Human Resources

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Meetings: Which is Best For Your Team?

Published on October 27, 2022 • About 9 min. read

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How many times have you been in a synchronous meeting that went over the time limit? Or even worse, how many meetings have you sat through that could have easily been an email?

We’re willing to guess the answer to both questions is “too many”.

Asynchronous meetings are the solution to both issues, enabling you to effectively communicate information, save time, and decrease follow-up questions.

In this article, find out the differences between synchronous and asynchronous meetings as well as how and when to use them.

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Table of contents

  • What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous meetings?
  • Asynchronous vs. Synchronous meetings: Which is better?
  • How to use async vs sync communication effectively
  • How to know whether asynchronous or synchronous meetings are best for your team
  • Frequently asked questions about synchronous meetings

What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous meetings?

The difference between synchronous and asynchronous meetings is that in a synchronous meeting attendees are present at the same time, but in an asynchronous meeting they’re not.

What does synchronous mean?

Synchronous means something that exists or happens at the same time.

In a work context, a synchronous meeting is the typical pre-arranged meeting that everyone is expected to attend at the same time. Whether in-person or online, for business communication or an operations update, it’s the standard format you’re likely very familiar with.

Examples of synchronous communication

Here are some common examples of synchronous communication:

  • In-person meetings
  • Video conferencing
  • Hybrid meetings
  • Phone calls
People taking part in a synchronous meeting

What does asynchronous mean?

Asynchronous means something that doesn’t happen at the same time or speed.

So in the context of meetings, we’re simply talking about collaboration between colleagues who aren’t in a room together. Instead, the “host” shares the meeting updates digitally, while everyone else provides input when they can (often within a set timeframe).

For example, the operations department has a new workflow they want employees to follow and they need to communicate it to the team. Instead of arranging a synchronous meeting, they record an asynchronous video explaining the new process. You send the recording out to staff, with a deadline to watch the video and provide feedback.

Examples of asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication comes in several forms, such as:

  • Email
  • Instant messaging
  • Message threads or comments in project management tools
  • Voice notes
  • Pre-recorded video
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Asynchronous vs. Synchronous meetings: Which is better?

Asynchronous meetings haven’t come to take the throne from synchronous meetings. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and it’s more a case of the right tool for the right job.

Here we break down the pros and cons of each so you can decide which is best for your next meeting.

The pros of asynchronous meetings

It’s more flexible for all involved

The person communicating can send information whenever they want and the person receiving it can choose to engage with it when they have time.

It gives the receiver more time to process

The person receiving the information can process it in their own time, rather than having to get their head around it straight away. It also gives them more time to prepare a response that they can edit before sending, instead of having to give half-formed answers in the moment.

The medium is the message

In a synchronous meeting, you need to take minutes or create documents outlining what the team decided on but in asynchronous meetings, the email or video itself is the documentation.

Better for people in different time zones

If you have a remote team scattered across the world, scheduling remote synchronous meetings is highly dependent on time zones but this isn’t an issue with async communications.

The cons of asynchronous meetings

Team building is harder

If you’re not all meeting at the same time, taking part in synchronous collaboration you miss those small moments and interactions (work-related or otherwise) that bond and strengthen a team.

Lack of spontaneity

When listening to a voice note or watching a pre-recorded video you’re less likely to have an idea suddenly jump out at you, and there’s none of the back-and-forth that allows for creative problem-solving.

Slower response times

Even if inspiration does strike, it takes a lot longer to express your ideas and have them heard by team members. In general, any questions or feedback that arise from an asynchronous meeting take longer to resolve.

The pros of synchronous meetings

More intimate

In synchronous meetings you’re communicating directly with others, a situation that fosters trust, connections, and a communal energy you can’t easily replicate async.

Enables the sharing of ideas

Because you’re in a session together at the same time you have the opportunity to swap ideas and give suggestions on the fly, rather than submitting them at a later date.

Quicker questions and answers

After an asynchronous meeting, you’ll have to wait for answers to questions, but in a synchronous meeting, this process is direct and immediate.

Necessary for emergencies or sensitive issues

Urgent issues require immediate attention that async meetings can’t provide. Or if the topic of the meeting is a sensitive issue, go for a synchronous meeting to provide a personal touch.

The cons of synchronous meetings

Take time to get started

If you want to hold a synchronous meeting you have to carefully schedule it in advance. Then, on the day you have to wait for everyone to join before you can properly start.

Can go on for too long

Synchronous meetings are notorious for lasting twice as long as they need to because of people joining late, technical problems, or people going off-topic.

Disrupts the flow of work

Let's say you’ve finally found your ‘groove’ when working on a task. Then bam, you suddenly remember you have to attend a synchronous meeting in 10 minutes. You’re immediately thrown off and, even after the meeting, it can take time to get back into the flow of work.

async vs synchronous meetings checklist

How to use async vs sync communication effectively

Knowing how, and when, to use either async or sync internal communication is key. If you learn to take advantage of both and get the balance right it can dramatically improve your workplace efficiency.

