What is the purpose of holding a meeting? Simply put, meetings are held to decide or learn something collectively, to get something done, or to create a bond with co-workers. All good things, but meeting overload can be a weight holding down productivity. This weight is compounded when leading remote teams that are spread across different time zones. But what if you could decide, learn, bond and get things done as a team without having to worry about sharing not only the same space but even the same time zone? This is where an asynchronous meeting can unburden the weight holding down productivity.
Meetings Serve a Purpose
Meetings are an integral part of doing business and running a company. The reasons to gather teams together with a scheduled meeting are not going away, but what if you can accomplish these things without being tied to a shared space (Zoom included)? What if you could accomplish your meeting agenda without being tied to a shared time? What would meetings that free your virtual team from a shared time and space do to company productivity? Is it possible?
The short answer is yes. Learning how to run a productive asynchronous meeting can give you all of these benefits. It’s a matter of shifting your perspective and embracing how async works.
Digital technology has revolutionized how we communicate, opening up different ways to learn, work and play. The world of work has been especially transformed. The ability to exchange information in ways not imagined only decades ago has altered how companies are organized and operate. Companies can now hire from a world-wide talent pool and work teams can be spread across countries, continents and multiple time zones. Virtual assistants can efficiently and cost-effectively support teams from across the world. This revolutionary transformation has also helped define asynchronous communication as a vital tool for how work gets done. So, what is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is defined as two or more people communicating without the need to be together at the same moment. In asynchronous communication, there is not an expectation of an immediate response. The recipient of an asynchronous communication responds at a time, place, and pace of their choosing. Virtual meetings are always asynchronous when there is not the expectation of a real-time exchange. Email is the most common form of asynchronous communication used today.
Synchronous communication is two or more people communicating at the same moment in time, even if they are not sharing the same space. The expectation is an immediate back and forth exchange between two parties. Examples of synchronous communication include video conferencing, phone calls, face-to-face conversations, in-person meetings, conferences, or retreats.
Digital communication tools and technology, however, have progressed to make an asynchronous meeting not only possible but beneficial and productive in unique ways compared to synchronous meetings.
Synchronous vs Asynchronous Meetings
Whether in-person in the same room or sharing a virtual space via live video, participants in a synchronous meeting share the same time. Synchronous meetings present opportunities for face-to-face engagement and an in-the-moment exchange of ideas. Along with these opportunities though comes scheduling hassles and the danger of days filled with back-to-back meetings. This can rob team members of focus time to complete deeper, more valuable work. For virtual teams spread across different time zones or a virtual assistant supporting a team on another continent, it can easily mean lower productivity and certain frustration.
With asynchronous meeting tools and technology, teams can communicate without the constraint of a shared time. With an asynchronous meeting, it is possible to replace scheduling hassles and frustration with more focus time, higher productivity, and happier team members. It can also mean that virtual assistants working from a home in Asia can more easily support a team working anywhere in North America.
An asynchronous meeting allows team members:
To fully participate in the exchange of ideas, not just those who can monopolize conversations
A chance to contribute ideas and share thoughts more deeply
To contribute during their most productive time of day, which is often different for each individual team member
To focus on the meeting content with more time for reflection and response
To make presentations and review others presentations in a timeframe that works best for them
To balance workloads in a way that fits their individual strengths and challenges
It is not that synchronous meetings are not necessary or should be eliminated. They have their benefits as well. It is that by replacing some synchronous meetings with asynchronous meetings you can reap the benefits of both.
Asynchronous Meeting Tools
Asynch work and meetings are supported by the use of digital communication tools and asynchronous meeting software. These tools create powerful platforms that make asynchronous meetings a part of a productive workflow.
Asynchronous communication tools include:
Email software that sends and receives messages from computer to computer via a network.
Instant messaging applications that allow organized messaging between individuals, groups, or the entire company.
Project management tools that create a forum to post meeting agendas and notes, set project deadlines, track progress, and organize team assignments.
Video messaging tools that allow asynchronous video communication between team members.
Document storage applications that allow teams to store, access, and share documents from almost anywhere.
Incorporating these tools into workflows, processes, and procedures creates a ready work environment for productive asynchronous meetings and collaboration.
The types of meetings that work best for async work include:
Recurring and routine check-ins
Project status reports
Low-pressure updates and announcements
Task or project reviews
Goal, progress, or metric updates
Setting Up a Productive Asynchronous Meeting
By folding asynchronous collaboration tools into workflows and following a few guidelines, you can make asynchronous meetings as easily a part of your virtual teams workday as any synchronous meeting.
Team Buy In
Getting buy-in from your team members is always a good idea whenever changing the way something is done. Communicate with your team about why using asynchronous collaboration tools and conducting some work meetings in this way can improve productivity. Show how cutting down on meeting overload will allow for more focused work and effective workflows. Asynchronous meetings may be new to some team members and getting everyone on board is foundational for success. Asking for feedback and responding to suggestions is important too.
Set the Agenda
Like any meeting, an agenda is important for participants to know why they are meeting and what is meant to be accomplished. Post the agenda beforehand and give team members a chance to respond and add to agenda items.
Give It a Timeframe
An asynchronous meeting is meant to encourage collaboration on the time schedule that is best for each participant. This does not mean however, that deadlines don’t need to be met. Giving clear parameters of when responses and contributions are expected and adhering to them will make collaboration more productive. Participants should have enough time though to prepare responses to meeting content.
Make sure everyone knows how to document meeting notes and how to reference notes from past meetings. This creates a powerful record for documenting projects and procedures. It can make training new team members easier and keeps everyone on the same page too.
Decide on the Process
Establishing how meeting information will be distributed and responded to is vital. Distribution and responses can be through email, instant messaging, a dashboard, a collaborative document or spreadsheet, or video messaging software. It’s important to choose a method, decide on the process, and then make sure everyone knows how to set up and navigate the methods used.
Everyone on the team needs to understand the content to include or exclude from responses. General information sharing can be a productivity blocker and participants should be aware of how to avoid it. A mutual understanding of guidelines goes a long way towards a successful asynchronous meeting.
Asynchronous Meeting Participation Is Not Optional
An asynchronous meeting does not have the pressure of a set time for everyone to be present. This can lead to a feeling that attending is not mandatory. Projects will fall apart without everyone on board and participating.
More Productive Meetings Await
When asynchronous meetings become a part of a larger meeting strategy and are woven into workflows they can improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction. Remote teams can thrive when everyone is empowered to do their best work no matter what time zone they reside in. Making skilled virtual assistants a part of this workflow strategy can further boost your company’s efficiency. More productive meetings leading to a more productive company await.