Asynchronous communication has the power to reduce the number of meetings on your calendar, while upping your productivity. So, why is it so hard to pin down what actually counts as async communication?
When you send a text, you’re using async communication. The person you’re texting can read and respond to your message on their own time. When you call someone; that’s synchronous communication. You’re asking the person on the other end of the line for their time right now.
For companies, deciding which type of communication to use at what time is hard. For employees, determining when they’ve chosen wrong is easy. “If you leave a meeting saying, ‘That meeting could have been a Slack,’ something’s wrong,” says David Tibbitts, Product Marketing Manager at Notion.
David joined Julia Szatar, Director of Product Marketing at Loom, to discuss when, where, and how teams can take advantage of async tools in the right way to accelerate collaboration, improve the way they work, and shorten sync times.
Reducing Reliance on Meetings and Investing In Async Up Front
While synchronous meetings can be the easy way to bring the whole team together, they come with a cost. It can take a tremendous amount of effort to find a window of time that works for everyone on your team, especially when you’re working across time zones. And when your team does finally meet, the pressure to make the most of it is on.
After the meeting ends, the follow ups begin. Most of us have probably answered a coworker’s question “do you have a quick second to sync?” after getting out of a meeting that didn’t quite cover everything it needed to. At scale, those quick syncs can add up to a jam-packed calendar.
The meeting after the meeting typically stems from lack of clarity. There’s an implicit expectation that those attending the meeting might help the meeting’s driver arrive at a point of clarity, or that the team will collectively hash out next steps. In practice, it doesn’t always work that way.
There are two key ways that async video can help your team operate more efficiently and come out of a meeting on the same page.
Make the Meeting a Loom - If a meeting is more broadcast-heavy than interactive, you can try recording and sharing a video instead of meeting synchronously. When it’s just you talking to a camera while sharing your screen, the pressure is on to deliver your points clearly and succinctly to your viewers. This subtle pressure helps increase the quality of your communication and helps teams hit the ground running.
Share a Loom Before the Meeting - Everyone’s busy. There might be a few attendees who arrive at your meeting and ask “What’s this about again?” Instead of taking up valuable meeting time explaining what the meeting is for, you can record a Loom outlining what you’ll cover in the meeting, what goals you have for the meeting, and who the key decision makers are.
Share a Recap After the Meeting - Loom lets you record your screen and camera, so you can dive deep into the data, code, or web copy that counts while providing narration to provide extra context for your team. Having the next steps for your project documented and shared widely can help your team operate more efficiently.
Rethink What Meetings Need to Be Synchronous
There might be a recurring meeting on your calendar that’s been there for so long, you don’t think twice before attending. It’s easy to think that important information has to be delivered synchronously. But, embracing asynchronous video as a replacement for, or addition to meetings that are more geared towards broadcasting information can help boost team productivity.
Common meeting formats like a company all hands, engineering standups, or company announcements are low interaction, high calendar bandwidth meetings. They require a non-trivial amount of time from a sizable number of employees, but don’t require those employees to participate in the meeting.
Using Loom’s asynchronous video platform, companies can record their critical updates and share those videos across team workspaces, email, and wherever else they need to distribute the information with a simple link to their video on Loom.
Engineering managers can skip their synchronous standups and instead have employees record a short Loom going over what they’re working on that week. Those engineers can then share those videos with a link in the Engineering team’s Slack channel easily with an instantly-generated video link.
With asynchronous video, Loom helps teams work together faster, while preserving time on everyone’s calendars.
... Async shouldn’t be considered a substitute for sync time: Asynchronous and synchronous communication will always exist side by side.
Use Async Video to Tie Time Zones Together and Make Everyone Feel Included
Companies across industries are rapidly adopting hybrid and remote work alongside traditional in-office work. Now, the average meeting might include a few coworkers dialing in from a conference room at company HQ, while their colleagues dial in from their home offices on opposite sides of the country.
