are not the answer here. In fact, they might delay processes and delivery dates.
  2. Some workshops ask for immediate back-and-forth conversations. There's no denying that some projects require real-time communication, especially when big decisions are involved and everyone needs to have a say. Asynchronous work doesn't eliminate sync meetings altogether. Instead, it brings them to a bare minimum and takes unproductive meetings out of the picture.
  3. You can't do it with the wrong mindset. Async work culture requires a high level of trust and transparency. You can't go into it without being ready to give people the freedom to work whenever they want, without having to log in every minute of their time.
  4. You should never focus on a single thread at a time. People go at their own pace here so be sure to have projects you can switch over to while waiting for a response on some of your initiatives.

Asynchronous meetings best practices

In a recent webinar, our CPO, Felipe Skroski, explained the ins and outs of asynchronous work. And since we live what we preach here at Runn, you can get an inside look at the boons and hazards of asynchronous meetings.

Here are some of the things that work for us at Runn.

  • Work in small teams. One of the keys to successful asynchronous work is to have smaller, focused teams. This allows for more targeted communication and reduces the amount of information that needs to be shared and processed by each person.
  • Always cut to the chase. When communicating asynchronously, it is important to be clear and concise. This means cutting out unnecessary details and getting straight to the point. This helps to keep discussions focused and reduces the time it takes for participants to process information.
  • Set time limits on videos. It can be easy to get bogged down in discussions and lose track of time when working asynchronously. If you're recording a video for someone, make sure it's sweet and short, between 2 and 10 minutes at a time. This helps to keep everyone focused and on track.
  • Use different communication formats. To keep things interesting and to ensure that everyone is engaged, it is a good idea to use different communication formats. For example, use email for longer, more detailed discussions and instant messaging for quick questions and updates.
  • Use the right tools. Asynchronous work requires the right tools to be successful. Choose tools that are easy to use, reliable, and that offer the features you need.

Tools for asynchronous meetings

  1. Loom is our go-to tool for effective asynchronous meetings . As Felipe likes to call it, "Loom is the async Zoom".
  2. Slack is useful for chat and the occasional back-and-forth communication. No big decisions there.
  3. Threads. It cuts chats in half and helps you bring about better decision making and deep thinking.
  4. Notion. This is an excellent knowledge base to keep all of your documentation within one place, easily accessible for every member of your team.

To summarize...

Asynchronous meetings are scandalous, they raise a lot of sceptical eyebrows.

They're that long-awaited superpower that lets you work on your own terms, freeing you from the constraints of traditional, in-person meetings.

No more rush hour traffic, no more fighting for conference room space, and no more awkward silences or unnecessarily long team meetings. Asynchronous meetings are the ultimate solution for modern, flexible, and productive work, and they're blazing a trail of awesome.

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