Synchronous: Best for real-time communication

If you need direct, immediate feedback or feel the content calls for a substantial questions and answers section, a synchronous meeting is your best bet.

Know when to host a synchronous meeting

Sync meetings are best for:

Avoid back-to-back meetings

Synchronous meetings, especially long online meetings, can be tiring and they tend to go on past the stated time. To avoid turning up late for meetings and burning yourself out, don’t schedule back-to-back meetings.

Using a meeting tool like Livestorm you can automate recurring events in advance and use calendar integrations, reducing the chances of consecutive meetings.

Use the best synchronous tools

You want your sync meetings to stay as engaging and productive as possible so choose the synchronous technologies with the best balance of functionality and useability. Our tops picks are:

  • Livestorm
  • Miro
  • Slido
  • BlueJeans

Keep meetings short

No one wants a fluff-filled meeting that goes on longer than you scheduled it to, especially when they have work to be getting on with. Respect people’s time and keep it short and to the point. With a meeting tool like Livestorm, you can set up a host-only timer and see post-meeting analytics to track how long the meeting has lasted.

Stick to an agenda

Write a clear and concise team meeting agenda before hosting a synchronous meeting and stick to it. That way you know what you need to get through in the time allotted and everyone walks away informed and happy.

Woman planning async meetings

Encourage collaboration

To keep the attention of your attendees and maintain a productive meeting atmosphere you should encourage collaboration. Use a synchronous meeting tool like Livestorm, which has plenty of engagement features including calls to action, room redirect, and robust media/file sharing tools.

Follow-up fast

Attendees might ask questions in your synchronous meeting that you can’t answer and you could need to create new documentation as a result of the discussion. Make sure to follow up with these as quickly as possible so people get the information they need before you lose track. Use automated post-meeting emails like those offered by Livestorm to stay on top of things.

Asynchronous: Best for updating busy teams

If you and your team already have a lot of meetings, tight deadlines, and are situated across the globe, asynchronous meetings are the way to go.

Know when to deliver a message async

Always avoid hosting a synchronous meeting that could have been an email. Async meetings are best used when:

Choose asynchronous technologies

The format of your async communication (text, voice, or video) will determine what type of technology you need to use. Here are the best options out there for each:

  • Slack for async text and voice messages
  • Zenkit for text and task communication
  • Loom for async video
  • Livestorm for sharing pre-recorded events

Use appropriate language

What’s the company style guide? Your newsletter will have a different tone of voice to when you’re firing a quick question to a colleague over Slack so make sure you’re using the right register for the medium.

Signpost further resources

Whatever you’re trying to communicate async make sure to link to further resources such as standard operating procedure (SOP) documents or educational articles to improve clarity and avoid unnecessary questions.

Ask team members to acknowledge your message

Unlike synchronous meetings you won’t know for sure if someone has engaged with an async meeting or if they understand what it’s trying to communicate. So ask people to acknowledge your message with a quick comment and to ask questions if they have them.

How to choose between asynchronous or synchronous meetings

Whatever your internal communication strategy, first consider whether the information can be communicated async before you go about scheduling a traditional synchronous meeting. Ask yourself:

  • Is it urgent?
  • Does it concern something sensitive?
  • Do I need to communicate this face-to-face?
  • Do I need immediate feedback?
  • Am I looking for creative input from the team?
  • Are my team members all living in the same time zone?
  • Do we need to do some team building?

If the answer to these questions is “no” then you should opt for asynchronous communication. Regardless of the format you choose, make sure you’re using the best internal communication tools out there to most effectively communicate information to your team.

Pro tip: Livestorm is ideal for hosting synchronous meetings remotely, but you can also use it to pre-record async materials like training, webinars, and demos.

Frequently asked questions about synchronous meetings

Which form of online communication happens in real-time?

The form of online communication that happens in real-time is synchronous communication, such as a meeting or webinar on Livestorm.

What is an example of an asynchronous session?

An example of an asynchronous session is when someone records a video to explain an operations update and the team watches it individually, in their own time.

Is Zoom asynchronous or synchronous?

Zoom is synchronous because it facilitates real-time communication, as opposed to asynchronous media which you send to the team who then read, listen to, or watch it separately. However, most video conferencing platforms, like Livestorm, can be used to host synchronous meetings remotely or to pre-record asynchronous meeting materials.

Is email synchronous or asynchronous?

Email is asynchronous because it doesn’t involve people meeting at a predetermined time and communicating in real-time.

How do you conduct asynchronous sessions?

To conduct an asynchronous session you write text or record audio or video to communicate something to your team.