So, how do you make the people meeting on-screen feel as included as the people meeting in-person?
One way Loom helps instill that sense of inclusion is by having every in-person attendee use their own laptops to join the meeting. This is a deliberate departure from using one meeting room’s camera to beam an entire department into the meeting. By tuning in this way, everyone has their own square in the video meeting whether they’re in-person or remote which creates a better sense of equality.
For those that can’t make the meeting due to time zones that just can’t quite sync up, you can send a Loom after the meeting recapping what they missed to make them feel included as well.
Keep Everyone On The Same Page While Moving Fast
Whether you’re orchestrating a product launch, switching to a new expense management platform, or moving offices — you’ve got a lot of information to share and you have to figure out the right way to share it.
As a Product Marketing Manager at Notion, David Tibbitts, has a few best practices on how to keep everyone on the same page while moving fast.
Have a One-Stop Shop - One of the biggest challenges to running a release like a new product feature is managing information. David recommends having a single source of truth Notion doc where you relay critical info and keep that information up to date.
Have a Table of Contents Up Front - If your single source of truth doc opens with a philosophical treatise on why you’re launching a new product feature, your audience is going to tune out. You need to open with a table of contents so people can get a sense of what they’re about to read and easily navigate through the document the next time they return to it.
Use Loom for Easy Information Sharing - Before a new Notion feature launched, David used Loom to record a video summarizing the vital information any Notion colleague needed to know. He ran through a demo of both the old feature and the new feature, explained how they were different, why they were building the new feature, why it’s important, and who will be impacted. This succinct, information-packed video let David’s Notion colleagues catch up on the latest state of the feature launch while having a cup of coffee. It also served as a vital resource for Enterprise clients. David’s team was able to send out that Loom to clients before the feature launched to give them a white-glove style service while keeping them informed.
Make It Self-Serve - David firmly believes that if a colleague has to ask you about the status of a product launch that you’re running, something has fallen through the cracks. Giving your colleagues the information they need doesn’t mean scheduling weekly syncs. It means that you can create well-maintained systems (or Notion docs) that give your colleagues the information they need in a self-serve manner. For example, David uses Notion’s synced blocks to spread vital product information across Notion docs, while making sure that information is up to date. When he makes a change to one block, that change populates across all the other docs where that block is embedded. Now, his colleagues have the latest and greatest updates they need on-demand.
Get Approval Faster Without Finding Time on Their Calendar
Before you kick off a big project like a website redesign, odds are you need to get approval from a few key colleagues. Instead of trying to fit all your thoughts in an email, or sending over a pitch deck without proper context, you can use Loom to express your ideas in high fidelity.
Using Loom, you can record your screen as you run through your plans for that new website redesign campaign. You can spin through docs, design files, and mocks you’ve made while guiding your viewer through your thoughts.
With Loom’s Chrome Browser Extension you can use pre-made recording canvases to add an engaging backdrop to your screen recordings. You can also customize your own recording canvas to match your brand’s color palate.
Once your pitch is recorded and ready to share, you can add a CTA to your Loom to link to any important documents your colleagues might need to review before green lighting your new project.
After you send the video out, you can review the video’s engagement insights to see who viewed the video, how long they viewed the video, and what percentage of viewers completed the whole video. If your colleagues have any comments or critique on your pitch, they can easily add async video replies in the comment section of your Loom.
There’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting, whether that’s in-person or on-screen. But async shouldn’t be considered a substitute for sync time: Asynchronous and synchronous communication will always exist side by side.
When it comes to adopting async, companies have to make async communications a part of their culture. There needs to be a designated caretaker for the async tools that help a company do their best work. Whether that’s organizing Loom videos, or making sure old Notion docs are archived, or Dropbox folder structures are well maintained — there has to be a caretaker to make sure that any and all users can find what they’re looking for.
Once you have the right tools and the right company-wide approach to using them, you can make the most of those meetings you have and leave yourself more time to focus on the work that counts.